The importance of incorporating technology into law firms is clear. Reports show significant market growth in legal case management software, which is expected to rise from USD 1.724 billion in 2021 to USD 4.0193 billion in 2028. This significant growth not only emphasizes the role of software in increasing productivity but also highlights its vital contribution to maintain a competitive edge in the legal industry.
To help you in your quest to find the best law firm software, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide. We’ll explore what to look for, must-have features, and even setting up your case management software. More importantly, we guide you on how to customize these systems to fit the unique needs of your business and meet your customer’s expectations.
What does a case management software do?
Case management software streamlines the complexity of legal work and equips lawyers with a robust platform that efficiently organizes, tracks and manages all aspects of a case, from client information to deadlines. It embodies the values of a lawyer: precision, efficiency and thoroughness, and offers a sophisticated yet intuitive solution that meets these values directly and seamlessly navigates the challenges of legal work.
Built into a lawyer’s work environment, case management software acts as a central database where every document, every communication, note and schedule is cataloged and easily accessible. It streamlines information flow and ensures lawyers can access and update case details quickly, accurately and securely. The best case management software should improve the quality of the legal service you provide, reflecting the high standards associated with your profession.
What are the five main features of case management software?
When purchasing case management software, it’s important to know what features to look for. Here’s a rundown of the five most important features to consider:
1. Centralized case archive
The core of effective case processing is a centralized case archive. A good case management software should provide a single, organized space to store all case-related details, from client information to attorney notes. It should also address the critical need for conflict controls and ensure that law firms avoid potential conflicts of interest. The repository must be intuitive, allowing for quick access and updates, which is especially important during rapid case developments.
2. Time recording and invoicing
Most attorneys agree that time tracking and invoicing are tedious but necessary tasks. Manually recording billable hours often feels like an unrelenting burden that detracts from valuable time that could be spent on case strategy and client interactions. Furthermore, the traditional process is prone to error – a missed entry or an incorrectly logged session can lead to billing inaccuracies, affecting both revenue and client trust.
The ideal case management software addresses these pain points by introducing automated mechanisms to track billable hours. This functionality transforms a historically tedious process into a streamlined, error-free operation. Lawyers can easily record time, often with just a few clicks or even automatically as they work on cases. And integrating these hours seamlessly into the billing process with software further simplifies a lawyer’s workflow. The software must be able to generate clear, concise invoices that accurately reflect the time spent on each case.
3. Document management
Managing documents is a daily challenge for law firms, so effective document management tools are a must-have in your case management software. Good case management software should link documents to specific contacts or cases. You should also be able to exchange documents through a client portal for secure, easy access.
Another key feature to look for is the creation of custom templates to automate the creation of legal documents. Features such as auto-populating company and client information, syncing client data to legal documents, and incorporating document execution into workflows are essential. These features save time by eliminating manual entry and reducing the risk of human error.
4. Task and calendar management
Task and calendar management features help keep track of deadlines and appointments, a non-negotiable aspect of legal work. Case management software should automate and delegate task management and offer a panoramic view of your company’s to-dos. This feature reduces workload by managing tasks efficiently, ensuring you and your team stay on track with all deadlines.
On the calendar page, a good software feature is to look for a daily review of tasks as soon as you start your day. This high-level overview eliminates the need to manually add tasks and deadlines to your agenda, so you can see your day at a glance. You should also look for the ability to set court rules-based calendar events that ensure you meet deadlines in accordance with your jurisdiction’s specific rules.
5. Customer communication
Incorporating advanced communication tools into case management software is critical to maintaining strong client relationships in the legal profession. Business text messaging is one such tool as it has become increasingly important for client retention and engagement. When choosing a case management system, choose one that provides a company number for text communication on the platform, ensuring that all correspondence is kept securely for later reference.
Alongside text messaging, secure client portals play an important role in case management software. They should offer automated solutions for communication and document sharing, making the interaction between lawyers and clients easier.
