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Law Practice Management Software Basics

A modern law firm needs a reliable system for managing the various components of its practice. Not only should an office be able to set and organize responsibilities, but it should be able to confirm those actions were performed—and performed well. Many offices turn to Law Practice Management Software (LPMS) for this. However, not all LPMS systems are created equal, and what is right for your practice may not be right for your neighbor.

Essentially, LPMS systems connect several independent functions of a law practice. They can perform some, or all of the duties listed and many will integrate with software you currently use.

LPMS Elements

  • Client MGMT
  • Matter MGMT
  • Project MGMT
  • Document MGMT
  • Accounting

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Law Practice Management Software Description

LPMS applications come in many shapes and sizes. Some will manage your entire practice from Client Intake, to Business Accounting. While others will act mainly as a hub for connecting other applications to your law firm data. The idea, however, is that the application helps you manage the various aspects of running a law firm.

Cloud-based LPMS or Local

The first, and main difference between LPMS systems is whether they are cloud-based or not. Although a cloud-based application will help you run a remote office, it is not entirely required in order to do so. However, if your system is saved “on premise” (i.e. not cloud-based), you’ll likely need a VPN or a VPC to make your office remote ready.

Law Practice Management Software Use Cases

Secondly, software can be intended for particular use cases. For example, some software is designed specifically for litigation, while others are intended for tracking time, billable hours, and complex trust accounting. Alternatively, some are intended to be as flexible as possible while still offering useful features. Many times, your choice of LPMS will hinge on the type of law you practice.

Project/Task Management

A third broad difference between Law Practice Management Software is how they handle project or task management. Although a discussion of the various options here is too large for this portal, suffice to say, offices should generally look for project/task management that fits into their current workflows, and makes sense to them as a workable tool. 

Law Practice Management Software Integrations

Although Integrations should not be where you start your search for an LPMS, it is not a discussion you should skip over altogether. Your choice of Law Practice Management Software should definitely take into account the rest of your Legal Tech Stack. Good, solid integrations can save your office a lot of time, however, not all integrations are created equal. Look at your operations manual and determine what processes actually need to be integrated. Then make sure that those exact actions can happen.

How to Choose Law Practice Management Software

There is an abundance of legal management software for lawyers to choose from. And there is more coming onto the market almost daily. Even if you have identified your firm’s specific needs, it’s a challenge to sort through dozens of products to find a good fit.

Whether you are a first-time shopper or considering a switch for your firm, we’ll try to make it easy. Here’s how to choose the best law practice management software for your firm:

4 Steps to Choosing Law Practice Management Software

  1. Know Your Rights

    First, know what you should expect from software with our Legal Software Bill of Rights.

  2. Determine Your Needs

    Next, identify your firm’s specific needs. Break down your law practice management software requirements into must-have and nice-to-have features. (Use the feature descriptions below as a guide.)

    One of the best places to start is to lay out your office procedures, from start to finish. Write them down using something like OneNote, or Google Docs. Then, look for legal management software that fits your needs. Find out if your office needs software that has robust workflow systems, or if you need something that will integrate with third party document automation software. If you are a Personal Injury firm, you’ll likely want something that syncs well with your current CRM and client intake software.

  3. Filter Your Law Practice Management Software Choices

    With your requirements in hand, use the feature filters in the list below to narrow down your choices. Browse the product pages, read the community reviews, and narrow down your choices to 1–3 likely options.

  4. Try Before You Buy

    Finally, sign up for a trial account with each of the likely options, put them through their paces, and select the one that will work best for your firm.

Law Practice Management Software (Alphabetical List)

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Law Practice Management Software Feature Descriptions

Core Features. 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.

Case/Matter Management. 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.

Client/Contact Management. Managing clients and other contacts is a core feature of law practice management software.

Task Management. 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.

Calendar. As with email, this feature means a full calendar client, not just an integration with Outlook or Google Calendar.

Timekeeping. 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.

Conflict Checking. 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.

Email Client. 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.))

Text Messaging. Can you send and receive text messages and associate them with your matters?

Document Management. Basic document management allows you to add documents and associate them with your cases/matters.

Document Assembly. 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.

Basic Bookkeeping. 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.

Trust Accounting. 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.

Full 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?

Online Payments. Payment processing is increasingly offered either as an included or add-on feature, especially with cloud-based law practice management software.