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4 Telltale Signs Your Small Law Firm Has Outgrown its Software

4 Telltale Signs Your Small Law Firm Has Outgrown its Software

“One poor guy,” a legal administrator was spending six hours a day, twice a week running compensation reports for partners.  That amounts to 12 hours a week, or nearly 50 hours per month, where a survey of small law firms suggests most firms spend eight hours a week on the entire billing process, let alone running a single report.

When Jonathan Biebesheimer, a LexisNexis® software sales engineer, showed him how a robust billing and law firm finance tool, would do this in 30 minutes or less at the click of a button – in addition to automatically emailing the report to partners – the administrator realized his law firm had outgrown its practice management solution.

It’s not uncommon, according to Mr. Biebesheimer, given small firms often grow from one attorney to five, or even 15, in a relatively short period of time.  This year alone, he’s consulted with upwards of 50 firms that found themselves in this exact position.

We recently sat down with him and asked him to convey the telltale signs a firm has outgrown its law firm practice management software.  He provided four common indications:

1. Manual process. As a firm grows, many small law firm partners are unaware how much time their staff spends running reports. Processes for a solo shop are usually simple in comparison to a firm has five attorneys on staff.  A firm in growth mode that is reliant on manual processes to run invoicing, billing or other reporting usually indicates it’s time to consider software with greater capabilities.

2. Performance slows. In some cases, when a system is being used by more users than it was designed to handle, the system grows sluggish. For example, it takes 15 minutes to enter billable time into the time sheets.  In more extreme cases, system crashes are another telltale sign the firm needs new software designed for greater capacity.

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Also see these related posts:
3 Basics for Choosing Law Firm Practice Management Software
5 Essential Practice Management Reports for Small Law
The Business Case for Law Firm Practice Management ROI
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3. Exporting more and more data. As firms grow, partners and leaders begin to have increasing needs for more robust reporting beyond the capability of software designed for a solo- or duo-law firm. For example, a law firm that started with just one office location might now have five and the partner is interested in understanding which office is more profitable. As a result, legal administrators or billing staff spend more and more time exporting data to spreadsheets to run reports.

4. Compatibility challenges. Some firms reach a point where existing systems simply do not “play well” with other technology tools the firm has implemented. This sometimes occurs when a firm adds multiple products over time to solve user-specific individual needs (which is also why law firm policy and procedures in IT are equally important).   A one-off software product purchased to solve a focused problem, can prove challenging for the varied devices and operating environments a firm maintains. In some cases smaller development teams struggle to keep new tools up-to-date with newer versions of operating systems or other third-party products the law firm deems desirable.

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Systems designed for smaller firms are typically less expensive, which provides incentive for law firms to choose a product that cannot scale as the firm grows. The results can fall on the shoulders of “one poor guy” who could be adding value for the firm in other ways rather than wrestling with the tools provided.

What tips might you add?

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.
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