Legal case management software can make running a small law firm easier. This software enables your firm to manage documents, bill clients, and keep track of meetings and appointments all in one place. Your firm improves its workflows, and your attorneys and staff get more time to devote to billable hours. 

Now is the time to invest in legal practice management software. Recent data shows that 90% of law firms are planning to increase or maintain their technology budgets in the coming year. These firms are positioning themselves to improve their client service, operational efficiency, and legal acumen. Firms that do not may soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

In this article, we’ll address frequently asked questions about small business legal software. We’ll also discuss how you can find the right software for your law firm based on your budget and your firm’s needs.

What Does Legal Practice Management Software Do

Legal practice management software can increase your firm’s efficiency and, in turn, its revenue. Depending on the case management software you invest in, your firm may find it’s an all-in-one system that helps your staff cut back on administrative tasks, enact consistent processes, and keep your firm better organized. 

Some specific examples of what legal case management can do include the following: 

Stores Client Information

Your law firm’s management technology is home to all your client’s information, including contact details, legal documents, and billing information. Your staff keeps accurate, organized files, and you can sync new contact information, send automated messages, and maintain transparency with clients. Plus, when it comes to the time for you to get paid, you can send your clients an invoice and track payments. Maintaining a strong attorney-client relationship is key to retaining clients and attracting new ones.

Manages Deadlines and Tasks

Legal practice management software keeps track of important dates and tasks for you, helping prevent missed deadlines that jeopardize your legal cases and client relationships. You can manage tasks, track the status of a case, and set up calendar reminders on your desktop, in your inbox, or via text message. 

Acts as a Virtual Office 

Legal case management software can be accessed anywhere. If you work from home, legal case management software for small firms stores all your information, giving you access to crucial documents and information on your smartphone, laptop, or tablet. 

Supports Internal Teamwork

You don’t need to worry about your staff being on the same page about a case when you use legal technology. Practice management software allows employees to share case details, update task status, and edit schedules within one system. You can rest assured that everyone is looking at the same information across the entire firm.

Law firms use legal case management software to support nearly every need within their firm. Some legal case management system examples include: 

Case Lifecycle Management 

From client intake to case resolution, legal case management software can streamline your workflow. Your firm can set up automated intake forms to create a new client contact, allowing you to immediately follow up with leads. Throughout a case, you and your clients can use cloud-based client portals to access and store important documents. Plus, you can track how a client’s case is progressing no matter where they are in the legal process to ensure you don’t miss any tasks. 

Legal calendar software keeps your staff on the same page, so when you add a new event to a synced calendar, everybody can see it. Similarly, you can create a synced calendar for your clients and send them reminders before their appointments to avoid schedule miscommunications or no-shows. In more advanced case management software, like PracticePanther, you can even categorize your calendar with custom tags to track important events, meetings, and hearings. 

Evidence and Document Management

It’s inconvenient and time-consuming to keep track of paper files and evidence for each of your firm’s cases. Legal technology keeps all the documents you need in one place, organized and sorted by case and client. You can upload and access them anytime, anywhere. 

Client Communication

You can maintain a positive relationship with your customers by messaging them through your case management software. High-quality legal software should be able to document all communications between you and your clients. When you have a log of all emails, phone calls, text messages, and meetings, there isn’t much room for miscommunication.

Why Use Legal Software

Small firms should consider using legal software because it makes running a law firm, managing legal cases, and serving clients easier. Adopting this type of technology has several other benefits as well, including: 

  • Efficiency and Scalability: With legal software programs, you can do more work with less time, effort, and energy. The less time you spend on manual tasks and inefficient processes, the more time you can spend on billable tasks. When you can get more done without additional resources, it’s easier to scale your business. 
  • A Competitive Edge: Between niche and large firms, your small law firm is likely competing with highly resourced competitors. Legal technology levels the playing field. Legal software sets you apart from the crowd by automating and streamlining processes that other firms might still do manually. The software frees your attorneys and staff to focus more on your legal cases and clients, putting your firm in a position to deliver superior service. 
  • More Options for Remote Work: More and more businesses are working remotely. In fact, 65% of workers report wanting to work remotely all the time, with 32% desiring a hybrid schedule. With cloud-based legal software, your attorneys and staff can access the files, client information, and other materials they need to get the job done anywhere. This feature is especially useful if you need to quickly check in when you’re traveling for a case, attending a conference, or spending the day in court.

