Legal Case Management Software—
Everything You Need to Know
Technology has changed rapidly over the last decade and more so in the last few years. What was the latest and greatest a few years back is archaic now. If you’re not using the latest software for your practice, then you’re falling behind your competition.
To remain competitive and streamlined in your law practice, you need legal case management software. But as the demand for this kind of software has increased, so too have the number of companies offering case management help. So how do you know which company will be the right fit for your firm? Read on to learn more about how legal case management software works, what you can expect, and how to narrow down your search.
For starters, it is the only legal practice (in fact the only among all or most businesses) that operates on a contingency fee model. Personal Injury attorneys not only don’t charge their clients any fees upfront, but also incur expenses over the course of a case. PI has specific workflows, processes, and other concerns when it comes to staying organized, therefore, a lot of software options developed for general practices are not right for personal injury. PI firms and attorneys should be careful when choosing the right software for their firm.
As a personal injury attorney, your cases can be complex and require organization from the moment you file all the way through to settlement talks or trials.
For these reasons, you don’t need a piecemeal solution, you need a case management software that can help you in all areas of your practice. Having an all-in-one solution means that you can focus on the most important aspects of representing your client without compromising with a one-size-fits-all solution that only delivers part of what you need.
Why Do You Need Legal Case Management Software?
If you run a busy law firm, you already know how important it is to track and manage all aspects of your cases over the course of their lifecycle. When you have chosen the right case management software, it helps not only you as the attorney, but the entire team to more effectively and efficiently process your cases. Overall, when each case is properly organized and tracked, this enhances your revenue potential and your firm’s profitability.
If you’re the owner of a small law firm or you’re in solo practice, the concept of case management software can sound intimidating. You might even be under the impression that you don’t need it because such software is mostly geared towards bigger firms. If you only have a handful of cases, are you currently tracking them with files like Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, etc.? Even though this DIY approach might have worked up until now, it exposes you to potential mistakes and even limits your firm’s growth in the future.
The only way you can stay ahead of the competition and truly transform your practice is to adopt a legal case management system for your firm.
With the right software in place, you can start to streamline processes that make sense for your legal practice.
Let’s start from the beginning. What’s your process for intake? Is it in line with client expectations? How do you gather intake details or send reminders for follow-up appointments? All that matters is that first impressions go a long way when converting an intake into a client.
Even if your system has worked up until now, if you start receiving inquiries from potential clients, you won’t have a system to capture them all. Since your firm will eventually need to implement case management software that is more streamlined and organized, it’s a good idea to begin practicing with the software now to become comfortable with how it works.
Now that you know you need case management software, where do you start? There are many different kinds of software programs out there all marketed to law firms, and they differ in terms of functionalities, benefits, and offerings. Thankfully, we’ve put together this guide to help you determine what’s most important when evaluating your case management needs so that you can find a software most aligned with your individual firm.
Your Law Firm’s Reality vs. the Ideal Situation
There are two primary types of legal case management software on the market today: on-premise and fit-for-all case management software.
On-premise solutions are installed and hosted on servers or computers in your physical office location. This means that every end user needs a license and that you as the firm owner will be responsible for all aspects of maintenance, data security, and availability of the platform. That’s a lot of responsibility to take on, especially if you’re already busy with your client work.
If you’re even able to implement a solution like this on your own, the burden of server hardware and obtaining additional software licenses adds an unnecessary layer of complexity. With ongoing pressure of IT management, you could end up spending too much time on maintenance and upkeep of the system, or worse off, abandon using the system entirely.
Challenges that come with on-premise legal case management software often force PI lawyers to explore the other option of generic, one-size-fits-all cloud solutions. While the cloud-based aspect addresses some of the server and maintenance issues brought up with on-premise legal case management software, not every cloud-based solution is tailored to the unique needs of your personal injury firm. These legal software solutions might help in some areas of managing your cases cases, but won’t offer the specific and tailored case organization that you need.
In personal injury law, every case is different. The attorney at the helm of a personal injury law firm has to manage multiple plaintiffs, defendants, medical treatments, and lost wage claims. Keeping health liens and billing requests organized and filing hundreds of documents for each individual case are just a few of the challenges PI lawyers face when choosing legal case management software.
When a personal injury lawyer recognizes that some type of case management software is needed, it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole: most market solutions only address part of the checklist an injury attorney has in trying to find an office solution. Most of what’s out there is not sufficient to track information unique to personal injury claims.
Personal injury lawyers often don’t see the benefit in adopting generic case management software that only serves one purpose.
PI lawyers instead have a list of many things they need in an all-in-one solution, including:
Trying to choose from most solutions on the market comes with compromise, meaning you and your firm members will have to try to make the best of an ill-fitting software or try to find workarounds for common issues. Sometimes, a personal injury attorney will even cobble together multiple software products and in-house spreadsheets to cover all the bases, which presents its own set of problems, like having multiple passwords or trying to cross-reference data.
