How to Choose the Right Legal Practice Management Software - Part 2

Smokeball updated our legal software buying guide to reflect the realities and challenges of 2022. This blog post is Part 2 in a series.

It’s never been a secret that law has historically been slow to evolve and adapt alongside other professions. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many small law firms still avoided change due to fear or stubbornness. Such firms could still maintain their status quo without the help of software, so why move outside their comfort zone?

The rapid — now permanent — shift to remote/hybrid law offices quickly changed that attitude. Legal practice management software is now a necessity, not a nice-to-have. Attorneys must permanently shift their mindsets and processes to keep up — and keep ahead.

Smokeball understands that legal practice management software is a major investment of your firm’s money and time, and that the buying process can be overwhelming. We’re pleased to bring you our “2022 Legal Practice Management Software Buying Guide,” an up-to-date resource designed to help you drive the most value from your investment.

In this blog post installment, we’ll detail how your small law firm can measure the value of your legal practice management software.

Download our eBook: The 2022 Legal Practice Management Software Buying Guide

Whenever your law firm is trying to decide where to invest your resources, it’s critical to understand how you can calculate the “true” value of an investment. Consider these three points of value: usefulness, cost-effectiveness and psychological benefits. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what makes up each one.

Usefulness

Law firms can measure the usefulness of a software investment by investigating whether it will be used by associates and/or support staff, and for how long. A useful software will help you get jobs done faster or even automatically (like document automation of court-approved forms that take seconds instead of minutes). Sometimes a useful software tool will even end the need to perform certain tasks. Good questions to ask about usefulness include:

  • Who will use the software?
  • How long will it take them to learn the software?
  • How long will they use the software?
  • How much time and effort can we save by using the software?
  • Does the software integrate with and improve with the technology you’re already using?

Cost-effectiveness

Pricing for law firm software and lawyer apps is broad — anywhere from less than $50 a month for a solo to thousands of dollars for an enterprise solution. The bottom line is you need to find out if it will save you time or money (and ideally both) to justify that cost. Ask these questions to address that concern:

  • Is the software solution delivering greater long-term cost-and time-savings than what you paid for it?
  • Will it help get you paid faster?
  • Does it address multiple billing types (contingency, hourly and flat fee) to meet both your current and potential future needs?
  • Does it include features like automatic time-tracking that help you capture more billable hours (so you can increase profitability)
  • Does it provide law firm profitability dashboards and insights reporting that show productivity and staff activity?

If you answered “yes,” you’ve found a cost-effective solution. On the flip side, if you and your staff aren’t using the software or were never properly trained, then it quickly becomes a pain point for the firm owner.

And if the software isn’t easy to use, nobody will want to use it — plain and simple. One of the reasons some practice management software packages are so inexpensive is because they come with no training and/or help (or charge you for every support call.) Be sure to calculate all the “hidden” costs before putting a value on any purchase.

Psychological benefits

Some benefits of legal practice management software are immeasurable, such as psychological factors like a reduction in stress or better work/life balance. Associates, paralegals and legal secretaries who experience less stress are more productive. They will appreciate the investment in technology to help them do their job better, and in turn will be more committed to the firm. Ask yourselves these questions about these types of benefits:

  • Will the software help all employees do their jobs more efficiently?
  • Will the software handle menial aspects of employees’ jobs so they can focus on the challenging, creative parts?
  • Will the software enable employees to report their output and worth to the firm?

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