Well, you finally decided to open up your own law practice! Congratulations! I hope that was an intentional decision and you didn’t get axed for being bad at lawyer-ing at your prior job. Either way, it’s time to take a step back and breathe in the confusing and overwhelming air of case management systems! THERE ARE SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM! And it will boggle your brain picking through each one, demo’ing them all, laboring over which legal case management software is the right fit for you. Lucky for you, I’ve already put in the hours/days/weeks vetting it all. Huzzah!
Basic Solutions for Documents and Email
Let us begin with basic document storage and email solutions. Everyone loves Outlook, right? I feel in almost every business, Outlook is the most-used application either on your desktop or laptop. Outlook comes with any standard Office 365 subscription. The only real competitor in this “space” is Google, with GMAIL, Google Drive and all its other bells and whistles. You can really dive into the pros and cons of each, which warrant an hour seminar. However, for purposes of this piece, I’ll give you a quick solution: It doesn’t matter! They are both equally great, they both have amazing features that you can leverage to run your office. The key is choosing. Don’t think too much about it, pick and commit to that platform. You’ll be wasting time vetting which one has a better calendar feature, which one is better for documents, which one is better for storage, which is better for web-based solutions. Almost all APIs of other applications play nice with either O365 or Google.
All of that being said, I prefer Office 365. I think the real reason is I’m used to it. It’s the program I’ve been using since college, and it’s matured almost as nicely as Tom Selleck. Microsoft really picked up its game with Teams. Teams is something that comes with your O365 subscription, and wow – you probably aren’t even using it! Teams can act as your internal messaging system for you and all your employees, it syncs instantly with OneDrive and SharePoint (its document storage solutions), you can make phone and video calls through it (almost as good as Zoom!) – and – the kicker is all these are “free” with what you’re already paying for! If you are just starting out, you can get away with a Microsoft license for O365 for each of your employees, slap on Adobe for PDF solutions and BAM – you’re fully functional. Now, on to the real behemoths: case management systems.
Exploring Legal Case Management Software and Systems
Over the past years, I’ve looked into the biggest players in the legal case management space. There are a LOT. If you’ve gone to MCLE conferences, they are waiting to prey on you at every booth, telling you why their solution is better than the rest, showing you the bells and whistles you might never use … all for the high price of 50-150 American dollars per user, depending on which one you choose. You obviously pay for what you get, but most have long-term contract (I believe CasePeer is the only one that does not).
I’ve found the best ones are generally, in no particular order, FileVine, Clio, CasePeer and Litify. I do think it’s worth your time to demo each one of these before you make a decision. You will be “married” to this platform for quite some time, and it will be very hard to get out of not only the contract, but your data will be “stuck” in there. Their talons will be in! My firm right now uses FileVine. We have about 20 lawyers, and about 35 staff members. I made sure the paralegals and staff viewed it before choosing, because they will be the ones mostly using it! FileVine made the most sense for us because we get a lot of referrals from other firms, and FileVine has the ability to share cases in real time so everyone is constantly in the know about the status of the case – even outside of your firm if you provide them access.
If I had a practice that required time keeping, billable hours, Clio would be a good solution. CasePeer is geared more towards smaller firms and solo shops, and I’d go as far to say it has the best “look and feel” and ease of entry. You can be up and running with CasePeer in a few weeks, whereas the rest of them may take six MONTHS to get all your data migrated in it and customized to your firm’s needs. If you really, really want to go “high tech”, Litify is amazing for larger firms who want to leverage data in different ways (e.g., dig into how much that specific adjuster has negotiated in the past, two-way sync with QuickBooks). Some of my older staff members (ahem, my parents) would have a very hard time figuring out Litify, whereas the younger generation’s experience would be much smoother. I will say this, though: most try to enter the document database space, and they all do very poorly. Keep your documents separate in DropBox or Box or SharePoint or OneDrive or GoogleDrive, and ask about a two-way sync between the legal case management system and your documents. You’ll thank me later when you want to cancel your contract.
There is a LOT more to say about these programs. And I could talk for hours about it. If you want to dive deeper, email me! I might even have a snazzy discount code for you on one or all of these programs.
— written by Brad Simon