None of these options are ideal. In truth, ideal case management software should go beyond the basics.
First, ideal legal case management software should be practice-focused. Since personal injury is a very specialized vertical with aspects of cases aligned specifically to injury claims, the software solution for such firms should match that. This means taking specific workflows, templates, and contingency fee arrangements into consideration.
What Makes Personal Injury Different?
Personal injury lawyers have an added layer of complication in their cases because of the involvement of insurance companies. This means a way to track the number of policies, coverage status, limits, and liability status are all key. All negotiations and settlement offers should be stored for future reference, so that no negotiation deadlines are missed.
With so many unique aspects of personal injury law, why compromise on a case management software that misses the mark? Your software should be as unique as your practice area.
What Is a Unified Cloud Platform?
A unified legal case management software can help give you the flexibility you need to cover each of your individual business practices and processes at one time. This means that from before your client even comes in for their initial intake all the way through to closure of the case, you know that everything is being tracked and stored properly in your legal case management software.
As a personal injury lawyer, it’s necessary to be able to draw the connection through every stage in your process from beginning to end.
In addition to providing your current clients with top of the line service on their cases, the ease of working with you because of the organization makes it that much more likely that they’ll offer you referrals, testimonials, or reviews. Victims in a personal injury case have enough to worry about—knowing that their lawyer is well-equipped to handle each aspect of the case without missing deadlines should be the least of their worries.
Keeping all client information in one place gives you the big-picture view of your practice that you need so that you can make informed decisions while reaping all the benefits of using the cloud.
Hosted vs. Cloud:
What Lawyers Need to Know About Case Management Software
Hosted software is essentially the same as the on-premise options mentioned above. Unlike cloud-based software, hosted software applications are not generally designed to be a cloud application and can come with several challenges, including:
- Long initial implementation times
- Manual and server-specific upgrades, meaning that you could end up locked into an older version while waiting for the vendor
- Having to purchase additional hardware options if you want to expand due to the vendor’s reliance on dedicated servers
Cloud-based case management solutions are native applications designed and deployed specifically for cloud providers. These software programs are hosted on true cloud infrastructure like Microsoft Azure and delivered in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) format.
This has numerous benefits for law firms seeking cloud-based software options, such as:
How Should a Personal Injury Attorney Evaluate
Legal Practice Management Software?
There are several different features that an attorney should look at when deciding on legal software solutions. Currently, there are many generic case management solutions available and most of their features are not relevant to personal injury. When working with those solutions, you end up paying for applications and functionalities you’ll never use, such as features like time tracking and billing. It is important for personal injury attorneys to recognize their unique case aspects such as medical liens, multiple plaintiffs, defendants, adjusters, etc. and to consider both the features that they would use and those that would be irrelevant to their law practice.
Some of the features that should be top of mind when selecting case management systems include capabilities related to automobile accidents, premises liability, slip and fall, trip and fall, medical malpractice, animal bite, and other tort cases.
An ideal solution will have built-in user roles for attorneys, paralegals, and other staff members with varying levels of permission that can be assigned by the subscribing managing partner.
One of the most important aspects of selecting a legal software solution is the ability to track deadlines. Case management software should enable you to manage critical dates, deadlines, and appointments in one calendar across your entire law firm. A cloud-based software solution should give you the ability to view, edit, and allocate appointments to any user in the system.
Anyone should be easily able to view and manage important dates in a case such as statute of limitations, date of the incident, date of intake, deposition dates, notice of claim deadlines, and other events.
Furthermore, your legal case management’s calendar should be easily integrated with other popular calendar tools like Outlook, iCal, and Google. Legal software solutions should easily adapt to your firm’s integration requirements.
Document Management and Storage
Any standard personal injury case will have hundreds of documents throughout the case lifecycle, therefore, it is critical for personal injury lawyers to not only manage these documents but also collaborate on them to ensure faster case processing.
Any personal injury attorney seeking a case management system should look for scalable and robust storage technology that can interact with any type of text or binary data, including documents and media files.
An ideal legal case management software solution should enable attorneys to store an unlimited amount of legal files in the cloud like PDFs, Word documents, images, and audio and video files. Furthermore, attorneys should be able to intuitively name, categorize, and label their files for efficient search and information management inside your law practice.
Management Reports & Dashboard
Your case management software should give you role-specific dashboards and reports that enable you to track your firm’s progress and cases in an effective manner.
As a managing partner, you can benefit from numerous practice level key performance indicators through customizable reports that give you the ability to analyze the data any way you desire.
This enables the most relevant team member to identify critical matters and take action right away.
A fully integrated e-mail feature inside your case management system allows you to send and receive emails while you are working on your matters.
No matter what you’re working on, you should be able to view reminders, send emails, or take notes all at the same time within your system.
