The trend towards the cloud has been pretty clear for some time, but walking the EXPO Hall at ABA TechShow made it clear that we have passed the tipping point for practice management software. The future is in the cloud.
The “Big Three” for cloud-based practice management software are Clio, MyCase, and Rocket Matter, and all seem to be on solid financial footing, which means they are pretty unlikely to just fold up and quit (a valid concern when a company is new and burning venture capital just to keep the lights on). Clio is profitable and flush with $18 million in new funding. MyCase’s parent company, Appfolio, is healthy and pretty clearly committed to MyCase over the long run. Rocket Matter is also profitable. Any of them could get acquired, of course, but it’s hard to imagine why a company would acquire them only to shut them down.
Established premises-based practice management software vendors, Amicus and Abacus, are both pushing cloud-based versions of their software. Actionstep is in active development, and it seems like a new option pops up every couple of weeks. (CosmoLex was the new kid on the block at TechShow this year.)
Even Lexis and Thomson are going to the cloud. Lexis is betting big, in fact. At TechShow, I learned that Lexis is putting most of its development resources into its cloud-based practice-management software, Firm Manager, although it expects to be supporting legacy systems for quite some time. I’m not sure Westlaw has made its mind up, yet. Firm Central feels a bit like Thomson is hedging its bets rather than committing to the cloud. But Thomson is definitely ready for a cloud-based future for practice management software. Even Fastcase is branching out with its bankruptcy software, TopForm, which will launch within the next couple of weeks. A move into practice management software at some point would not be much of a surprise.
In other words, you will be using the cloud for practice management sooner rather than later — if you aren’t already.
This is, for the most part, a good thing. Cloud-based practice management software is ideal for collaboration across firms. The secure client portals built into many of the options are better than email for communicating with clients — and nearly as easy to use. Cloud software is platform-agnostic and usually mobile-friendly, giving more options to lawyers who use it.
Practice management software — cloud-based or not — is no panacea. It definitely will not make you a better lawyer. It probably won’t even make you a more productive lawyer, although it might help you be more efficient. But many lawyers find that their firms function better with practice management software. In the very near future, they will almost certainly be using it in the cloud.
Featured image: “Cloud computing concept” from Shutterstock.