On Computing

Law Practice Management Software

Joel Howell

Article by Joel Howell Newsletter Editorial Board


Law Practice Management Software (LPMS) is not a new concept, but as the years go on, the software becomes more intuitive, and pricing becomes more reasonable. This article is to provide an update and shopping tips. Many LPMS programs allow for free trials of their products, which can help you get a better feel for the program and see if it meets your needs.

When looking at LPMS, there are four main areas of management you will need to consider when browsing the multitude of features offered by each product. These management features include (but are not limited to) clients, attorneys and staff, records, and accounting. While these management features might seem intuitive, it is important to go into your search for a LPMS with these features ranked so you can better sift through the many programs on the market. For example, solo practitioners probably will not have management of attorneys high on their features priority list. The following content is a deeper dive into features that fit broadly into each of the four categories mentioned above.

First, for many users, features which deal with case/matter management is one of if not the most important reason you would consider integrating an LPMS into your business. Some software is targeted more towards specific practice areas.

Second, client/contact management is a feature that should not be overlooked. If a client can easily use the software, they are more likely to interact with the program.

Third, task management tools can be helpful when opening a new case so that all upfront tasks can be found in one location. When assessing task management features, make sure that tasks created have due dates that can be attached to cases/matters and be assigned to those responsible.

Fourth, calendar features are helpful for clients and attorneys to stay on the same page of court appearances, deadlines, etc. When looking at what different LPMS offers for calendars, make sure you know what you prefer: either full integration with Outlook or Google calendar or a standalone calendar feature offered by the software.

Fifth, timekeeping is an essential function offered by most LPMS software. Before you commit to buying a program, see if a trial version is available to determine computability with your existing system.

Sixth, conflict checking is a vital function required of any law firm. This feature can come in handy but be aware that many LPMS software don’t offer it. Implementation of a conflict checker can vary, but users should be able to search a database for matching names (at a bare minimum). When looking for a LPMS, make sure the program can check for conflicts accurately and intuitively, allowing for a lateral hire to input their conflict database into the system, works quickly when a new client calls, and complies with the rules of professional conduct.

Seventh, determine if LPMS’ modes of client communication are compatible with the ways your existing clients prefer to communicate (email, text, and the like).

Eighth, document management compatibility is important. Users should be able to add documents and associate those newly added documents to a case/matter. Also, make sure clients (through their portal with the service) can easily upload and access documents, as this will increase their likelihood of interacting with the system.

Ninth, form files are helpful to streamline the litigation process. Many LPMS allow for document assembly or allow it to interface with your existing protocols.

Tenth, if the LPMS includes bookkeeping functions, ensure that it will interface with your existing systems.

Eleventh, trust accounting features, follow hand in glove with the foregoing analysis of bookkeeping features.

Twelfth, depending on the LPMS software you select, full accounting might be offered. So, if during your research, you find a fully integrated system would be ideal for your firm, make sure the software you pick has this feature offered.

Thirteenth, Billing and invoicing is a feature some software offers and others do not. If your software doesn’t offer this, then make sure the LPMS system offers this feature.

Fourteenth, online payment processing systems is a fast-growing feature for many LPMS’. In your research, make sure that this feature is included, or as an add-on feature.

Finally, protecting your information and that of clients is a paramount concern. Many LPMS systems use encryption to store client and firm data securely.

Having considered the foregoing, here are three top-rated LPMS programs for you to consider: MyCase, Practice Panther, and Clio.

MyCase is an LPMS that is highly rated. One of the most noted features is the user-friendly set-up. Additionally, e-signature and the web payment functions can be very useful. MyCase includes built-in document storage and a full email client. Little integration is required making implementation quick and easy.

Practice Panther is a LPMS that has particularly good security and accounting features. The color-coded outlay is helpful feature, which can aid in organization (i.e., trust, outstanding balances, paid balances, and billable hours for a single client). It can simplify billing, allowing for attorneys to track time and expenses remotely, with data-driven insights (allowing users to know what type of matters bring in the most cash), and the ability to track trust account balances and request and accept retainer payments directly to your trust account. Plus, their payment system (PantherPayments) is fully compliant with IOLTA and ABA guidelines.

Clio is a LPMS that is approved by The Mississippi Bar, and members get a 10% discount. It has highly rated security, 24/7 customer support, and allows for over 125+ integrations of your favorite apps and platforms (Google Apps, Fastcase, Dropbox, QuickBooks, etc.). There are plans for all sized law firms, from solo practitioners to mid-size and large firms. Clio also allows you to customize by practice area (such as civil litigation, estate planning, personal injury law, or criminal defense).

Questions or comments? Drop me an email: jwh3@mindspring.com