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.



  1. Steve Miller JD CIC says:

    Unless the heart and mind of every of the key player in the firm is on-board with the concept of adopting a case management system, the system will never work. The idiom “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” applies to law firms as well.
    If a firm in 2010 does not already have an “electronic case management system” in place, a serious evaluation needs to be made on the long-term viability of that firm. I would argue that it borders on malpractice to not have such a system in place.
    My definition of “electronic case management system” includes programs which, if used to their fullest capability (like the aforementioned Outlook®) and in tandem, mimic what Time Matters®, Amicus Attorney®, Practice Master and others accomplish under a single umbrella. My bias is to go with a single system, because of the discipline required to make all of the moving parts work in harmony.

  2. Robert Klein says:

    For some reason, I always had a hard time setting up outlook to work as well Mr. Glover described. I recently heard about Credenza and started using it about three months ago. It is a very simple case management program that addresses the points discussed in this article (e-mail, appointments, tasks, contacts, documents, and timekeeping.) It works with (or on top of or behind) Outlook; it is very simple to set up files (clients). I find it faster to locate appointments, tasks or contacts than using the activities tab in Outlook. It is reasonably priced at $10 per month for the license fee (no contract to sign). Has anyone else tried this program and what is there experience?

  3. Sam Glover Sam Glover says:

    Just to clarify: I’m saying Outlook can do case management (#2, above); I’m not saying it is the best way to do it (#3, above).

  4. Inhouse Ralphie says:

    Dear Santa, all I want for Xmas or April Fools Day is a matter management system that interoperates with my company’s other internal systems and with our various outside counsel’s systems. Can you automagically create open data format and transmission standards and then give MMS vendors lumps of coal until they implement those standards? In particular, any MMS should be able to communicate with our document management and legal hold management systems, both of which play nice with other systems. Also, an MMS should be able to talk with SAP and our IP management system but these are both rather grumpy and deserve lumps of coal themselves. Any MMS system should be able to read LEDES e-billing and budget data. The most nicest MMS vendors would fully utilize Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). In SOA, individual applications publish services (including providing specific data) that each offers in a central corporate registry and other applications needing to access those services can easily find the resources via the registry and then use standard web service protocols to actually obtain the services and data needed. I realize that this is a long wish list and you may tell me that I will shoot my eye out if I get it, but please don’t give me anymore long underwear. Waiting anxiously, Ralphie

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