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Why and How to use Practice Management Software

Is your Law Firm a candidate for Practice Management Software?

“What’s Practice Management software”, you say? That’s actually a really great starting point - if you don’t know what Practice Management software is, then right now, you are most likely using Outlook, and some timekeeping/billing solution (Timeslips and Quickbooks, for example) to keep track of information.

In comparison, Practice Management software is designed to help you keep track of a much wider range of information in a single program. You can keep track of your contacts, cases, calendar, to do’s, documents, e-mails and more. This collection of information, organized by client and matter is the 1st overwhelming advantage.

The 2nd main advantage is the fact that the program behaves the same, no matter who is using it, which means equal access to information for everyone in your firm (encouraging alignment of work processes, and a de facto “even playing field”).

Some firms will see the addition of another program to their roster as a burden. However, the hard fact is that Outlook simply will not let you capture the range of information you can with a practice management package. Moreover, it will not provide for information sharing across the whole organization, to the same extent.

Will a Practice Management Solution simply replace what I currently use?
No. Practice Management will deliver much more than what you have right now, but you will still need something to keep track of time and bill. Often, what you’re using now (i.e. Timeslips and Quickbooks) will “talk” to your Practice Management solution.

The other way to go is to choose a Practice Management product that offers both “front” and “back-office” functions, within a single program and database (i.e. Time Matters/Billing Matters, or Tabs/Practice Master). The second option will cost more up-front, but also delivers something more complete and integrated in a single program.

I’ve never “needed” Practice Management Software. Why should I “need” it now?
Consider the bullet points below, for examples of what a single, legal-specific, Practice Management application delivers, that the alternatives rarely do:

• Using software as a tool to perform your everyday tasks inherently increases your productivity.

• Viewing your data in a Case/Client specific organization (all records are tied to their Client/Matter) is a structural improvement.

• Capturing all your data (Contacts, Cases, Appointments, ToDo’s, Documents, Emails, Notes) and giving everyone access to that data from one place will produce significant increases in quality, productivity, and teamwork.

• All records (Contacts, Cases, Appointments, ToDo’s, Documents, Emails, and Notes) can be coded, organizing thinking, analysis, and reporting.

• Capturing billable time can be significantly augmented by billing on a task or database record basis, whether continuing to bill by attorney, or extending the capture of billable time according to work completed.

• Having all your data in one database increases the speed and reliability of important Conflict of Interest checks.

• Document production and Docketing can be automated with merges and chains, saving a lot of time and greatly increasing productivity.

• Giving your employees a better tool to work with has an empowering effect on the employees in your organization, contributing to greater job satisfaction and a more dynamic organization with potential only limited by the system’s capabilities and your employees’ potential and ambition.

For how long have your competitors been taking advantage of these benefits, while you haven’t?

What kind of a competitive edge do you believe that could have been providing them, compared to your firm?

Improvements in how my firm works are principally significant to me only if they make the firm more profitable. Will using a Practice Management package definitely make my firm more profitable?

The following figures are extremely conservative estimates of gains in productivity from using a properly implemented Practice Management package. These are realized by a combination of 1) performing tasks more efficiently or reliably when recording, retrieving, analyzing, or producing information (resulting in increased output), and 2) billing more frequently and systematically according to action performed (off of the corresponding, associated database record).

Let's look at the routine a
ctions performed by each employee, and see how much time and revenue could be captured or saved per month:

Receptionist (1)

  • Phone Calls - Take message (document) and forward to party - .5 hrs a day=10 hrs a mo @ $50.00 per hr = $500.00
  • Documents - Opening, Routing or Filing Documents - 1 hr a day=20 hrs a mo @ $50.00 per hr = $1,000.00
  • Events - Docketing based on docs/email correspondence - .5 hrs a day=10 hrs a mo @ $50.00 per hr = $500.00
  • Tasks\ToDo's - Docketing based on docs/email correspondence - .25 hrs a day=5 hrs a mo @ $50.00 per hr = $250.00

Copy Clerk (1)

