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Case Management System Selection

Post by Admin , Oct 19, 2018.
IT and Comms

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There are a host of law firm case management systems available in today’s market, all promising to transform your business and enable you to run more efficiently and profitably.

The implementation of a case management system or a change to a new system is a significant and fundamental decision for any law firm, regardless of size. Getting your choice of system wrong can, and will, have a devastating impact on your firm.

How does a firm avoid acquiring and installing a system that does not work for them?

Importantly, a firm must ensure they do not simply buy from the best salesman. They must ensure the system they buy fits the firm and the firm should not adapt to the system.

The fundamental mistake that law firms make when choosing the system is not taking the time to establish what they want and expect from their case management system and if compromises have to be made, (often due to budget) these should be understood and appreciated before implementation.

These following steps will help ensure that a firm chooses the right system for them and importantly, understand what they are buying.

1.       Current issues – if the firm already has a case management system and is seeking to change it, there will be very obvious reasons as to why. If this is not simply due to it being end of life as the provider has exited the market, it is most likely to be functionality. If the decision has been arrived at to change, then there will have been discussion on the reasons why the change is needed. Speak to the staff who use the system and draw up a list of the issues that the current system has and record them properly.

2.       Requirements – Again, speak to the staff in each department, from reception to departments, accounts and management, what do they want the system to do for them? What are their expectations? Most users of systems will be very happy to tell you what they want and what they need from a system. People will provide their feedback and that can be documented.

3.       Request for Proposal – the answers gained to points 1 and 2 enable the firm to develop and request for proposal, which will set out in detail what the firm is seeking from its new case management system. It does not matter if the requirements of the system are vast, it is your right to set out what you need and as proposals arrive they will identify what can and cannot be achieved.

4.       Budget – Decide on your budget. How much do you want to spend and what funding options are available to you. Most suppliers will have a finance structure to make the acquiring of the system financially viable but make sure you set your budget and be realistic. There are likely to be upfront costs along with migration, development, project management and installation costs. All of these need to be appreciated and need to sit within your budget.

5.       Research – the internet is awash with information about case management systems, so research is not too difficult. If you are still not sure who to approach, then ask an expert. Companies such as ‘The Strategic Partner’ have extensive knowledge of case management technology and can provide independent and impartial advice, helping you with building a short list of candidates and even helping pull together your RFP.

6.       Understanding – Ensure you understand the difference between the various solutions.

a.       Case management – storing of data on clients and case history, key functions and tasks such as diary control, accounts interface, document generation, file history and communication tools with clients etc.

b.       Work flow – not all systems and firms have or need work flow. Work flow enables a firm to set a pre-defined path for cases to follow which provides greater levels of supervision and consistency of handling. These work best for volume environment, where the steps of a case tend to be similar.

c.       Document Management – These systems will hold documents so you can create a case history and store correspondence. They will have limited case management functionality.

7.       System Architecture – What are the hardware and software considerations. Every system will have different wants of interfacing into third party products (Microsoft, applied etc.) does your chosen solution have any limitations and what version of third party software do you need be running? From a hardware perspective, do you need to upgrade machines, servers etc. and what is the cost of doing so. The costs associated with upgrades and new equipment can be significant and they need to be factored into your budget.

8.       Accounts – Most, if not all case management systems have an interface into an accounts package, be aware of what this package is and if this works for you and the firm. One of the expenses you will face when changing systems and accounts package is the migration costs and this can prove expensive.

9.       Engagement – When engaging with the chosen providers, ensure you send them your RFP and ensure they answer all of your questions. Get them to tell you where the system can and cannot meet your requirements very clearly. When they have provided this information invite them in for a demonstration and ensure that you have the right people present. Do not just accept the sales agent to come and see you. Ask for a technician to be present or at least on the phone to answer technical questions.

10.   Questions – standardise your questions so you can compare, in a simple matrix, the responses.

11.   Testimonials – Ask for testimonials from similar firms to you. If feasible, ask for a site visit to a comparable firm.

12.   Time – Make the time to spend quality time in the presentations and make sure you ask all the questions. Do not be tempted to cut meetings short and ensure that you involve the right people in the meetings and allow them to ask their questions.

13.   Written proposals – All proposals must be in writing and you must ask them for written responses to your RFP. If they tell you that their system can do something and it does not, you have a formal document to refer back to when challenging the provider. If answers are not clear, ensure you clarify until you understand the response.

14.   Pricing – ensure you understand exactly what you are paying for. Ask for a full breakdown of immediate and ongoing costs through the duration of your agreement and what happens at the end of the term. If you require more or less users as time goes by, what does that cost or save?

15.   Communication – When you have chosen your system and you are aware of what it can and cannot achieve tell your staff, ensure they know what the system can do and what its limitations are. Providing the staff who will use the system with information is essential to ensure you gain their full buy in and support. Where there are limitations, (which there will be) they will understand why and be more likely to accept them.

16.   Implementation – Plan your implementation properly. The pace of implementation needs to be dictated by you and not your system provider. You will be implementing a significant change in your business. Ensure you have a change management programme that informs your staff and provides them with the necessary training and information they need to use the system properly. Implement when you are ready and not before.

17.   Post Implementation – Monitor and invite feedback. The system installation is more than likely to require refinement. Ensure you have the needed support from your provider to fix issues as they arise. Understand the support they are providing you and the response times. Once going live they should have a representative in your offices to ensure the implementation goes smoothly and be able to immediately respond to any issues.

Choosing a case management system is a lengthy and technical process and one that needs careful and considered management. If you’re considering a new case management system and would like to learn more or take advantage of our extensive knowledge contact us on 0207 842 1825, email us, or make an online enquiry.