Busy lawyers have precious little time to spend monitoring technology upgrades for their practices—though the pay-off in efficiency savings can be worth the trade-off. This is especially the case with law practice management software. While these programs can help to organize your law firm, and serve as a valuable hedge against malpractice, there are just so many of them. The array and frequency of updates can be so dizzying that, if you do not sometimes stop … to acquire a moment to breathe, and take it all in … you will soon become overwhelmed, and behind the curve of an eight ball.
So, if you own practice management software that has been updated, or are interested in purchasing such software, let this be your moment of Zen.
An Inexhaustive Update
I’ve written previously for Attorney at Work on the subject of law practice management software, this being my prior explanation of what it is and does (which still holds, by the way). I listed a number of product options, across a variety of categories; but it was not an exhaustive catalog. There are dozens and dozens of law practice management software systems—most of which I know, some of which I don’t. They seem to replicate like wet Gremlins, with a new product coming out, seemingly, each week. So, in following up my original post on this subject, with an update respecting … well, updates, I will present yet another list that is not exhaustive (I tire easily). Rather, I will attempt, below, to provide a rundown on the most relevant recent product updates. This list should be up to date for all of about three days. The speed by which the world of law practice management software measures reinvention of itself makes a mockery of expiration dates.
Since I can’t seem to find Boz Scaggs around, allow me the pleasure of giving you the dirty lowdown myself.
API madness is the new space madness. Within a week in March, three major cloud-based law practice management software systems launched APIs (or relaunched as APIs). So, what’s an API? I’m glad you asked. The simplest explanation is that an API is the platform upon which developers can write apps for programs. Wikipedia relays a fuller recitation. Now then, just like your iPhone has apps, your law practice software will have apps, too. Since people love apps, this should be an attractive feature for users. And, at a practical level, the existence of an API means that popular law practice component products (e.g., for time and billing) can be tightly integrated into the law practice management software going forward. In fact, some component products’ providers have already signed on as partners in the various launches.
Consumers should take note that there are API-focused press releases aplenty:
- For Rocket Matter, with partner Chrometa, including updated ABA Task Code support and LEDES98 billing; on May 18 also announced the launch of a bulk document upload feature, based in HTML5, with drag-and-drop functionality.
- For Clio, with partners ZenCash, DirectLaw and Chrometa.
- For MyCase, featuring its “App Bar” and task management, collaboration and integration tools.
More Product Updates
- AbacusLaw. AbacusLaw 2012 was released in February, and key new features are listed here. Abacus also now offers a VIP membership. For AbacusSky, the company’s cloud product, free online demos are now available.
- PracticeMaster/Tabs3. The latest release of PracticeMaster features the unveiling of Matter Manager, which represents an improved user interface for client information that can be integrated with the Tabs3 billing module. Additionally, WorkFlows allow users to create … well, work flows on-the-fly and in the context of normal, or usual, processes. Currently in beta, Tabs3 Connect is a device-independent product, to be released in the third quarter of 2012.
- LexisNexis Firm Manager. LexisNexis Firm Manager now offers Sync for Mac.
New Product Highlights
- Total Attorneys. Not one to be left behind in these kinds of things, Total Attorneys has released its own cloud-based law practice management tool. The hook is that it’s only $1 per month per user. Sign up here. Of course, they have an app store.
- LawLoop. This new entry brands itself “the complete cloud computing solution for lawyers.” It includes practice management tools, as well as secured in-house social and document management components.
- Gavel & Gown Software. Gavel & Gown announced at ABA TECHSHOW 2012 that Amicus Attorney will be available in a cloud iteration. Learn more here.
As I’ve alluded to previously, dozens of law practice management software products are available to lawyers. I haven’t even covered one dozen herein. If you are a law practice management software provider who has not made this list, and that has caused you to become surly or otherwise disgruntled, I recommend a couple of options: (1) Do something new; or (2) if you’ve already done something new and I’ve missed it, post your latest, greatest update(s) in the comments field below.
What Does the Future of Law Practice Management Software Hold?
Why, more updates, of course.
Even though the cloud has made the implementation of manual updates a thing of the recent past (as those now take place in the background, conveniently, while we remain comfortably numb to what is happening), it is nevertheless a good idea to stay abreast of what product updates are being applied to the software you use. It is only with a complete sense of the full complement of uses of a program that you will be able to utilize it to its highest advantage.
While the market for law practice management software systems continues to explode, practice management feature creep invades any number of other products—including those ostensibly for marketing, email, time and billing and so on. It seems as if almost every product for lawyers I review these days has made some level of practice management also accessible. So, almost regardless of where you go with legal technology these days, you’ll be offered practice management features … and updates. Since those updates are not always apparent, you may have to search around some before you find out what your new buttons do. If your law practice management software does not have a built-in update alert system of some kind, the best thing to do is to subscribe to or regularly read the company’s blog. This is also a great way to get in on beta tests for new features and new products.
Jared D. Correia is Senior Law Practice Advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program. Prior to joining LOMAP, he was the publications attorney for the Massachusetts Bar Association. Before that, he worked as a private practice lawyer. Jared is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School and of Saint Anselm College, where he was a captain of the debate squad that finished as national runner-up in 2000. He loves James Taylor.
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