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The Smoke Clears…After the Practice Management Shootout at the OK Bar

By Jim Calloway

A great, enthusiastic crowd attended our Practice Management Shootout at the OK Bar at the 2015 OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference. Read on to learn how we are sharing this information with the other OBA members.

First of all, thanks to the representatives for our six participants: MyCase, Firm Manager, Firm Central, Clio, RocketMatter and PracticeMaster/Tabs3. It is more difficult to cover several topics in 10 minutes than you may think and there is more pressure in a competitive environment.

We had seven presentations in the shootout. I took the first 10 minutes to make my case as to why I believe practice management software is critical and the materials supplied to the attendees included an essay from me on that topic.

I think the one thing all the attendees learned is that even though there are several different practice management solutions, they share much in common. Organizing scanned documents into client folders and subfolders, managing a calendar and providing for note-taking within each client file can only be done in a few different ways. Billing practices can be challenging for many reasons, but most completed law firm bills look alike. However, the visual interface to do those tasks can be set up in many different ways. But there are also differences between the product being hosted in the cloud versus installed on your office server is one difference.

We also saw at the conference some products may have synchronization with other software packages the firm may already use. The focus of the product can be different as well. One can have detailed built-in financial reports that one law firm really wants while another may focus on client communication and collaboration tools. That is why there are often free trials or money-back guarantees. One important consideration is the interface. You should select a product with a visual interface you find comfortable because you will be looking at that interface every day for many hours each week.

If you already have a great practice management software solution that is working well for you, I congratulate you. If you don’t have practice management software now, you need it. That is true for almost every lawyer reading this.

(I will now pause for a moment while you mentally catalog reasons why your law firm is the exception to that rule.)

But for most readers, you are not the exception. The term “paperless office” may still bother some lawyers. Many believe computers have caused more printed pages than they have reduced. But digital workflow makes sense for you on many levels.

Your future demands instant access to documents when you need them, a complete backup of all important information in your client files, less time spent looking for lost files or lost documents, the ability to make a billing entry or re-minder quickly whether at the office or through a mobile device and the ability to easily share documents with clients, co-counsel or opposing counsel electronically.

Practice management software, including the cloud-based services, lets you improve in all of those areas. Those who attended the Practice Management Shootout now have much more information about what tool to select.  We want to share that information with you.

Just log into MyOKBar and you will find a PDF file named “Shootout at the OK Bar Materials” right there on the initial page. It is a free, 86-page file containing my essay about practice management software and the presentation materials from our shootout participants. It won’t be posted there forever as we make other changes, so go ahead and download it now.

From my point of view, I don’t care as much which product or service you select as much as I care that you do select one. This can be a challenging decision, involving an investment of otherwise billable hours. It is easy to research and research and then get back to the legal work that you have to do for clients. Once you put in the initial few hours of research, putting in another day of research is not likely to benefit you. The right answer for your firm consists of setting the date on which you make this decision. Our six shootout vendors are not the only tools that do this, but they are all fine choices.

Invest the time and research. Make a choice. And then invest the time learning how to use your new practice management tool whether it is through online video tutorials, telephone calls with the help desk, reading written materials or having a consultant to help you with the initial setup and training.

I hope that after several months you will be comfortable with the change and will regret waiting so long to make the transition.

Downloading the file we are providing for you is the first step. Do that today. Then you can set your deadline to arrive at a final decision. I have spent a lot of time advising Oklahoma lawyers about improving their practices and my advice to you is that this is a most important step because otherwise inertia and familiar practices will keep you from making this big change. A free trial is important as is watching online videos and reading the online reviews.

Whether opening your own law practice or maintaining a well established one, these tools are important for your future and for your future clients.

In the next issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal, I will cover the processes and procedures involved in implementing digital work flow using practice management software.

Mr. Calloway is OBA Management Assistance Program director. Need a quick answer to a tech problem or help resolving a management dilemma? Contact him at 405-416-7008, 800-522-8065 or jimc@okbar.org. It’s a free member benefit!

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — August, 2015 — Vol. 86, No. 21

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