Legal practice management software can often be either the best thing or worst thing to happen to a law firm. The best sort of practice management software is one which partners and associates hope would be composed of a central management system and database that is easy to use, automatically syncs new clients and cases and robustly ensures that all billable time is accounted for and that billing and accounting issues are dealt with swiftly and in accordance with accounting rules. And it will also ensure that clients pay their bills on time.

You will find that there are some very good practice management software packages out there. The key is to choose one that will tick all of your law firm’s particular boxes. Here we set out five key issues to consider when choosing a new legal practice management system.

1) Security

The ability to assure clients that their confidentiality is respected is key. It is therefore essential that any practice management software system is secure. There has been a recent increase in the number of systems which offer cloud-based storage. This can be great, as a key benefit of such storage systems is that they are flexible in terms of the amount of storage and can reflect your current needs. However, you must be assured that the security measures employed by the software are up to scratch.

2) Risk Management

Running a law firm successfully is a complicated business. Not only are there the clients to care for, but various rules and regulations must be observed. Law firms must ensure that they are compliant with necessary anti-money-laundering legislation, SRA accounts rules, HMRC, LAA and Lexcel guidelines. Whilst most law firms are prudent and appoint professionals within their firm to keep an eye on these issues, there are practice management systems out there today, such as, which will undertake duplicate checks to ensure that accountancy rules are complied with and have built-in features to remind staff of their obligations to comply with other regulators. Some practice management systems now also have installed user prompts that will be activated when inaccurate time entries are recorded – an essential aspect when the same practice management system also generates bills with automated calculations.

3) Ease of Use

Not everyone in a law firm is a fee earner, but those who fulfil HR, IT and accountancy functions also need to have access to the practice management system. For this reason, it can be invaluable to choose a system which is easily personalised for individualised access and role-related information. Look out for those software packages that enable you to design role-based work flows, which will guide each member of staff through their own projects on their own terms rather than being stuck with a rigid work flow that was designed by somebody outside of the firm who has little idea how the internal processes actually work.

4) Flexible Working

In today’s 24-hour working world, there is an increased increased demand from staff to be able to work flexibly. This can range from being able to work from home to working restricted or extended hours. When a single centralised database is based on cloud storage, staff can log in from a secure online connection from any location. Whilst this has clear benefits for flexible working, it also ensures that those firms with multiple locations and staff who are often out of the office at meetings or at court can work wherever they are.

In addition to ensuring that staff can work in ways that suit their individual needs, allowing staff to log in and carry out their work in accordance with their own schedule can enhance output and efficiency. Key to fee-earner roles is the fact that they may be able to record their billable hours when they are actually doing the work. Capturing a great deal more of the work that is carried out than traditionally has been possible. Choosing practice management software that can be accessed from any location may ensure that you capture your solicitors’ chargeable tasks whilst they work or post activities.

5) System Support

When you have a firm that has evolved to reflect modern working practices, there may be times when a solitary person is working in the middle of the night. If there is a technical problem at that time, it is essential that expert technical support is available to ensure that that the employee’s work is not wasted and that their time is not disregarded. For this reason, we would advise that you look for a practice management software system that is reinforced with uninterrupted expert technical support easily accessed by any member of staff.