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3 Lessons from Switching Practice Management Tools

3 Lessons from Switching Practice Management Tools

Switch law firm practice management tools is sizable undertaking. The selection process and expenses aside, the change can be disruptive to business process. Sometimes this happens at a time of growth because a firm has outgrown its existing software.

This was the predicament of and Atlanta-based litigation law firm Bloom Surgarman Everett, LLP as described in a new case study just published today.  Brent Bridges, executive director of the firm noted the first tool the firm selected “was great when we first started, but as we brought more attorneys into the firm, we needed thoughtful, meaningful data, and our previous financial program just didn’t offer it.”

Three lessons can be gleaned from the case study for other law firms considering switching practice management tools:

1. Choose software that can grow with the firm.  

It’s easier to track time, billing and invoices when there’s just one attorney working a case, but the data being managed and requirements grows with each billable staff member a firm brings on board. This often boils down to a need for more advanced KPI reporting and the ability to understand how the firm is performing from a high-level down to the details.

“At any time, our partners can go into ‘My Business’ and get a snapshot of how we’re doing, down to a granular level of clients, accounts receivable, billable hours and more. They can see what specific teams are looking like for the month and if they’re meeting their targets and goals.”

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2. Don’t shy from getting expert help. 

GE’s Jack Welch held a management philosophy that focused on what the company could do best and outsource the rest – that is to say outsource the functions that weren’t central to the organization’s core competency. Likewise, Mr. Bridges turned to a LexisNexis Certified Independent Consultant for technical implementation and training help this time around.  He chose Affinity Consulting’s Steven Best.

“I had known Steven for several years and he had an excellent reputation for delivering efficiency solutions to law offices,” he said.

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3. Staff training is pivotal to success.

The best software money can buy won’t move the need for an organization if the staff won’t or can’t use it; it’s important to have a plan to train staff on a new system.

“The attorneys weren’t entering their own time into the old system,” said Bridges. “They were either tracking their time with handwritten timesheets or entering it in an Excel spreadsheet.”

With training from Mr. Best, the firm was able to change that and empowered the firm’s attorneys and staffs the knowledge to use the software.  “You can’t imagine how much time that freed up on the administrative end,” Bridges said.

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Read the complete Bloom Surgarman Everett case study here: PCLaw® empowers litigation firm with “meaningful data” to maximize profitability and efficiency.

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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.

In my experience, even with training, the biggest problem is implementation - far too many lawyers, still, incredibly, see anything like this as a "what's in it for them" type exercise. new software, of any kind, implemented form wide, only works if used properly. The resistance to change is a big issue in law firms, and proper buy in is essential from all in the firm before a big change - I know from bitter experience !