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.
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
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.
, listen hard to their views as they will be the ones using whatever you invest in.
Your Approach With Legal IT Suppliers
, 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:
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.
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:
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
Questionnaire to gather information
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.
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
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.
Finalise project objectives
Identify and engage with “Champions” across the practice
Communicate with people outside the IT Steering Group
Obtain acceptance of new technology and systems
Challenge current ways of working
Project monitoring and feedback
Keeping the project on track
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.