Practice Management Software – so what comes next?
The future from a supplier’s perspective.
Whether you’re a new start-up or an established practice providing a variety of legal services, the advent of server and cloud-based practice management software has radically changed the way your business operates. You now take for granted the basic tools of the software – document management, templates, email integration and storage within the case management system, built-in security features and integrated accounting software.
The list of features of the modern PMS is virtually endless. So, what does the future hold? Will touch and voice technology lead the way as the next big “must have”? Will lawyers be sporting head-mounted gadgetry such as Google Glass? Whilst the techno-fashion options are manifold, the reality is likely to be much more down to Earth.
Over the last few years we at LawWare have witnessed a slow but perceptible change in the requirements of our legal clients. With fully integrated systems now the norm, partners, practice managers and financial managers are looking not just at exploiting the software more fully but also at the service offering as a whole.
This change of emphasis is most obvious in three key areas: reporting, client relationship management and, most importantly, after-sales service from their software supplier.
Many firms are waking up to the fact that their practice management system is not merely a powerful process management machine. It also has the built-in capability to provide powerful work & matter management and financial control information at the press of a button. At any given time, reports can be generated to establish matter progress, WIP status, business profitability and a whole host of others. The trend is clear – more management information and greater control of the business is becoming one of the key components of the package.
Client Relationship Management
Whilst your practice management system is being used to efficiently control workflow and provide high quality service to your clients, a whole wealth of client data mounts up and can be put to good use. In the last few years we have noticed a rising trend amongst lawyers to learn how to use the CRM modules of their systems. Simply managing the existing workload is no longer enough and, increasingly, lawyers are keeping an eye on the future profitability of their businesses by using client data to market and cross-sell additional services. We foresee that this trend will continue upwards over the coming years.Client relationship management is also driven by clients themselves and, as technology gathers pace, more and more law firms are expected to provide online case updates. The era of the compulsory client portal is well and truly here for firms of all sizes.
Training & Support
From the software supplier’s perspective, this really is the key change in the market. In the modern legal world, out-of-the-box software solutions are no longer sufficient. As systems become both more complex and more capable, law firms of all sizes are demanding that the solution they buy provides three essential features. Firstly, readily available support to resolve software issues; secondly, highly structured initial training to ensure users feel comfortable with system basics and, thirdly, ongoing and top-up training to educate regular and advanced users in the management, reporting and CRM aspects of the package.
A recent survey of a cross section of our clients brought this home to us in no uncertain terms and has led to the planned establishment of the LawWare Academy.
Instant fixes are no longer enough and practices throughout the UK are seeking holistic solutions and long-term business partnerships. Techno-fashion fads aside, it will be the nimble and responsive PMS suppliers who will win the day.