Navigating the path to a new software purchase can be tricky and time-consuming.

There are numerous review sites to peruse, complex feature lists to interpret, and the endless debate about on-premise vs cloud solutions to get your head around. We know you’d rather be focusing on growing your practice and increasing billable hours, so we’ve compiled this list of things to look out for when evaluating new practice management solutions.

1. Fixed Term Contracts

If your billable hours are on the increase or you’re expanding your practice into new specialties, you may find your practice outgrows the limitations of your software. Avoid getting locked into long fixed-term contracts that restrict your ability to upgrade when the time’s right.

Questions to ask:

  • Once I sign up, how long am I locked into this solution?
  • If I decide the software isn’t right for my business, what’s the cancellation notice period?
  • Am I able to adjust my users up or down during my contract?


2. Lack of customization

If you’re a very small or solo practice, there are some good options available that will get you up and running without too much effort. While the cookie cutter approach may be adequate for some, a more sophisticated practice will require some customization to reflect the way you do business and gain the most from your practice management software (such as custom reporting). Don’t be fooled into buying a simple product that will limit the growth of your practice.

Questions to ask:

  • Can I create custom reports and other custom data fields?
  • If I want to tailor the solution to match our workflows (or processes), how customizable is the software?
  • Can I add my own precedents?


3. Additional Fees for Maintenance and Support

Beware of hidden costs for maintenance and support. Once your implementation is complete, you want to ensure your practice fully embraces your new software with easy access to helpful support for the whole team without incurring additional costs. There are many legal practices paying hefty annual maintenance plan (AMP) fees for server maintenance which is expensive and unnecessary with cloud-based solutions.

Questions to ask:

  • Do you provide free support? For how long?
  • Beyond the monthly cost of the software, are there any other costs I should be aware of?
  • How will I access new features and software updates? Is there a charge for this?


4. Data Ownership & Migration

I own my data right?? In some cases, no. Be sure to understand how you can extract your data (and if there is an associated fee), should you wish to move away from a software solution. You’ll also want to consider any implications for data protection and data sovereignty to ensure your new solution meets your compliance requirements.

Questions to ask:

  • Is my data backed up?
  • Do I retain ownership of my data if I wish to move away from your solution?
  • How do I extract my data if I cancel my software subscription?


5. Lack of integration

What other software do you rely on to run your business? Think email, document management, accounting etc. In some cases, your new practice management solution may handle these requirements for you. It’s a good time to pause and consider if you can reduce your software subscriptions and consolidate into one robust solution. If you prefer to keep things separate , you need to ensure your new solution integrates nicely with the software you’re already using.

Questions to ask:

  • What software does your solution integrate with?
  • Can I see how your solution integrates with (whatever software is important to your practice)?


6. Self-Implementation

Successful implementation of a new practice management solution requires thought, time and expertize. For example, what workflows or processes do you want to automate? What reporting is important to your practice? Ask vendors about what choices you have for implementation, and what they recommend for the most successful implementation, with the least inconvenience and cost. Is your time best spent in self-implementing? Investing in a little expert assistance upfront to get you up and running, can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Questions to ask:

  • What are my options for implementation?
  • What are the time and cost expectations for implementation?


7. Remote Access & Mobile Apps

The days of being tied to the office are long gone. Make sure your practice management solution doesn’t limit your ability to work wherever you want to. A cloud-based solution will offer secure, remote access and mobile apps that allow you to access your case details when you’re traveling, or at a client site. Many on-premise or server-based solutions require your software to be installed on a single device, where cloud-based software offers genuine anywhere, any device flexibility.

Questions to ask:

  • How does your software handle remote access?
  • Am I limited to a single device, or can I access from any device?

At Actionstep, we’ve been in the business of building great practice management software for 14 years, and we’ve heard a few horror stories from our many, many wonderful clients along the way. We hope this article is useful in helping you avoid the pitfalls in your journey of adopting new practice management software.

If you’d like to learn more about Actionstep, please don’t hesitate to contact us or request a demo if you’re interested to discover how Actionstep can help you grow your law practice.


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