Guest post by Bryan Lober.

Investing in practice management software is an investment in the future of your firm. While it is true that a certain percentage of startup firms will fail, you must plan on being at least reasonably successful lest you create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

As has been mentioned in countless ‘how to start’ books, you should, ideally, have a good amount of money saved up and set aside in order to allow for your new firm to go from initially being a cost burden to becoming profitable. In the current climate, this may realistically take no less than several months to occur. If you’ve saved up enough money to hunker down and get by, you may wish to consider purchasing practice management software outright instead of paying monthly for a program you will continue to use for years to come.

I have been told time and time again, by successful attorneys, that the easiest way to better ensure profitability is to reduce your expenses.

While MyCase, Rocket Matter, and Clio all offer enticing features, they share an additional common feature: monthly fees. Abacus sells AbacusLaw on a 36 month installment plan and outright.

Purchase Options

Purchasing AbacusLaw outright, the “classic” flavor runs $1097 and the “gold” version (which includes built in time, billing, and accounting features) runs $1597. If you are a member of the ABA, you qualify for a 15% discount, which brings the prices down to roughly $900 and $1400, respectively. Purchasing the software outright comes with a year of free tech support and updates.

If you were to pay in monthly installments, the “classic” runs $45 per month and the “gold” costs $62 per month. With the 15% ABA discount, these numbers drop to roughly $38 and $53 monthly. At the end of three years, you own the current version of the software, having had free tech support and product updates for the entire duration of the installment plan.

Doing the math, if you were to opt for the “classic” version, as an ABA member, you would end up spending in the area of $1400 over the course of that time. The “gold” version would run ABA members around $1900 over the 36 month installment period.

Without getting into the time value of money or opportunity costs, it is clear that the outright purchase option may be better for many practitioners.

If you use Quickbooks for accounting, as I do, you may not require the additional functionality offered by the “gold” version. I opted for the “classic” flavor of AbacusLaw when I recently purchased it.

The Good

You will undoubtedly have a question or ten that AbacusLaw’s online knowledge base will not answer. The good news is that English speaking tech support is readily available. The support telephone number is displayed on Abacus’ website and they have, from what I can tell, thirteen or so native English speaking tech support reps. Your hold times are reasonable and the tech support reps are willing and able to remote connect to your machine if needed.

That said, the software does the basics and does them quite well. Calendaring is easy. Inputting new cases is simple (despite there being a somewhat short character limit on case numbers). Adding a client and associated contact info is a breeze. Associating particular documents with particular cases is simple. You can learn the basics of Abacus necessary to incorporate it into your practice very quickly.

The Bad: The Need for Workarounds

Some advertised functionality costs extra. Some advertised functionality should include an asterisk.

One of the reasons I picked AbacusLaw out of the slew of practice management offerings floating out there is for the calendar tie in with my smartphone. After installing the software and getting in touch with Abacus for help synchronizing my smartphone to AbacusLaw, I was informed that this service is provided at an additional cost (70-something or 90-something dollars annually). I was less than pleased to find that the software I spent my hard earned money on does not include this functionality out of the box. Part of the reason I bought this software was to avoid incessant billing.

I was able to find a workaround for this, though. Abacus does offer free synchronization to my Outlook calendar. This synchronization can even be automated so that it is truly hassle free. Fieldston Software makes a product called gSyncit which syncs your Outlook calendar to your Google (gMail) calendar, enabling it to be read on an Android smartphone. gSyncit runs about $20 for outright purchase and does the trick.

The ability to import templates from Microsoft Word was another selling point that I considered when deciding to purchase Abacus. When I found that this was not working properly for me, I called up AbacusLaw tech support. They quickly pointed out that this functionality does not work with 64-bit versions of Microsoft Word. It was suggested that I call Microsoft to obtain a 32-bit version of the product. Due to the fact that I have numerous plugins that are tied to this particular installation, I decided against this course of action.

I figured out a workaround for this issue as well. I am able to save my Word templates as PDFs and then, using Adobe Acrobat, create forms out of the PDFs. These forms can then be imported into AbacusLaw. This is much more time consuming for me and the spacing isn’t absolutely perfect but it seems to be a solution to the issue. If you don’t have a PDF editor capable of creating and editing forms or if you have tons of Word templates, this may not be a viable solution, given the time and software requirements.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

If you provide your contact info to Abacus, prepare to be bombarded with marketing materials. I emailed them about this issue after getting two emails in the span of roughly four hours. They were apologetic and took me off the automated lists. The office manager for an attorney who rents space adjacent to me also indicated that she has received numerous calls and mailings from Abacus after expressing interest in their software. That said, in my experience, if you request that they stop, they do so.

The software is generally user friendly, with a few exceptions. If you try to update AbacusLaw from within the program, a popup window may open asking if you “want to force everyone out.” If you make the mistake of clicking yes, as I did, you will be unable to log back in to Abacus without either calling tech support or finding an obscure text file within the AbacusLaw program directory, editing it in notepad, and saving it. The user should never be presented with a selection where there is only one proper choice.