Task Allocation and Tracking
A primary goal for any personal injury attorney is to structure a task-oriented firm. This means that each staff member, based upon their individual roles and the matters they have been assigned to, can be assigned certain tasks with specific due dates.
As a task-oriented organization, the managing partner can see tasks across the firm broken down by assignee, priority level, progress, and any obstacles that may get in the way of the completion of these tasks. Task monitoring and tracking gives you a view of how your firm’s resources are currently being utilized right inside your legal practice management software.
For the purposes of recording negotiations, legal case management software for personal injury attorneys should include a settlement calculator. This can assist with determining a reasonable settlement payment for one or more plaintiffs in personal injury cases.
Given that many personal injury cases are resolved in settlement negotiations outside of court, it can be helpful for a personal injury attorney to keep all negotiation history information in one organized place. Having organized negotiation history gives you the ability to have a fluid timeline of all correspondences regarding negotiations so that you can reach a settlement more quickly.
With workflows, you can automate repetitive tasks from within your legal case management software. For processes that remain consistent over time, like opening a new MVA case,you can apply worklow to reduce the amount of administrative effort so that you never need to assign these tasks individually again.
Automation will not only help speed up case processes, but it will also make them less error-prone and easier to track.
Your legal case management software should be designed to work with applications that your firm already has in place. . Cloud-based software should offer integrations with productivity apps such as Google Apps, Microsoft Outlook, Dropbox, MS Exchange, OneDrive, and iCal.
Once properly integrated, these products can communicate with the case management software to automatically sync information in multiple places at one time.
Regardless of the type of system you have in place, be it Excel spreadsheets or a generic solution, you should have the ability to migrate your case information to a new system of your choice.
When looking for legal case management software, look for vendors who are familiar with the numerous case management systems already in the market so that you can easily move your legal documents from one system to the next.
Client Intake Management
As a personal injury lawyer, it is important to ensure that your leads do not slip through the cracks. Look for a unified intake feature that aligns with your core practice management solution. Your intake solution should drive the complete intake process with intake questionnaires that capture all information related to a plaintiff’s incident.
From the point of lead capture, intakes should also be tracked. From the initial intake until the client is retained, your case management software should provide your firm with the tools to track and convert potential leads. This also enables you to see which marketing campaigns are giving maximum ROI. The intake management feature in a case management system should enable an attorney to proactively stay on top of lead generation and management. Additionally, after retaining a client, the intake details should seamlessly transfer from your intake solution to your case management system for optimal efficiency.
Legal case management software is important for tracking intakes, storing legal documents, and streamlining or systems, and it shouldn’t stop there. The right case management system should also help you grow your firm by getting you more cases. You should be able to receive referrals securely from partner firms and collaborate on these cases in real time.
Furthermore, you should also be able to easily receive and send referrals from anywhere within your legal case management software. Your case management software should allow you to execute fee agreements immediately upon sending or receiving the referral.
Working together on a case in real time can be a significant challenge, especially if teams are struggling with email attachments and conflicting versions of the same document. Your case management system should allow you to co-author any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file directly in the browser. This means that you and another person can simultaneously edit the same document, saving you a lot of time..
Create, Edit, and Upload Documents
Your case management system should allow you to upload existing documents directly to the software either one by one or in bulk. You should be able to simply upload files whether they are made in Excel, Word, or PowerPoint.
From there, you should be able to edit, upload, make comments on, and share documents with your team members making things easier for everyone in the firm.
Access Files on the Go (Anytime, Anywhere and Any screen)
One of the major benefits of having cloud-based case management software is that you can harness the internet to be more productive from virtually anywhere. With cloud-based case management software, you should be able to open, edit, and save your office files across the software while you’re on-the-go.
A real-time sync feature will give you peace of mind that changes to a file will be reflected across all devices so that your team members always have the latest version on hand.
HIPAA-Compliant Storage and Archive
Proper archiving is a critical feature for personal injury law firms, since law firms are required to store cases for up to 7 years including all correspondence, files, and calendar events.
Look for HIPAA/HITECH certified cloud vendors such as Microsoft Azure. With Azure backing, you get industry-leading security and proactive monitoring 24/7/365.
Once you archive a case, you may need to be able to reference it in the future in a fully searchable format. An ideal legal case management software should enable you to find and retrieve an archived a case with a click of a button, all without leaving your office.
Save Emails as Notes
Keeping track of client communication is one of the most important aspects of managing a personal injury case. Your case management system should enable you to upload emails related to the matter at hand directly from your Gmail or Outlook inboxes.
Your software should also give you the ability to save your emails as notes while tagging specific cases.
Finding a Meaningful Solution for Your Law Firm
You deliver a personalized experience for your clients, and your case management software should do the same. If your legal case management system is meant to streamline your operations and save you time, it should be set up from day one with your personal injury firm in mind. Reap the benefits of cloud-based case management software, but be mindful of the many benefits of having a solution tailored specifically to your practice area.