I have a couple of confessions to make. First, I can’t remember the name of either of the practice management tools I used at my last two law firms. I can say that they were passable pieces of software that generally accomplished the tasks they were meant for. They weren’t, however, all that intuitive or user-friendly. One of those two pieces of software was more troublesome than the other because the firm was constantly dealing with compatibility issues following an upgrade to the firms computer system. The other one worked well enough for the purpose of entering our time, but wasn’t used for much else. When I was on the road or otherwise out of the office, I couldn’t easily access either of them. Instead, I’d take my notes by hand and enter them in when I returned to the office.
Second, for as tech savvy as I am in the rest of my practice, I’m still very “analog” in terms of practice management. For my own practice I’ve relied on pen and paper to keep track of my billing. Most of my clients at this time are billed on a flat fee basis, and I haven’t felt a need to invest in any practice management software. To the degree that I do use any digital tools, I’ve relied entirely on Evernote to store documents and manage my cases. I draft my invoices using Microsoft Word. As my practice grows and diversifies, I anticipate the need for practice management software. In many ways, my plan to review each of these tools will simultaneously act as an audition for my own practice.
A number of enterprising companies realized the poor state of the technology that had once filled the practice management market. Indeed, in the past few years cloud-based practice management software has become big business. The most popular options at the moment are Clio, Rocket Matter, and MyCase. Each of the three are browser-operated and cloud-based. The downside is that because they are stored in the cloud you lose access to the software if you are deprived of Internet access. The benefit though is that you can now access this software from any location where you do have Internet access including from your mobile devices. Additionally, you’ll never have to worry about compatibility issues like the ones my former employer did when upgrading your computer system. In my opinion, the benefits of cloud-based practice management software make it far superior to older programs you had to install on your computer.
But once you decide to adopt cloud-based practice management software, you next need to decide which app you want to go with. In order to consider the issue, I created trial accounts with each of the three big providers (Clio, Rocket Matter, and MyCase) and then worked with them to get a sense of how they worked. In the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing each of these apps separately. Based on my initial impressions, each is more than competent enough to perform the tasks you’d want to use them for. The major differences between each are the price points, user interfaces, and available integrations.
For example, MyCase offers the cheapest service, while Rocket Matter is the most expensive. Clio alone offers integration with Box.com and Rocket Matter alone offers seamless integration with Evernote. Each offers document assembly, convenient billing tools, calendar and contact management, time tracking, and task management. To be honest, most users will probably use only a fraction of the available options for any of the three tools.
Stay tuned. For the next installment of this series I’ll be sharing my experiences with Clio, which was the first of the three tools that I signed up for. Until then, I’d like to hear from you if you’ve had any experience with any of the three tools. For example, let me know which one you use, why you chose it, what you like about it, and how it could be improved.