Penny Wise and Pound Foolish!

By at 20 May, 2005, 3:15 pm

Well, I’ve joined the world of blogging for good or ill, and my first post is on a timely topic that keeps cropping up time and time again: both new and experienced lawyers continue to wonder if practice management software is really worth the time, effort and cost? This is like wondering if a washing machine really makes your life better!

This issue was raised just this week again on the ABA Solsez list. The same theme runs through all of these posts – where is the value in the legal specific packages, why not just use Outlook? So they try and use an “off the shelf” product because it’s less expensive. Then they spend a lot of time, energy and money literally “recreating the wheel” rather than focusing on what they do best.

Products like Outlook are not designed to work from a “file” or “matter” focused perspective i.e. working from a matter rather than a contact. What the legal packages allow you to do is to gather in one place all the information regarding a specific file or matter. In my own practice, Time Matters is where we keep everything regarding the file including contacts and related parties, phone records, notes, email, documents, research information, etc. I enter contacts one time and can use them over and over again because Time Matters is a relational database allowing a one to many relationship between records (meaning that I can relate different pieces of information together without having to enter new records each time). For example, I do a lot of real estate, I have Realtors, lenders, title companies and attorneys as Contacts. When I open a new file I don’t have to re-enter these contacts if they are already in the system I simply relate them to the matter, re-using the information over and over again. Additionally, I don’t have multiple Contact records like if I tracked everything by contact and had to enter the contact for each new matter.

Furthermore, you can use the information from the matter management software to help market your practice. Time Matters allows multiple classification codes which are fully searchable and can be used to differentiate and identify practice areas, client types, etc. Here’s an excerpt from my contribution to the ABA’s new book “How to Capture and Keep Clients: Marketing Strategies for Lawyers”

“One of the benefits of using a legal specific matter management package such as Time Matters, Practice Master, Amicus or Abacus is the ability to identify matters by a practice area. You can create lists of matters and then identify the associated clients for practice areas in which you want to send targeted information and marketing materials. Rather than just sending out general information newsletters, you can target clients for newsletters and information that is focused on their specific needs. For your corporate clients, you can send information regarding changes to your state’s business corporation act or changes in tax treatment. Your clients that rent property can be targeted for information specific to landlord-tenant matters. If you are using a legal specific time and billing package you can also create detailed reports on the practice area or areas where the majority of your income is coming from which may surprise you. Using this information, you can further tailor your marketing efforts to those areas that are your most profitable. ”

Even if you don’t want to spend the money for TimeMatters or Amicus, at a minimum you need to have a Time and Billing system in place. As Ross Kodner has pointed out in his posts to variuos lists, Tabs3 includes Practice Master which, while as not fully featured as Time Matters, is a good program. So you buy your TIme and Billing software and you get your practice management thrown in as a bonus. What’s not to like and it’s software specifically designed for the legal industry.

Categories : Practice Management


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