  • Documents - Opening, Scanning, Routing or Filing - 1 hr a day=20 hrs a mo @ $50.00 per hr = $1,000.00

Assistant (2)

  • Phone Calls - Take message (document) and forward to party - .5 hr a day=10 hrs a mo @ $80.00 per hr = $800.00
  • Documents - Opening, Routing, Filing or Locating Documents - .75 hr a day=15 hrs a mo @ $80.00 per hr = $1,200.00
  • Documents (Production) - Drafting documents using merge forms and templates - 1 hr a day=20 hrs a mo @ $80.00 per hr = $1,600.00
  • Events - Docketing based on docs/email/tel. correspondence - .5 hr a day=10 hrs a mo @ $80.00 per hr = $800.00
  • Tasks\ToDo's - Docketing based on docs/email/tel. correspondence - .25 hr a day=5 hrs a mo @ $80.00 per hr = $400.00

Associate (4)

  • All Records - Locating, producing and analyzing information related to Case/Client administration (accessible at work, remotely and from phone/Pda) - 1.25 hrs a day=25 hrs a mo @ $150.00 per hr = $3,750.00

Partner (4)

  • All Records - Locating, producing and analyzing information related to Case/Client administration (accessible at work, remotely and from phone/Pda) - 1 hr a day=20 hrs a mo @ $350.00 = $7,000.00

Monthly Total:  $18,800.00

Even assuming a 20% reduction (based on the daily gains/savings not being entirely consistent from one day to the next), the above example still indicates estimated savings/gains of over $180,000.00 annually. This is in addition to the more intangible (but still quite real) factors such as better quality, reliability, and employee job satisfaction.

Looking at your Firm

Below are some sample questions that will help you (or us) better analyze how this may apply to your firm:


• Is all billable time being captured for all attorneys?

• If you were to estimate how many more billable hours could be billed, per attorney, per day, what number would you choose?

• Is there anything about how you are doing business now or how your practice is functioning that you think can or should be improved?

-  Please provide some examples.

• Could you give an example of a business process change you might make now in your practice, and an associated dollar amount of how much more profitable it would make you?


• What types of law do you practice?

• How many timekeepers (# of people who bill for their time)?

• How many users (# of people simultaneously in the program)?

• Do you bill for assistant time?

• Do you bill for paralegal time?

• Are various rates assigned to each timekeeper?

• Do you bill hourly, flat fee, contingency, or all of those?

• Are you required to utilize Taskcodes from the ABA when billing?

Sample Case Management Products

Time Matters with Billing Matters (LexisNexis)

Time Matters/Billing Matters offers a single “look & feel” program that covers both “Front Office” (Contact, Calendar, Case, Document, Email, Notes, Research, Phone Calls, ToDo’s) and “Back Office” (Time, Expenses, Billing) functionality. All records are tied to their corresponding Client and Matter, which ensures easy lookup and fosters a very “data-driven” working style. All records are accessed/viewed from a consistent application interface, consisting of either List (customizable columns) or Form views. Field names can be customized to accept whatever formats and descriptive names correspond to the needs of your firm. The database is Microsoft Sql-based, ensuring flawless performance. Security settings can be defined at a very high, or low-level basis. Basic automation and merge features allow you to create necessary workflows and document automation. Billing records are easily and quickly created off of any other database record. Documents are saved to the database from Word or Adobe with a single button/ Record-specific or database-wide searches are accessible from any screen.

Tabs3 with PracticeMaster (Software Technology, Inc.)

Tabs3 and PracticeMaster also offer a single database and consistent “look & feel”, covering both front and back office functions. In addition, financial areas are organized by separate software modules that integrate seamlessly (i.e. General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Trust Accounting). PracticeMaster provides an easy way for firms to create a firm-wide calendar, search for conflicts of interest, and organize case and contact information. With the ability to extensively customize forms, fields, reports, security settings, workflows and document automation, a firm can truly make PracticeMaster fit their needs. The Software Technology, Inc. line of products is also known for a “Rock-Solid” software experience, and is fully compatible with Microsoft Office, Adobe, Worldox DMS, and many popular cost recovery applications.