Rocket Matter legal practice management software: still promising, still pricey

RocketMatter11 Rocket Matter legal practice management software: still promising, still priceyRocket Matter is an online, cloud-based practice management suite. I first reviewed Rocket Matter over a year ago. At the time, I called Rocket Matter promising, but pricey. Larry Port recently gave me another tour to show me some new features.

I often begin reviews with the ending: Rocket Matter is very good practice management software, and I want to love it. But, unfortunately, it is incomplete, and I still think the price is too high. For lawyers already using practice management software, Rocket Matter is a possible alternative. But I think the price will probably keep many others from becoming Rocket Matter customers.

Read on for the good, the bad, and the price.

What rocks about Rocket Matter

What Rocket Matter does, it does well. It is streamlined and fast (faster than the desktop-based options I have used). Part of the reason is probably that Rocket Matter is comparatively lean. There are big, friendly forms and dialogs, and the interface is pared down to the essentials. Five minutes with Rocket Matter makes the desktop-based options look bloated and archaic by comparison (which they are, as a matter of fact).

Everything you do in Rocket Matter has the option to be billed, which is part of the Rocket Matter philosophy: cut down the time it takes to track time. This does make it easier to track time, instead of putting it off until the end of the week or month.

Rocket Matter will usually suggest things to you to speed up form completion. For example, if you are typing in a “contact” field, just start typing the name you want, and a drop-down list with likely names will show up. This really speeds up data entry and gives Rocket Matter an elegant feel.

Plus, Rocket Matter is a cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. Forget servers, VPNs, and waiting for your IT person to show up so everyone can get back to work. You can work from any computer, anywhere in the world, without messing with special remote access software or services. SaaS rocks, and internet connectivity is ubiquitous these days, making it fairly low risk for downtime.

The new tasks implementation is GTD-inspired, but friendly for all. Upcoming tasks and appointments are on the user dashboard, putting important information front and center.

One of my favorite features is the in-development tagging feature. Soon, you will be able to tag everything in Rocket Matter, making for easy, searching, and flexible navigation so you can discover connections you may not have even expected between tasks, notes, documents, and appointments.

For the basics—matter-centric contacts, calendars, notes, tasks, timekeeping, and billing—Rocket Matter has you very well covered.

What Rocket Matter is missing

Despite the positives, I am still on the fence about Rocket Matter. I think it has some awesome features, but it is missing some features I know I would want.

First off, Rocket Matter has virtually no options for offline access. Sure, you can subscribe to your calendar, but at a bare minimum, it should support Gears for offline, in-browser work. As much as I love cloud apps, the lack of full offline support is a potential dealbreaker. While coffee shops are universally wired, many locations popular with attorneys are not. These include everyone else’s law firms, many hotels, and airplanes, few of which have free guest access. If you want always-available internet, add $65/month/person for a data plan (and the occasional $20/night for hotel access and $13/flight for air travel). If you want to be productive with Rocket Matter, you will need it.

Maybe the most glaring omission from Rocket Matter is that it has no e-mail support, which means that keeping e-mails with your files means copying and pasting them into the note utility—a clumsy workaround. This is a big problem, especially when the competition has e-mail covered.

Or the most glaring omission may be the lack of trust accounting, which Larry Port says is one of the next things on his team’s to-do list. For a timekeeping and billing application, the omission of trust accounting is quite surprising.

You can upload documents to Rocket Matter, but I did not see any bulk uploader, which limits the usefulness of this feature. Imagine the hours it would take to upload all the files in a document-intensive personal injury case (assuming they would fit in Rocket Matter’s paltry 10GB storage quota, that is). The feature is apparently targeted at uploading a file or two to share with clients, not at true document management.

So at the end of a case, Rocket Matter is not much help. Your file is still about as scattered as it would be if you had no practice management software at all. Consolidating it into a single location—digital or analog—will require some serious creativity. You might very well have an easier time with no practice management software at all.

Will Rocket Matter really save you money? (maybe, but not much)

Rocket Matter’s self-serving white paper on how it saves money unfairly inflates the cost of using other practice management software (Amicus, Time Matters, and PC Law—and let’s be honest, I am no fan of those systems). For example, who in the world would spend $1,500 on backup when a $100 external hard drive and a $100 subscription to Dropbox will work just as well? Since when does it cost $700 to set up a VPN? A teenager could do it for an ice cream cone. $1,000 for data migration? For many lawyers, this will mean manually entering data, which is no cheaper on Rocket Matter.

