For law practice management software, the following are essential features, and you should therefore expect to see a check in every box in this section.
Matter management is the defining feature of law practice management software, of course. However, some software is targeted at specific practice areas and may implement case management in different ways in order to manage information specific to those practice areas.
Managing clients and other contacts is a core feature of law practice management software.
Basic task management includes creating tasks with due dates that can be associated with cases/matters and assigned to different lawyers. Some products stick to pretty basic task management, while others offer enough features to make any Getting Things Done devotee happy.
As with email, this feature means a full calendar client, not just an integration with Outlook or Google Calendar.
Timekeeping is a core feature of practice management software, essential for lawyers who bill by the hour but useful even for those who don't.
An actual conflict checker is more than just a search box. This applies to software that actually has a conflict checking feature. Implementation varies, but at a minimum you should be able to search the entire database for matching names. It should check for conflicts accurately and intuitively, allow for a lateral hire to input their conflict database into the system, work quickly when new clients call, and comply with the rules of professional conduct for checking conflicts.
Does it include a full email client? (Alternative solutions that don't amount to an email client, like plugins for Outlook or Gmail, do not earn a check for this feature. See software integrations, below.)
Can you send and receive text messages and associate them with your matters?
Basic document management allows you to add documents and associate them with your cases/matters.
Loading your firm’s document templates into your law practice management software can save time and ensure consistency. This check means basic document assembly suitable for form letters, invoices, etc. For advanced document assembly, you’ll probably need additional software.
This means basic checkbook register–style bookkeeping, which is more limited than full accounting. You should be able to keep track of your operating accounts and reconcile your balances, but you may still need full accounting software.
This means you can track your client trust accounts, including expenses and payments. It is normal to see trust accounting without basic bookkeeping or full accounting, in which case you will need something else for accounting.
Some software includes full double-entry accounting features, making additional accounting software unnecessary.
Billing & Invoicing
Does the software allow you to send bills or invoices?
Payment processing is increasingly offered either as an included or add-on feature, especially with cloud-based law practice management software.