Asking the right questions to select the right legal case management software
In part one of our two-part series, we explained what legal case management software is and how it can help your legal department be more organized and efficient. We also explained that most commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) software solutions perform 80 percent of the same functions. Finding the perfect legal management software for your department involves asking questions about the differences.
The first questions that you need to ask about legal case management software relate to reliability and scalability. After all, a software is only a good investment if it does everything you need it to do and can support all of your users, now and in the future.
Although reliability and scalability are incredibly important considerations during the process of selecting the right legal case management software, they aren’t the only ones. You don’t have to wonder about these other considerations. The team at Legal Files Software has some guidance. As we get into part two, you’ll learn what else you should consider and what other questions you should ask the vendors you’re considering.
The importance of email and calendar integration
Everyone knows that legal professionals today can’t function without a calendar and email. They’re such simple tools, but they keep everything organized and running smoothly. The calendar keeps track of critical deadlines and appointments, while email allows for seamless communication and storage of important contacts.
When you’re selecting a legal matter management system, you want to make sure that it can integrate with your existing email and calendaring system. Most COTS applications include some integration with Outlook, one of the most common email systems.
What about legal departments that use Gmail, IBM Notes or GroupWise? Not every vendor offers support for these systems, so you’ll want to be sure to find out if the ones you’re considering do. Legal Files Software doesn’t want to limit our customers, so we offer integrations for all four of these popular email systems.
Not only is it important to ask about which email systems a COTS software supports, it’s also critical to ask for details about how the integration with email works. Most vendors offer integration with email, but how they accomplish it and the level of integration varies greatly.
- Most vendors offer integration between the software’s calendar and the email-based calendar. However, few of them offer true integration that allows users to continue using their email calendar as their primary calendar. Be sure to ask potential vendors whether this is true for their product.
- Your email server is the information technology hub of an organization. To avoid placing additional workload and storage requirements on this critical resource, you should avoid software that requires direct integration with the server. It should instead integrate from within the email desktop. This is also important because direct integration between the email server and the software can present security risks, including exposure to viruses and hackers.
- Don’t forget to consider how a legal case management system stores matter-related emails and attachments. Some programs make it so emails can never be deleted from the email system without breaking the link to the stored message. To avoid capacity and performance problems, the software should save this information in the native format in the matter management system.
Look carefully at document management
One of the most valuable features of legal case management software is document storage, which means that you need to know about how document storage and management works for each software system you’re considering. The first question you should ask is, does the system actually manage document storage—or does it just maintain a link to the document.
To make sure that documents are always easily accessible to anyone who needs them, the document management system should store all documents in a centralized location on a network drive. It should also store them as actual records inside the relational database management system.
Other points to consider include the interface of the software and how it manages all document saves and accesses. You should look for a user-friendly interface that allows users to profile the document by relating it to a case or matter and organizing it according to the department’s policies. Additionally, the software system should programatically manage all document saves and accesses, regardless of whether it is a Word document or a PDF.
Don’t forget about the remaining 20 percent—and what you can’t count
You’ll find a great deal of variation among advanced features that are offered by COTS software systems. This makes up some of the 20 percent difference between these programs, and these differences can provide a high return on investment. You simply need to think about what you and your team members need to do with a legal matter management system. If you need specific features, ask software vendors if they offer them. This simple question can help you easily narrow down your options.
While you’re asking questions about available features, don’t forget to find out more about the flexibility of the software. You want a system that is flexible and customizable enough to manage all types of matters. You need to view the software from the eyes of every user to minimize the risk that a particular team won’t use the new software.
As important as they are, features aren’t all that matters when you’re selecting a legal matter management system. You want to make sure that you have a responsive team on your side. With Legal Files Software, you get more than our innovative legal matter management software. You also get access to the collective knowledge of our experienced team.
With an average of 10 years of experience, our project managers help customers implement our software, transition to the system and learn how to best use our software to be more organized and efficient. We know that legal professionals get more out of the software when they have hands-on training and support, so we want to connect them with the best people to help them manage what matters to them.