My Argument Against Practice Management Software

Law practice management1 258x300 My Argument Against  Practice Management Software

A lot of attorneys won’t like what I have to say on this topic, either because they believe they couldn’t run their office without practice management software, or they’re in too deep financially with a vendor to admit it’s not worth it. Whatever the reason I’m sure these words will fall on a lot of deaf ears. But for those of you like me who either were, or still are, pulling splinters from their backside from this particular fence, I hope this article will give you the ultimate question to answer – WHY?

With more and more firms investing in practice management software to keep their discovery, documents, email, and billing organized the choices are staggering, and the same adjective can also describe the cost of some of those programs. For my bustling firm of one I can’t justify the expense, but even if there were 10 more employees in my office I just don’t get it. Why do we need practice management software?

Cost aside, what does it actually do? It’s a program you have to maintain on a network that pulls your emails, stores your documents, and tracks your billing. Ok. But in an age where we are constantly trying to simplify and streamline, where middleman is a derogatory term, why would we want to pay for a program that creates a middleman to keep you organized? You mean to tell me you’re too busy to open Outlook for your email, or My Documents for a brief? That you’d rather pay somebody to do it for you? Really? REALLY?

Where is the value? I use DropBox, not to keep me organized, but to allow me to carry my entire stable of clients’ files with me wherever I go. Is it really worth it to upload or import every document from every file into a practice management platform so that it’s more “convenient?” My DropBox files are organized like anything else on my desktop – in folders. I’m fact, all DropBox does is create a folder that links to the cloud. The point I’m trying to make is that with most practice management software you have to load these documents in a certain format or hierarchy.

The same goes with email and billing. Now that we’ve shelled out the coin for this master program of organization, we have to play by it’s rules. We have to assign matters and tasks to documents and emails. We have forms to fill out and checkboxes to contend with. And for what? When it comes time to upgrade computers you’ve got to load that software on a new computer, or upgrade a server. Hmmm. Or what about hiring a new employee? Now you’re faced with whether or not to purchase a new license just for the privilege of accessing your own files! You’re joking right? And what if by some crazy accident your software crashes. Now what? Don’t even get me started on the learning curve or the cost of tech support or training. Y’all are killing me.

Maybe I’m understating the benefits of practice management software? Maybe I’ll “get it” one day. But every time I find myself about to download a trial version of the next best thing and start importing my files I can’t help but wonder, “Why in the world am I about to pay for a middleman?” I’ve yet to answer the question, and my wallet thanks me for it!

  • Phil

    It’s great you asked the “why” question. I approach the problem from this perspective — the computer allows me to do just once any task which I will have to do repeatedly. If I could have my dream, I’d never enter contact information more than once (and never if it can be extracted from something sent to me electronically). For instance, I don’t want to cut and paste — or, worse, retype — an address onto a label or into a letter’s address block or into stamps.com. I don’t want to cut and paste a caption or hunt through my standard summary judgment brief to make certain I replaced the old client’s name with the new one. So, any document I will use more than once becomes a template. Into that template, I want my computer to plug in the new data. The data has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is the practice management software.
    At one time, I set this up in Amicus and integrated HotDocs. Right now, I use Advologix and assemble documents with the integrated DrawLoop but I am very seriously contemplating jumping over to HoudiniESQ.
    But, I agree with you that you don’t need to input your documents into your CMS.

  • Bryce

    I know that this post is a few months old, but I feel like I should comment anyway. Based on some of the practice management software out there right now, I would agree that they are not necessarily worth the price. However, like Phil, I also use a practice management program (AbacusLaw) to create documents from templates. I originally purchased AbacusLaw almost 6 years ago when the choices were more limited, and the prices were more reasonable. Since then I’ve continued to use it to create documents, manage my calendar, and maintain my bank accounts.

    There are two reasons that I will probably never practice without a practice management program. One is document production. It is far easier to create a template and merge information than it is to continually cut and paste information. Also, it’s far easier to have a central location for all current contact information, so I don’t have to wonder if the address I’m using is current. I’ve flirted with the idea of using a customized database for this purpose, but I found that I really don’t have the time to set it up. Which brings me to the second reason: having an integrated practice management software that handles accounting is immensely valuable to my peace of mind. When I first started my practice, I needed to handle trust accounting for a client who was billed on an hourly retainer. I looked around at accounting software, but it seemed like using a generic out of the box accounting program was going to require a lot of learning on my part, and a lot of work to keep it straight. With an integrated system like AbacusLaw, I assign deposits to a matter, and apply invoices to the matter, and AbacusLaw takes care of all of the details of the accounting for me. I can pull up all the matters in my trust account and see what’s there. I haven’t yet figured out whether this is even possible with a customized database. If I could find a way to handle both of these issues without a practice management software, then I would gladly say goodbye to AbacusLaw. Until then, I’ll certainly continue to use it because it really does save me time and frustration.

    • http://www.clarkstewartlaw.com thesoulpractitioner

      You make some valid points. I suppose my biggest impediment to going to a practice management system is the time it would take to import my current files. I like the ability to easily see my files. If I switched to a new system, I would be at the mercy of data entry, which I loathe.

  • Yu Winburrn

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