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!