Opinions and Legal Insights

BEST PRACTICE – When you are considering a project to replace or upgrade your Legal IT …

Here we outline how we recommend that a smaller to medium-sized legal practice should think about and plan any new initiative to replace or upgrade legal technology, thinking primarily about practice and case management systems for law firms with up to 300 people, whatever number of offices and types of legal work. Similar considerations apply when you start to dig deeper into adoption of new CRM and Legal AI (Artificial Intelligence) applications, where our specialist law firm consultants can help too.

Getting Started

If you are considering changes or upgrades in any area of legal Technology, call our specialist law firm consultants early on to discuss your options – free, in confidence and with no obligation. We can set you off on the right track from the outset and speed up your decisions.

The first step is always to

explore whether issues with your current system can be resolved

and/or whether the firm could do more with what you already have in place, to avoid the costs and disruption of making a change.

There is still

no perfect one-size-fits all

legal Practice and Case Management System (PMS). You wll need to

prioritise requirements

to know in which areas you can accept compromise. You therefore need to

identify your priorities

and to create a consistent basis on which to evaluate different propositions against them … but

there will always be “grey areas”

. Every system may well be capable of doing x and y – but how?

From the outset, recognise that

Legal IT is not just about Tech

. Far from it! Experience confirms that it is more like two-thirds about people and one third the legal tech you already have or choose. You can have poor legal technology but still produce results if people are determined to make it work for them. On the other hand, you can have leading edge, state of the art technology, but if people haven’t bought into it, your law firm is in trouble.

Engage your lawyers and other people in the legal IT selection process from the beginning

, listen hard to their views as they will be the ones using whatever you invest in.

Your Approach With Legal IT Suppliers

Focus on what differentiates suppliers and solutions… in areas that matter to your legal practice

, taking account of the priorities you have identified. You want to follow a ‘lean’ process to reach a point as early as possible in the process where you can begin to get into the DETAIL of how this system will work for you – and to talk early about implementaiton. You want to begin to explore and establish a relationship with your selected

LEGAL IT PARTNER” – as that is how you want to see your long term relationship with them

– as early as possible, building mutual trust and confidence.

Key early steps

are likely to be:

  • Briefing to invite an outline response, pricing and demo – submitted to a number of legal IT suppliers

  • Half-day demos with the benefit of initial responses

  • Aim to choose preferred supplier based on proposal, demo and feedback on history and user experience etc.

  • Expand on specification and queries in detail with preferred legal practice management system supplier.

  • In depth demos to confirm selection …or not.

  • Detailed focus on contract and plans to implement, but start looking at contracts early too. This is often left too late.

Our specialistlegal technology consultants who know the suppliers and users across the legal sector will get your law firm started on the right track from the outset – on the legal practice management system (PMS), infrastructure (where we are likely to explore the secure cloud, Office 365 and more besides as options to improve your return from your investment.

Fixed prices where they can be agreed in advance for key stages should be feasible – to give certainy on cost where possible – or day rates if you prefer. It is up to you to decide, depending on the internal resources and experience you have available in-house, whether you want just high level input throughout all stages to review and test evaluations or more than that. You can specify as much or little other input as you want – for example – to:

  • Compile briefings and specifications

  • Attend demonstrations to challenge suppliers and inform employees

  • Negotiate contract terms

  • Advise on plans for implementation

  • Improve workflows / data management / management reporting

Focus on challenging areas that differentiate, that matter for your practice. Aim to get to the detail with one supplier to work on the detail of the specification and implementation as early as possible. We would prefer to spend time working with a preferred supplier rather than drawing up comparisons between suppliers and solutions that just can’t get you moving on improving how people work. The sooner people start thinking about that – and engaging in that discussion – the better.

Key Steps in Our Simple Selection Process

  • Meetings to compile more information, identify issues, explore options

  • Establish “steering group” and engage key people

  • Meetings to complete picture and engage people early

  • Draft and submit briefing/s for PMS suppliers (and others) to be able to compare “like for like” effectively.

  • Outline responses back – prepare agenda for demos and questions to be answered

  • Half-day demos with benefit of responses

  • Evaluate feedback here and from existing users, raise further questions, select “preferred” if possible.

  • Extended demos from preferred supplier/s – questions, plans, contract

  • Confirm and plan implementation … or change track

Those Other Considerations

Microsoft is likely to play a significant part in your technology going forwards. Office 365 for law firms should at least be evaluated as an option. The merits of moving your infrastructure to Cloud with secure hosting (or improving on what you already use) should be evaluated. Options include hosting by your supplier, private and public (e.g. on Microsoft Azure) hosting.

Key Challenges

It helps to be able to anticipate the challenges and opportunities that are likely to crop up as you can then plan to pre-empt and plan to get the most out of your initiative and the significant investment. We see some of the key areas to consider here as:

  • “Changing wheels on a moving car.” How do you keep everything going?

  • Longer term – keeping the momentum going after across the practice?

  • Resources to develop solutions internally

  • Maintaining integration with accounts and all other applications

  • Managing the move from the current legal practice management systems – helping lawyers and othersto engage.… but usually a huge opportunity to improve

  • Moving further towards paperless

  • Managing expectations – avoiding backwards steps … and more.


ole of an IT “Steering Group”

Some group within the practice has to take control. Their role is likely to encompass much of the following, all of which is needed to make the most of time and money invested in this type of project.

  • Identify and engage with “Champions” across the practice

  • Communicate with people outside the IT Steering Group

  • Challenge current ways of working

  • Troubleshooting

  • Constant ongoing system development

  • Maintaining momentum after the initial “flurry”

Get in touch for more information

on these services and to discuss your needs; in confidence and with no obligation.