Features to Look for in Legal Matter Management – Part One
The features of legal matter management software make all the difference
When you realize that it’s time to buy a legal matter management system, or upgrade your existing software, you probably have a lot of questions. It makes sense. Legal matter management is a financial investment in the future of your legal department or law firm, so you want to make sure you’ve selected the best program for the unique needs of your office.
One way that you can make this decision a little bit easier is by taking a look at the features of each legal matter management program that you’re considering. There are tons of features and functions out there, so how do you know which ones to look for in case matter management?
The team at Legal Files Software is here to make it easy for you to know which features are important enough to be must-haves and which ones are just extra bells and whistles. In part-one of this two-part series, we’ll discuss email and calendar integration, document management, and reliability and scalability.
Feature one – Email and calendar integration
Most legal professionals would agree that email is a critical component of the practice of law today. Not only do we communicate with clients, coworkers, opposing counsel and other outside parties using email, but programs like Microsoft Office are often home to our calendars. It’s impossible to imagine a world where we didn’t have access to these critical tools, so it’s important to look for legal matter management that integrates with the platform you use for email, calendaring and contact management.
To determine which legal matter management programs are a good fit for your legal department or law office, you need to first think about which platform you use to manage your email and calendar. Although Microsoft Outlook is the most common, you may use other popular programs like Gmail, IBM Notes or GroupWise. Before you seriously consider any legal matter management software, you need to find out whether it offers integration with the program you already use in your office.
We believe that you should never have to switch to a new email program just because you acquired a new case matter management software. That’s why Legal Files Software offers seamless integration with all four of the most commonly used email programs: Outlook, Gmail, IBM Notes and GroupWise.
In addition to finding a matter management solution that will integrate with your desired email and calendaring program, you also want to select one that provides true two-way integration. The amount of integration varies greatly from vendor to vendor, and few of them offer two-way integration. This means that you won’t be able to continue using Outlook as your primary calendar, instead you’ll have to use the one in the new software. Legal Files Software avoids this and other related problems by offering comprehensive integration.
Feature two – Document management
One of the biggest reasons legal professionals invest in legal matter management is to manage, organize and protect their work product, including documents. Some legal departments and law offices have already invested in a software that specializes in just document management. In contrast, others are using an organizational system that may involve paper files in cabinets and on desks, or digital files that are stored in the Cloud. Regardless of where your office falls on this spectrum, the right legal matter management program can help you stay organized.
If you already have a document management system (DMS), you may want to consider looking only at matter management options that don’t include document management. Another wonderful option is finding a program that integrates with your existing DMS. This is the perfect way to make sure that everything you need to do your job is in one convenient, electronic location.
If you don’t have a specialized DMS for your office, you want to find legal matter management software that includes document management features. However, having such features aren’t enough. It also needs to function properly. For example, you need to find out how the software stores and manages documents. You want a program like Legal Files Software that actually manages the document’s storage, not one that just maintains a link to a document that is stored somewhere else.
Feature three – Reliability and scalability
Although you might not think of them as features of legal matter management, scalability and reliability are actually some of the most important ones. The purpose of purchasing matter management software is to make your law office or legal department more organized and efficient.
It might seem like it makes sense to purchase a cheaper system, but it actually ends up being more costly in the end. A rock-bottom price suggests poor programming and unreliable software, which can cause the system to run poorly or completely crash when too many users are online. It’s annoying the first time this happens, but the second time ends up costing you in terms of lost productivity.
To avoid the pain and frustration of purchasing an unreliable product, you want to go beyond a basic software demonstration and ask each vendor a few important questions.
- What are the recommended workstation and server configurations that support the number of users you have in your office? Large server and workstation requirements, as well as software that requires a separate server, should raise red flags.
- What is the development history of the program? You should only consider programs that were designed specifically for a SQL relational database management system. These legal matter management systems should also come from vendors with proven installations much larger than your number of users.
- Will the software be able to handle more users over time? If your law office or legal department grows in the future, you don’t want to have to purchase a whole new system. Be sure to find out if the software you’re considering can grow with you.
More features to consider in part-two
As we finish with part-one of this series, you now know that any legal matter management software you consider should offer email and calendar integration, document management, and scalability and reliability. In the next part of this series, we’ll dive a little deeper to review some more critical features.