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