Legal software can cost anywhere from $49 to hundreds of dollars per person, per month, depending on the features you want. While you may find software claiming to be “the best legal case management software for small firms for free,” free versions of legal software often lack the suite of features necessary to truly improve your firm’s operations. Paying for a robust legal software solution is a worthwhile investment.

Plus, most legal software companies give you the power to choose from different packages, allowing you to pay only for what you need and scale as you grow. Many law firm software companies break down their pricing plans like this: 

  • Lowest Pricing Tier: This is the least expensive option, but it also gives you access to the fewest number of features. You’ll typically have access to basic features like chat, document templates, and data storage. The base plan may not include features like two-way business texting or custom event reminders.
  • Middle Pricing Tier: The middle tier often gives your law firm access to all the features in the base plan, plus a few more. Many small firms start at the base or middle tier to determine which features are the most essential for their employees. 
  • Highest Pricing Tier: While the most expensive, the highest tier gives you access to the full suite of available features. As your firm grows, the highest tier and all its features can pay for itself through improved efficiency and productivity. 

Does Microsoft Have a Case Management System?

Many law offices use Microsoft suite products—Word, Excel, Dynamics—as a case management system before upgrading to a legal software or platform. While it’s tempting to stick to what you know, consider if legal case management software can better serve your firm. Legal software was made with law firms in mind, and you may notice you can accomplish a lot more when using legal-specific technology. 

A few reasons to consider switching away from Microsoft include the following: 

  • Word and Excel aren’t strong options for managing cases. It’s more challenging to keep your staff organized if everyone is working off their own digital files. Legal document management is generally more straightforward on a platform built for law professionals. 
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 isn’t an appropriate case management solution. Although Microsoft advertises it as a case management software, it isn’t always beneficial to law firms. Dynamics is better used for helping companies record, track, and respond to issues their clients report. 
  • Overall, Microsoft isn’t designed for law firms. Making Microsoft tools work for your firm can be like fitting a round peg into a square hole. You will definitely find it easier to use a system specifically designed for law firms. Though it might seem daunting to learn how to use new technology, many legal software products invest in user experience to make learning to use it simpler and intuitive.

Free Open-Source Case Management Software for Law Firms: Is It Worth It?

Open-source case management software is often free, but it comes with some drawbacks. For example, open-source software doesn’t have a single company or owner supporting it. Rather, a community of developers works on the software. And while using free open-source case management software might seem like a cost-effective solution right now, it may cost you down the line. Even though there are no upfront fees, some drawbacks to open-source software include: 

  • Privacy concerns: As a law firm, you’re dealing with private data. Your customers trust you with this information, so it’s part of your job to keep it confidential. Using open-source software introduces multiple security risks in this regard. 
  • Hidden costs: While you may not have to pay anything upfront for the software, you may incur costs as you install it and begin using it. So, if the fact that this software is “free” is the only enticing thing about it, you may want to look elsewhere.
  • Lack of routine maintenance: Technology is known to have hiccups from time to time. When issues arise, you’ll want to be able to rely on your software company to address the issue so you can get back to work quickly and without delay. A downfall of free open-source software is that maintenance and tech support might not always be consistent.
What Is the Best Legal Software for Small Firms

Ultimately, the best legal software is the one that helps your firm increase efficiency, better serve your clients, and become more profitable. Certain features may be especially useful for small legal firms, which is something you might want to consider before settling on an option. Some features to look out for are: 

  • Customizable dashboards: Decide which information you see right when you log in. 
  • Chat support within the platform: You can message clients securely without giving out personal contact details. This lets you quickly communicate without being inundated with work calls and texts. 
  • Two-way calendar sync: Add meetings and appointments to your calendar and your client’s calendar at one time. 
  • Time tracking: With law practice management software, you can easily track the time you spend on a case with automated timers.
  • One-click billing and automatic invoice reminders: It’s time-consuming (and expensive) to track down a client for unpaid invoices. Instead, encourage quick payments with one-click legal billing software for small firms and payment reminders. 
  • Conflict checks: Search for instances where a word, phrase, or name appears in your system. 
  • Client intake forms: Make it easy for potential customers to leave their contact information with customized intake forms. 
  • Automated workflows: Organize your tasks so you know what lies ahead in the case you’re working on. 

With PracticePanther, the all-in-one case management software, your small law firm can access all these features and more. Whether you’re looking for personal injury case management software, family law software, or software for another practice area, PracticePanther has you covered. Find out more about how PracticePanther’s offerings can benefit your needs during a free demo

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