Final Thoughts

While AbacusLaw has certain flaws, it offers good functionality and the tech support is top notch. They offer a 100-day guarantee which seems to offer a degree insurance in case you are less than thrilled. If you require basic functionality, it’s great software. If you require more complex functionality, make sure that the functionality you require is included in your price quote and that any software you may wish to tie in is of the proper version.


  1. Sam Glover says:

    Doing the math, AbacusLaw isn’t clearly a better value than MyCase, Clio, or Rocket Matter, at least not for a solo, and especially not if it takes three years to break even. During that time the cloud software will be improving constantly, but your copy of AbacusLaw will be getting steadily crustier.

    • Sam, are your thoughts the same for Amicus? My firm is currently deciding whether to convert to a cloud-based product or upgrade to Amicus 2012. We represent a lot of banks, and many of them are not comfortable with counsel storing their information in the cloud, regardless of the education I give them.

      • Sam Glover says:

        I find it amusing that banks are uncomfortable with the cloud, since most banks make financial information available to anyone over the internet with essentially the same level of security as most cloud services.

        Anyway, I used Amicus a while back and thought it was awful. I looked at it again at TechShow and saw that it is still awful. I can’t imagine using it regularly to manage a practice.

  2. Zach says:

    I’ve used abacus before and it was one of my least favorite practice management software options. There’s better software options and better cloud services available for comparable prices.

  3. Clio support costs= $0
    Abacus= way more than $0

  4. Josh says:

    Google has a free sync utility to sync Outlook and your google calendar:

    No need to pay $20.

  5. Jed Berliner says:

    Gosh, the best feature that was emphasized first in the review was totally ignored by the commenters. IT’S A PURCHASE, NOT A MONTHLY RENTAL. I’m still using my 2002 version. TEN YEARS WITHOUT MONTHLY FEES !!!! Crustier? I’m fine, thank you very much. Update for the sake of updating is, ah, costly. And if I want to update (as I might, my 2002 version’s calendar synched nicely with my old Motorola flip but not my Droid), I can do it once for another ten years. The features just don’t come that hot and heavy.

  6. Julie says:

    After doing the math, AbacusLaw does offer great value. Over the course of 3 years, you will continuously get software upgrades. When your contract expires, you can choose to renew (and continue to get software upgrades) or keep the up-to-date version you have. AbacusLaw does not require a consultant to install and configure. However, their technical support staff will remotely install your software for you, if you wish, at no additional charge.

    Additionally, the cost of Clio’s technical support is not free. It is built into their monthly fee, just like AbacusLaw.

    If you’re looking for a cloud solution, look at Abacus Sky. Web-based practice management systems only host your client and case data. They leave you with much of your practice still in your office. They don’t give you access to your documents, email, other software applications and they do not alleviate the need for on-premises servers and local IT support. Abacus Sky includes AbacusLaw, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook), a Microsoft Exchange Server (for email) and the ability to add any other software applications you wish. You can access to your entire office from anywhere with an Internet connection.

  7. John says:

    Are there any Personal Injury lawyers out there that can give some guidance expience using Abacus v. MyCase v. Clio v. Rocket Matters? The last 3 seem primarily geared towards a billable hours based practice rather than a contingency fee practice like mine. Any help would be greatly appreciated. J-

  8. I upgraded my Amicus this year, and I understand why some people think Amicus is awful. But if you don’t like Abacuslaw, and time matters is a night mare. Amicus is a starting point that can grow with your practice, and does a number of things that Rocket mater and Clio don’t do. I like amicus’s interface, I don’t like amicus’s tech support or the company’s approach to its products (great product, bonehead software developers – gavel and gown customer service is underwhelming). I have a consultant who has over the years been invaluable to getting the program to work for me. It is certainly an alternative to Abacus and is far superior to Clio and Rocketmatter.

  9. Rick Lutzel says:

    I appreciate the comments for general practice managementsoftware but I am looking for real estate practice software. Does anyonehave any recommendations?

  10. Sarah says:

    We used Abacus for PI cases and it is great, it gives you all you need and more in the matter screen. You can populate documents from the matter screen (once you set up the form fields)

    I do recommend Abacus for Real Estate, PI, Civil Litigation, etc. It is great for the rules and gives the option to schedule SOL dates, etc.

    The only problem, is the accessibility outside the office, however, I have not looked at Abacus Sky yet. I think I may look into that also.

  11. William says:

    Avoid Abacus the customer service/support is terrible. I purchased multiple gold licensess several years ago and paid for services. Abacus told assured me it was the best and would be supported. After it crashed, My office called abacus and they informed me that they no longer supported gold. Then proceeded to try and sell 3 new licenses on a monthly subscription. No Thanks Abacus, Ive had enough heartburn.

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