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The venerable AbacusLaw practice management software has been around for thirty-one years in one version or another. Abacus does not make it much of a secret that it would like to be your all-in-one legal technology company, providing everything from case management to a full desktop in the cloud that could replace an entire IT department. To that end, they have recently revamped AbacusLaw, using input from over 4,000 of their existing customers. AbacusLaw will now be a cloud service rather than an old-school desktop application, with a relaunch planned for early November.
Here is a preview.
If you are like many lawyers and have found yourself hitched, willingly or not, to Outlook, AbacusLaw’s calendar will make you feel right at home because it looks just like Outlook — if someone custom designed it just for people with task-heavy jobs.
You can, of course, view your schedule by week, month, or day. AbacusLaw also adds widgets on the sides that let you track things to do and calls to make while still letting you see your full calendar.
Over the years, almost every program will experience “feature creep,” the unfortunate tendency to just keep bolting on new features, with the end result being increased menu clutter and disorganization. To combat that, AbacusLaw streamlined the calendar interface and tried to tailor the program for different levels of users. One way in which they have done that is by creating a menu that contains the most-used features and methods of setting up your calendar
… and an advanced screen that lets you use Boolean-style expressions to fully tailor the calendar appearance.
There are robust cross-calendar features where you can view multiple calendars at a time or scope down to a single user in your team — features that will be more useful for larger firms rather than solo or small practitioners. Calendar events can also be narrowed down to a particular event and coded with a variety of common activities such as vacation, appointment, or witness prep.
AbacusLaw, like most case management software, links your matters to your calendar, your clients, your documents, and your emails.
Different types of cases have pre-set matter styles.
AbacusLaw also provides something it calls Practice Area Legal Solutions (PALS).1 PALS are pre-configured versions of AbacusLaw for specific areas covering matter screens, relevant rules, sample documents, and forms.
AbacusLaw includes a number of pre-written forms for many jurisdictions. In a neat touch, the program will autofill relevant data for you.
Standard forms are included as part of your monthly subscription. AbacusLaw will design and build other forms for you if necessary, but those come with an additional fee.
AbacusLaw is the base case management software provided by Abacus. In order to get time tracking, billing, and accounting you would need to use AbacusLaw Gold for an additional fee.
Time tickets link directly to case matters, and you are able to bill from within the matter itself. On the accounting side, you can run reports that detail overall summaries of your accounts, trust balances, and aged accounts receivable, among others.
AbacusLaw Gold includes over 100 standard accounting and billing-related reports. As with other components of AbacusLaw, Abacus will build out additional reports for a fee if you need them.
Integration with Abacus Private Cloud
Ultimately, what Abacus wants is for you to run AbacusLaw (preferably AbacusLaw Gold, actually) within Abacus Private Cloud, although it is entirely possible to run it locally. There are definite advantages to the Abacus cloud, as that integration will give you far more robust backend support from Abacus. Running everything in Abacus cloud means you get nightly backups of your AbacusLaw database and all your documents and forms. You also get automatic updates and system enhancements. Integration will also let you link all incoming and outgoing emails from your Outlook account directly into AbacusLaw, so emails can be added to matters seamlessly. However, this integration, while appealing, might be cost-prohibitive for smaller firms.
The Abacus pricing schemes can seem a bit difficult to follow at first, largely because the goal is to have you use all their products and prices vary based on what you use. Broken down, however, you can see that the AbacusLaw prices are roughly in line with other common practice management software applications. The additional costs come from adding the billing and cloud services.
AbacusLaw itself starts at $47 per month per user, with the monthly service fee covering updates, unlimited technical support, training videos, and webinars. If you go with AbacusLaw Gold, which includes the base case management software of AbacusLaw and additional time, billing, and accounting modules, that will cost $67 per month per user.
If you run everything in the Abacus Private Cloud as Abacus suggests, that adds at least another $165 per month to the bottom line, but that additional monthly cost lets you essentially eliminate your IT and server hardware costs. That cost — even if significantly increased by added users or customization — is likely attractive if you are a medium-sized firm looking to slash costs. However, $230 per month is a steep price for Abacus if you are small or solo practitioner, even if it nets you case management software, accounting and billing software, and a managed desktop.
These prices are all base prices and do not take into account customizations or possible discounts.
Who Should Use AbacusLaw?
Given the prices and the features, is AbacusLaw right for your practice? That’s a complicated answer. As a standalone program, its costs are manageable, particularly if you have only one or two employees. The case management software is easy to navigate and contains a really robust calendaring system, which is something even small firms need. However, the best use of AbacusLaw appears to come from being able to take advantage of the tight integration between the case management software, the billing software, and the private cloud, and that will probably make it cost-prohibitive for a solo or small firm.
However, if you are at a mid- or large-sized firm and are interested in decreasing your hardware costs (by no longer needing to invest in servers) and decreasing your IT personnel budget (by no longer needing a full on-site IT team), then the full Abacus suite could be a great option.
- Currently available PALS include: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Bankruptcy, Business Law, Civil Litigation, Contracts, Criminal Defense, Employment, ERISA, Estate Planning, Family Law, Immigration, Personal Injury, Prosecutor, Real Estate and Workers’ Comp. ↩