Walter Stringer loves being a lawyer because he can make a difference in his clients’ lives. For years, he did this successfully with Smokeball as the legal software powering his solo practice. Then, in the wake of inflation and other external factors, Walter opted to explore software solutions. He was a competitor’s client for just six weeks before returning to Smokeball.
Exploring other options
After extensive research and conversations with trusted colleagues, Walter settled on two legal practice management options. After speaking with users of the most widely known software, Walter felt confident he could make the new platform work. Enticed by the lower price point, he chose not to renew his Smokeball contract. A mistake he came to regret in just a few weeks.
Lesson learned: less for less
Walter vetted the new provider by evaluating review sites, speaking with colleagues using the software and sitting through provider demos. But after transitioning to the new software, Walter was flummoxed by how much was missing in comparison to Smokeball. “It never occurred to me that, when I opened the software, it would look different than what they showed me in the demo. Clearly, they had invested time to tailor the matter interface. I couldn't just open the program and "go" like with Smokeball,” explains Walter. “Looking back, I assumed that most of what Smokeball included in its package, everyone else did, too. So I didn’t dig into it. But this company was nowhere near,” he says.
Walter was wrapping up three closings and getting increasingly frustrated by how cumbersome once-simple tasks were. "I was getting so aggravated. I decided it was because I just didn't know how to use the product.” Walter had multiple sessions with the new provider asking about essential features he needed in his document-heavy practice like previewing documents or bundling them into a PDF for the title company. “The answer was almost always we don’t have that functionality or here’s a workaround. In the case of better document automation, it was an expensive add-on. For quick document bundling, I had to pay for Adobe Acrobat.”
Suddenly, Walter—a solo practitioner with no staff support—was faced with numerous extra steps for almost every task. “It was just unacceptable.”
The functionality Walter missed most acutely included: Smokeball’s 200+ matter types, custom built to each area of law; robust document automation with conditional logic; intuitive automatic time capture; and the ability to quickly preview, bundle and organize documents.
A simple and seamless return to Smokeball
After six weeks enduring clunky features, numerous workarounds and wasted time, Walter left the other provider. Transitioning back to Smokeball was simple. "They just turned my account back on. All my matters and data were there, ready to go,” he says.
Walter was relieved to return to his reliable workhorse software and couldn't wait to again benefit from these indispensable features:
- Matter types pre-built by area of law. With 200+ detailed practice area-specific templates, Walter doesn’t build matters from scratch. He establishes a new case file that captures all the necessary information thanks to dozens of in-depth matter fields and questions.
- Robust document automation. Conditional logic allows Walter to create accurate documents in a few mouse clicks with pronouns, multiple parties and other case details accounted for. He also accesses Smokeball's library of 20,000 automated legal forms to speed real estate document production.
- Quick and easy document management. Thanks to a user-friendly interface, Walter quickly skims and finds documents without remembering file names. He also collates, paginates and converts complex closing documents into a single PDF for the title company. What took 20 minutes in Adobe Acrobat takes less than a minute in Smokeball.
- Easy-to-review automatic time tracking. Automatic time tracking ensures Walter captures every minute and includes a hyperlink to the billed task. Walter can easily refresh his memory and edit the task from billable to non-billable or edit the description if needed.
A better outcome in less time
Perhaps more impactful than any single feature, Walter values the time-savings and professional appearance he gets from Smokeball. His six weeks with the big legal software company amounted to hours of lost time. “Basically, everything I wanted to do required a work around and took 10-20 minutes compared to a few mouse clicks in Smokeball. That very quickly added up. As a solo, I don’t have time to waste on tedious admin," he says.
Additionally, Walter wasn’t as efficient during those six weeks, which affected his professional credibility. Having to send separate files via multiple emails to the title company or clients made him look sloppy and disorganized. "Not only was it difficult for me, but it definitely wasn’t happy for them. It was just insane,” says Walter. He adds, “with Smokeball, I produce a better product in less time.” With time-savings restored, Walter can focus on top priorities like client care and generating new business.
Thoughtful software made by lawyers for lawyers
Although Walter had to endure switching legal practice management software twice in less than two months, he’s confident he has the best legal software to run his business. “You can tell someone at Smokeball sat down and brainstormed everything that needed to be done in a matter and built the software around that. With these other companies, it’s like they didn't think that through,” says Walter.
Now Walter knows first-hand that practice management software is not created equal. “I tried to understand how these other law firms were getting by on the other software. Perhaps it’s because they have support staff that can invest the time. I also think it's because they’ve never used Smokeball, so they don’t fully understand how much more they could be doing,” advises Walter.