Many law firms assume they need case management software and start shopping for case management software options. This approach is backwards. Instead of “What case management software do we need?,” the first question should be “Do we need case management software?”

Firms considering case management software should ask three questions before shopping for software.

1. What do we want/need to accomplish?

First, examine what you want or need to do. Do you want to associate e-mails with a client or case file? Do you want to be able to share calendars? Do you want to be able to assign tasks or share documents?

In considering what you want or need to accomplish, there are several “pieces” of any file that you need to consider: e-mail, appointments, tasks, contacts, documents, and timekeeping and billing. How are you currently managing each piece of your files? How are you consolidating each piece of each file when you close files?

Identify (1) what you are not accomplishing or cannot accomplish currently; and (2) what you cannot accomplish how you want to. In the second case, how would you like to accomplish those things?

2. Can we accomplish our needs with what we already have?

Take stock of your current tools. Include your filing cabinet as well as your software and your file server. If you want to associate e-mails with clients and you have Outlook, you may not need case management software; you can already do that in Outlook. Get to know what you have better.

In fact, assume that you can probably accomplish what you want to accomplish using the tools you have. (For example, Outlook can do everything most case management software can do.) Figure it out before you assume you need to spend time and money on implementing something new.

3. Do we need something else to accomplish what we want?

If you can already accomplish what you want with what you have, why are you considering a switch to something new? Is something still missing? Are you hoping for more a more-integrated solution?

If you have gotten this far and you still think case management software is the answer, start looking at the options. In a future post, I will talk about picking a case management software package.

Case management is more than just software

One more thing. Know that case management is more than just software. You cannot just sign up for Clio or install Amicus and expect it to change everything.

Whether or not you decide to get new software, any of the best matter management and case management solutions takes serious commitment and often pervasive change to your firm’s policies and procedures.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/capitolagirl/2869756435/)