Successfully Implementing a Practice Management Solution
Historically legal firms have focused on computerising their accounting system and have retained all their legal files manually. As time has moved on, the larger firms were first to take up digitising their legal documents and many have implemented a centralised document storage solution. Often this is where digitisation in legal firms stops.
The power of implementing a full practice management solution should not be overlooked. Whilst it is often perceived as being disruptive to the whole practice, the benefits that can be gained far outweigh the initial time invested.
What a Practice Manager Solution can bring to your practice:
- A centralised repository of all clients and associated files for easy and quick access
- A document storage but instead of it being in a simple folder system, a Practice Management Solution can provide a view of all documents relating to a single matter in chronological order with version control. These will be accessible from everywhere if your database in a secure online environment.
- An ability to record all time spent against a matter as tasks are undertaken. This ensures that a comprehensive view exists of the investment made by the firm in taking the matter to its eventual outcome, regardless of what is going to be billed to the client.
- Email and Diary integration that allows you to link all emails and appointments to a particular matter with relevant parties pre-loaded, making email addresses immediately available.
- A precedent library to ensure documents conform to your firm’s corporate identity with amendments immediately available to all users, following updates being made by those responsible for maintaining them.
- Practice Manager Software generally have integrated accounting systems, which ensure users can manage their matters effectively from a single source of truth.
- A fully integrated system allows an insight into general practice performance from both an individual team member and overall profitability point of view.
What to consider before you implement a Practice Management Solution:
One of the most important considerations when looking at a Practice Management Solution is to understand what you want it to bring to your practice. These solutions are powerful in the data they hold and the information and operational effectiveness that they can provide, but too much too quickly can be overwhelming for everyone.
Choose a few key areas to focus on first. It is important to consider the various individuals and the roles they fulfil in the firm. Decide on what you want each of the role players to focus on, for example the Finance Team will focus on the accounts whilst the Candidate Attorneys may focus on digitising the matter documentation and Secretaries focus on using the precedents. The Fee Earners will naturally have to focus on the recording of the fees and managing their matters including the diarising of their matters, prescription and court dates.
It may be that your practice already has an external firm that deal with your accounts, and you are not ready to bring this in-house. There is still no reason that you will not greatly benefit from a Practice Management Solution. You could decide to implement the system only to the stage of being able to send invoices to your clients. The remaining accounting functions may still be outsourced, either using the new Practice Manager system or maintaining the status quo.
Have a strategy in place when engaging with a Practice Manager service provider. Be ready to set out your expectation and desired outcomes from the implementation. This will provide the necessary milestones that determine the positive completion of the project.
Any successful implementation is driven from the top. Ensure that you make a commitment to support the process and do not leave it all to a delegated employee to oversee. If issues do arise during the implementation, your input is going to be vital to a successful outcome.
The next important consideration is who to choose as your service provider. You want to ensure that they have in-depth knowledge of the legal industry and how it operates. They should employ legal and other professionals, if they are going to be providing software solutions to the legal industry that covers the specific industry requirements regarding accounting and other legislative regulations.
Legal Interact is one provider that employs lawyers, accountants and document specialists in their product development teams to ensure each feature is developed to support your legal firm’s operations from all perspectives. Their Practice Manager Pro solution is their latest in a long line of software solutions over 40 years, supporting the legal industry..
What to expect from the implementation process:
Your Practice Manager service provider plays a vital role in ensuring the successful implementation of this solution into your practice. A team is usually assigned to support your firm through the process, from planning through to sign-off of the project.
It is important that the Practice Manager team understand how your firm operates at grass roots level. They should engage with each of your teams to gain insight into the ‘special’ ways that each team undertakes their day-to-day tasks and the challenges faced in completing these effectively and efficiently. This may take a little time (usually no more than an hour or two per team) but will yield far greater success than foregoing it.
The Practice Manager service provider is likely to request a copy of the current data from your existing system (if you have one). They can often convert the data from one system to another, if you are changing systems. This will usually include any documentation that may be included on your existing system. Before you hand your data over, be sure to receive POPIA indemnification.
If a conversion is taking place, your Practice Manager service provider should demonstrate to you what the converted data ‘looks’ like in the new system. You will need to validate that it is correct to ensure that no issues arise when the final conversion of data takes place.
Implementation will include training for all staff members on the functionality they require. With the advent of Covid-19 and all its related restrictions, Practice Manager service providers have become adept at doing this training on-line using systems like Teams, Zoom and other communication applications. In many cases the quality and outcomes from on-line training is far better because staff learn within their own environment, doing their own work. It makes the training immediately relevant, and users tend to adapt quicker to the new processes required by the system.
Your chosen Practice Manager service provider should provide you with regular feedback on progress and meeting of milestones. A final ‘close-off meeting will be arranged for sign-off of the project. This is, however, not the end of the engagement as ongoing support will be available as your practice continues to use the software.
Implementing a Practice Management solution into a legal firm can add great value in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your legal operations. It will give you an insight into your firm and the performance of team members that you will not be able to achieve without one.
Have a plan and choose your Practice Manager service provider wisely. The time invested to implement a Practice Manager solution is sure to professionalise your practice and improve profitability.
At Legal Interact we have through our decades of experience been able to drive success in the implementation of our solution, Practice Manager Pro.
Find out more at Practice manager Pro
or email us on in**@le***********.za to secure a free demo.