It is easy to see why Rocket Matter adds in these bogus expenses. Recurring fees for local software are relatively small. For a five-person firm, Rocket Matter estimates the recurring support fees and GoToMyPC (obviously optional, anyway), as between $430 and $675 per year for the local software. The yearly cost of Rocket Matter? $3,119.40. Holy cow!

Without all those dubious “costs” of local software, Rocket Matter turns out to be the most expensive option, not the cheapest. The five-year cost of all four solutions is nearly even by Rocket Matter’s estimate, with Rocket Matter saving a couple thousand. By my estimate, Rocket Matter is the most expensive by a couple thousand, and after five years, the cost of using Rocket Matter versus the rest will increase drastically.

Who should consider Rocket Matter?

Rocket Matter is, unfortunately, only a partial case management solution, and very much a work in progress. Despite this, you may very well pay more for it.

Is it worth it? For firms already running expensive practice management software, the answer may very well be yes, but with caveats. For example, if those firms also want to integrate e-mail with their practice management software, Rocket Matter falls short. It also falls short in billing, since it does not yet support trust accounting.

I really want to like and recommend Rocket Matter. Larry Port and his development team have built a beautiful product. It just is not yet complete, and some of the omissions are glaring. Due to this, the pricing seems all the more unreasonable.

Will I use Rocket Matter someday? I would very much like to. There is a lot about Rocket Matter that really does rock. But at the moment, it is not yet ready for me.

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  • Corine

    I would purchase a subscription to either Clio or RocketMatter immediately if either of their services synced directly to windows mobile phones. I would even settle for an Outlook or Google Calendar work around. However if the calendar, task list and contacts list do not sync to my PDA phone, then its just money down the drain. Its a shame, because I love the idea of legal SaaS. I saw a live demo for Rocket Matter and was impressed. The lack of syncing options was a huge disappointment.

    • http://www.egolaw.com Eric

      Corine,
      I’m starting with Clio, and it has a GREAT iphone interface. You can see/use the entire program from your iPhone. I see your post is from a year ago, so check it out. If you’ve been using it, let me know what you think.

      Eric

      ego@egolaw.com

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    For what it is worth, Larry says syncing, along with trust accounting, is “next on the list” of things they are working on.

  • http://www.rocketmatter.com Larry Port

    Sam, thanks so much for taking the time to take another look at Rocket Matter and offer your thoughts.

    One thing you point out is very important for folks to keep in mind: web-based applications like Rocket Matter continually roll out new features. So even though synching and trust accounting aren’t there today, you’ll see them at some point in the future.

    However, I’d like to address a couple of items in this review that need clarification. First, we *do* offer offline access to your information. Matter lists, billable items, contacts, and calendars are all available for download on demand, whenever a user wants.

    Second, our white paper was very carefully researched, using quotes from practicing consultants, and we tried very hard to be conservative with our estimates. Some of the quotes of traditional systems we heard law firms were being charged for initial work reached into the tens of thousands of dollars, and the prices we quote are *far* below those.

    Barring the employment ice-cream cone charging teenagers, the reality for most lawyers is that first year expenses in setting up an office can be exceedingly high. Most are either not as tech savvy as yourself or care not to spend their billable time with sleeves rolled up in systems configuration.

    You may draw the conclusion that SaaS is more expensive over five years than an installed system. However, that is up for each firm to determine based on their needs. On average, we believe it’s roughly equivalent. But certainly, the initial overhead for a SaaS system is dramatically less, which is crucial as a young firm gets off the ground.

  • Jake

    I concur with Sam. I was initially intrigued and excited by Rocket Matter and Clio, but turned away by the price and several missing features. I’ll come back in a couple of years to see how these SaaS’s have evolved. Hopefully pricing would have dropped by then.

  • http://www.themaclawyer.com/ Ben Stevens

    You have “viewed” Rocket Matter, whereas I have been using it in my office for quite some time. After having used most of the other players in the case management field, I can say without a doubt that Rocket Matter is head and shoulders above the rest. The things you mention as drawbacks are relatively minor, especially when compared to the numerous advantages offered by Rocket Matter. No one program will be the “perfect” solution for every firm, as everyone has different priorities, but for us, Rocket Matter is THE solution.