In addition to the basics discussed above, here are five additional—but extremely important—features you should look for in your legal case management software:
- Automatic alerts for case tracking and monitoring: Automatic alerts and reminders are essential. These features help lawyers stay ahead of deadlines and important milestones. Reminders about filing dates, client meetings and other critical events can be a lifesaver in a busy law practice. The goal is to minimize missed opportunities or overlooked tasks that can have significant consequences for case outcomes or ethical obligations.
- Strict security measures and role-based access: Strict security measures are essential in legal case management software, especially when considering the needs of lawyers who want legal software for home use. Security features should include encryption, secure data storage and regular security audits. Role-based access control is another critical feature. It ensures that sensitive case information is only accessible to authorized personnel. This feature allows law firms to manage who has access to what information, reducing the risk of accidental or intentional data exposure.
- Tailored adaptation to different practice areas and niches: Case management software should offer customization options to meet the needs of specific practice areas. Whether it’s a family law practice that requires specific forms and workflows, or a corporate law firm looking for in-house software to manage legal cases, quality software should adapt to these specific requirements. Look for customizable dashboards and templates that enable lawyers to streamline their day-to-day tasks.
- Accessibility and mobility for always busy lawyers: Lawyers often work outside the confines of their offices, which is why many turn to web-based legal case management software for on-the-go access. Features like mobile apps, cross-device sync and cloud storage are essential for this type of work. These functionalities allow lawyers to access case information, client communications and documents from anywhere, ensuring they can be productive even when away from their desks.
- Integration options with other legal tools: Many law firms probably already use various software, such as email accounts and word processors. Integration with other legal tools—such as public record databases, document storage systems, or virtual calendars—is a crucial feature to look for in online legal case management software. For example, an attorney may be able to pull information from a background check tool directly into a case file to review later. Such integrations streamline workflows, reduce manual data entry and improve overall efficiency.
Once you’ve chosen the best case management software for your business, it’s time to put it in context with your company, which we’ll cover in the next section.
How do you create a case management system using software?
Creating an effective case management system using software involves a number of strategic steps. The guide below outlines a practical approach to setting up a software-based case management system tailored to your law firm’s unique needs.
- Define your company’s goals and identify essential functions: Start by defining your company’s goals with the new software. Gather input from various stakeholders to identify desired features. This phase is about understanding your company’s unique requirements and the specific functionalities that address those needs.
- Analyze your typical case lifecycle: Break down a typical case into its various stages, from client intake to case closure. Align each step with the software’s features to ensure a seamless flow throughout the case lifecycle. This analysis helps to adapt the software to the specific requirements of each case phase.
- Review existing data before migration: Before transferring your fixed data to your chosen software, review your existing data for outdated information, duplicates or inconsistencies. Quality case management software will sometimes include features to facilitate your data review prior to migration, ensuring data accuracy and integrity.
- Customize the system: Customize the system to reflect your company’s case dynamics. A real estate law firm may need custom fields for property information, while a personal injury firm may require different templates for insurance claims. Work with your software provider to customize the system and ensure it matches your specific case requirements.
- Plan and execute a smooth data migration: Migrating your data to new software can be a daunting process, but with the right software, it doesn’t have to be.
- Integrate the software with existing tools and systems: Start by making a list of all the software and law firm apps currently in use in your firm. Make sure the software you choose integrates with existing tools like storage databases or email platforms. For example, the best bankruptcy management software should integrate with commonly used bankruptcy calculators. Your software provider should be able to provide additional assistance with integration if you need help.
- Test the system and make the necessary adjustments: Create scenarios that reflect real-life cases your firm handles, such as drafting and filing a decision, scheduling and tracking court dates, or managing client communications. Involve different user groups in your company, such as partners, associates and lawyers, to test these scenarios. Each group can use the software differently, providing different insights.
- Train all new users: Assess the different levels of technical skills among your employees. Different groups may require different training approaches. Your software provider should offer a help center and training videos to facilitate this process.