Legal Software Purchase Decisions
Software Purchasing Motivations
- When considering purchasing software, legal firms first identify what goals they are hoping to accomplish with the software purchase.
- Even prior to looking at different software, legal firms generally have a prioritized list of goals in mind.
- The goals usually correspond to different pain points they are having in their practice (i.e. challenge of tracking billable hours, challenges exporting billing information, or other common pain points).
- Practices also need to consider their firms "brand", and how the software will aid in furthering the brand message and, potentially, expanding the practice.
- Practices should consider not only how the software will help their attorneys, but how the software will improve client satisfaction.
- For the majority of legal practices, the main motivation behind purchasing software was to automate daily tasks.
- These daily tasks include automating calendar/scheduling functions (desired and used by 68% of legal practices), to record billable hours (66%), and to store phone and email correspondence (61%).
- Other desired functions include improving case-file organization, improving workflow processes, and increasing billable hours.
Reduce Malpractice Exposure
- The right law practice management software can reduce malpractice exposure by automating legal deadlines. This can also save the law firm money, as "many malpractice insurance providers give discounts to firms that use automated rules-based legal deadline calculator technology."
- Practice management software can also automate the process of checking for conflicts of interest, as most systems can check all files, documents, and even images in the practice files. This results in a more thorough and reliable conflict-checking procedure.
- Lastly, high-quality practice management software can provide "world-class security" and thus reduce data breaches (or the potential for data breaches).
- When purchasing software, firms are held back by the amount of time it takes to make an informed choice on software.
- This has been exacerbated in recent years, with the massive growth in the number of legaltech products available. As such, taking time to review all available tools and find the best one for the firm is a major challenge.
- The 2019 Future Ready Lawyer Survey found that 69% of lawyers noted that “understanding legal technology of the highest value” had a potentially significant impact on their firms, yet "only a small percentage (29 percent) felt they were very prepared to address this trend."
- Lastly, the purchasing process is generally very long, and integration of the system can take even longer, deterring firms from purchasing software and software startups from investing in legal software alike.
- Additionally, clients encounter challenges when purchasing software due to incompatibility with other systems they already use.
- Practice management software must be able to integrate with the email, e-signature tools, accounting tools, and marketing tools that the firm is already using, or, will replace those tools.
- When systems cannot work together, data must be uploaded to multiple systems, wasting time and, therefore, money.
- When choosing software, 27% of law firms cited integration as one challenge.
- When choosing software, 26% of law firms cited one challenge as a lack of customization options.
- Additionally, 22% of law firms cited the "intuitiveness of the interface" as a significant challenge.
- Finally, firms found that some software had a lack of functionality and/or bugs/errors, both major challenges.
- Experts recommend that to avoid these challenges, firms find a software provider with great customer service and free trials/demos, so firms can accurately gauge how user-friendly the software is.
Cloud Based Solutions
- Experts predict that by 2025, the majority of legal firms will be using cloud systems.
- Currently, "78% of law firms currently store client data in the cloud; another 8% have plans to do so in the near future."
- Of those firms that are currently cloud-based, 74% are only currently "slightly" or "somewhat" cloud-based, while 12% are currently "mostly" or "completely" cloud-based.
- However, for critical systems, only 34% of law firms report those being cloud-based, while 37% said critical systems would not move to the cloud in the foreseeable future and 1% said they would never move critical systems to the cloud.
- Small firms are the most likely to switch to using cloud-based systems.
- One major motivation for moving to the cloud is that most businesses, for which firms are predominantly working, are already using the cloud. Clients want more collaboration with their law firms which is best done if both parties are on the cloud.
- Additionally, for systems based in the cloud, updates and changes can be done automatically and are generally included in the price of the subscription, instead of having to purchase them separately.
- Firms are also beginning to see cloud systems as more secure than on-premise systems. According to the ABA, "31% of lawyers believe the cloud services can provide greater security than their respective firms."
- The ABA also found that “lawyers are becoming more familiar with cloud technologies and are attracted by anytime, anywhere access, low cost of entry, predictable monthly expenses, and robust data backup.”
- The major concern over using cloud systems is "the safety of using public cloud computing services" for storing sensitive client information.
- However, this concern over security is decreasing, with only 17% of firms noting cybersecurity as one of their top challenges in 2019. This was down from 33% in 2018.
- Lawyers cited the following concerns with cloud usage: confidentiality/security concerns (65%), concerns about losing control of data (45%), concerns about losing control over updates (25%), and vendor longevity (24%).
- Clients also have concerns over cloud storage; in 2018, 9% of law firms surveyed cited client concerns as an obstacle to cloud adoption.
Software Purchase Decision Makers
- For 80% of mid and large-sized law firms in the US, technology purchasing decisions are made primarily by the firm's IT department.
- Experts agree that IT departments should be the ones "to research and assess potential technology purchases, but [that] they must be working with thorough and meaningful input from the end users of those services."
- As IT will also be the ones conducting the software training, it is important that they be involved in the process.
- Attorneys do influence software purchasing decisions. At mid and large-sized law firms, 72% of purchase requests come from attorneys.
- Attorneys rarely make the final decision on which software to purchase, even though those attorneys will be the ones primarily using the software.
- For solo or small practices, however, attorneys are the ones making the final decisions on software, as they generally do not have IT staff.
- Currently, senior leadership at firms do not generally make the decision on which software to purchase.
- However, experts state that senior leadership should become more involved in these purchasing decisions, as "getting your senior attorneys to lead the charge and establishing lines of communication across everyone at your firm will set you off on the right foot."
- Experts recommend that senior leadership survey all teams in the practice about potential technology purchases.