  • Sam Glover

    @Ben: Fair point. And I agree that Rocket Matter is better than other practice management software at what it does. But that is the problem, it leaves out several very key parts of practice management. Some may care about those things; some may not.

    Also, thanks for stopping by. For those who do not know, Ben writes the excellent blog, The Mac Lawyer. Which brings up an important point. Since so few practice management apps are written with Macs in mind, Rocket Matter is not only a better option for Mac users, it is one of a very few options (unless you want to run Windows on your Mac, I guess).

  • Kevin Morton

    @Sam Glover: I’m using Daylite (the program Ben used before switching to Rocket Matter) and it works well for us. It provides e-mail integration and we can also merge project and contact data with merge forms (something essential in my practice to quickly generate all kinds of simple and not so simple documents). It also has a nice iPhone app that costs $50/year to license.

    Frankly, I like the idea of cloud computing and have been using dropbox and evernote to make briefs and research available to me when I’m on the road (just move these files into the dropbox folder and they’re synced to the cloud, then retrievable on my laptop or phone). What I’m still missing is an integrated accounting (general and trust) solution that can use the data generated in Daylite and it use it across different apps.

    I think it would be very interesting to see Ben demonstrate how he uses Rocket Matter in his practice. That might be something Larry would want to explore-a demo video that shows workflows for a certain kind of practice–how letters and pleadings are generated, where docs are stored, how billing is handled, etc.

    Thanks for the review.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    I would like to see that, too, but I don’t know whether Larry would agree to it, since he would not let me take any screenshots during my tour.

  • http://www.hubertlaw.com Steven Hubert

    Thank you for this review. And thanks to the other responders for adding information. What Rocket Matter is missing at this point (as Sam points out in detail) are the deal breakers for me. I don’t use SaaS, but if Rocket Matter had what Sam pointed out (email integration, integrated trust account & other financial data, true document management), I would have been on board already. The only other Mac-based app that I would consider now, besides what I use, is Daylite, and that is still incomplete. Btw, I use Lawstream. It does a lot of some things, nothing of others, and is not easily understood. So why switch if I don’t get real improvement?

  • John Burnett

    So. Been looking at practice management software. We have Amicus. Looked at Time Matters and now Abacus. Rocket Matter was next. It is OFF. Just Off. Get message that server cannot connect. Now I suspect it will come back up but I am just wondering what I would be like if all my client files were on a server that just went down and I could not access my own data. This cloud thing may be not such a good concept for lawyers.

  • Harry Kim

    Has anyone tried TimeSolv?

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I think it’s been mentioned here before, but I’ve never tried it (or heard from anyone who has).

  • Howard Kline

    Sam:

    Good review and it is pretty much where I am at with RocketMatter. I have used RocketMatter, Clio, and MyCase and each one has some very strong features and otherwise lack certain features that I find important. I have also tried out Houdini Esq. and Firm Manager and many years ago was a user of Abacus, Amicus and TimeMatters, going as far back as 1990.

    I have written in the past about searching for the perfect practice management program as being on the search for the Holy Grail, something that I will never find.

    As part of my continuing evaluation process, I try to come up with some cost vs. benefit ratio. How much bang for my buck am I getting. In my case, I never felt that the compromises that I had to make with RocketMatter was worth the cost of the program. Clio was better but I was not very happy with the billing portion of the program.

    I have recently switched to a non-legal specific cloud program called Insightly, that I have found to be outstanding at connecting disparate information and has an absolutely great google email widget that makes it very easy to connect your emails to cases and create tasks, calendar events, etc. right from within the email. It has only two real negatives for me:

    1. The calendar app needs to better integrate with my Google calendar in a way that better facilitates collaboration with my staff; and
    2. It does not have an integrated billing program.

    The calendaring issue requires me to do weekly case and calendar reviews, something that I should be doing anyhow.

    The billing issue is being solved by going back to my tried and true Timeslips. It’s old, not pretty and not a cloud program, but its a solid worker and get’s the job done right. Since I run, primarily a Mac office with some PC’s and I collaborate with contract lawyers, some of whom do not use Macs, the Mac issue is solved by using their only billing portal, which now can be used with any browser, not just IE. All we need now is one PC where the program resides and everyone can then enter their time wherever they are on using an iPad, iPhone, Android, PC or Mac.

    Finally, as to Insightly, the cost factor is extremely low. It costs $29.00 per month for 6 users and $49.00 per month for up to 15.