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When running a law firm, it’s essential to find legal management software that helps staff keep track of deadlines, billable hours, payment, and more.
Law practice management software is a platform that manages various aspects of a law firm. The scope and capability of a practice management software solution will differ, but functions below are considered standard: task automation, calendar tools, client management, contact management, document management, API integration, matter management, time tracking, billing, and payment processing.
Aside from these standard features, some legal management software vendors offer extra features that facilitate even more efficient law practice.
|Product||IOLTA/Trust Accounting||Dashboard||Templates||CRM||Docket Management|
Bill4Time started out as a time and billing app for law practices but has grown into a one-stop practice management solution. Bill4Time helps users manage time, matters, billing, ABA and LEDES billing codes, trust/interest on lawyers’ trust accounts (IOLTA) accounting, and more.
Bill4Time allows law firms to manage time tracking and billing and customize invoices with custom templates. On Bill4Time’s secure, cloud-based network, you can manage documents and tasks. Users can view tasks and access documents from anywhere with Bill4Time’s mobile app or on desktop devices. Whether accessing through a desktop or mobile device, Bill4Time features a dashboard that the user can configure to show the most relevant information at a glance. Clients can also access payments, documents relevant to their case, and more through Bill4Time’s secure client portal.
Bill4Time allows users to create a variety of customized documents and fee structures. It supports flexible billing rates and custom types of law firm activities that might get billed differently. Bill4Time allows you to set up billing rates at a number of levels, from client level to project level. The customized rates get reflected in customized invoices that show the client a detailed breakdown of fees and time.
Clio is a cloud-based law practice management software solution that is most suitable for small law firms or law firms looking for a lightweight solution. It lets you access and manage matters, contracts, billing, deadlines, dockets or court-system-generated case summaries, payments, and more from any device in one centralized system.
Clio Payments facilitates direct payment to lawyers via a client’s trust or an operating account. For billing, Clio allows users to generate custom billing plans, manage fee structures, track time manually or automatically, and send bills via email.
Clio’s mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices allows users to manage their practice from anywhere. The mobile app also offers push notifications and messaging tools to help users stay informed and connected.
Clia enables easy and secure document and information exchange between lawyers and their clients. Lawyers can grant clients access to information through email or through the secure client portal. Clio’s document management features include document automation, custom field creation, electronic signature capture, and more.
CosmoLex is a cloud-based, law practice management and account software that is part of the Tabs3 product offering. CosmoLex features client and matter management, time tracking, billing, trust/IOLTA accounting, document management, and more.
CosmoLex has a built-in, compliant legal accounting system, so there is no need to invest in additional accounting software. CosmoLex’s legal time and billing module helps manage all billable activities. For example, it offers trust/IOLTA accounting functions that help with managing client funds, printing checks, and depositing slips. CosmoLex features LawPay credit card processing with no fixed monthly fee, making it easier for clients to pay in a convenient way without incurring an additional cost to the law office.
It also includes customizable invoice and overdue invoice templates which saves users time so they don’t have to create them from scratch.The activity log on CosmoLex’s software keeps track of past reconciliations and generates monthly three-way reconciliation reports.
It’s easy to oversee and manage documents and data entry with CosmoLex because it eliminates duplicate data entry by syncing across all modules in real-time. CosmoLex can integrate with a variety of document storage apps, such as Dropbox, Google Drive and NetDocs.
MyCase is an end-to-end web-based law practice management solution that helps law firms run efficiently from anywhere whether on a desktop or a mobile device. MyCase allows users to streamline everyday processes, such as lead tracking, client intake, case management, eSignature, billing, payments and more.
MyCase facilitates electronic bill pay and notifications directly through mobile or desktop interfaces. It also integrates with QuickBooks, so you don’t necessarily have to ditch your current accounting software. MyCase is known for its ease-of-use and client portal.
MyCase features a suite of tools that facilitate building and maintaining relationships with new and existing clients. For instance, it has a built-in lead management tool, allowing law firms to easily manage contacts and proactively reach out to potential clients in need of their services. In addition, with MyCase’s collaborative calendar function, it’s easy to arrange appointments with clients. Other manners of keeping touch are provided along with customizable communication templates.
PracticePanther is the case management solution of choice for law firms in over 170 countries. It’s multi-functional, providing client and contact management, case management, time and billing, document management, calendar tools, trust accounting, and includes a lightweight CRM for lead management and payment processing.
Practice Panther helps law offices stay on top of deadlines by integrating with popular calendar tools. It also syncs up with popular email and document management platforms, such as Box and DropBox. PracticePanther makes it easy to facilitate and track client payments from clients, offering built-in payment processing, built-in legal e-signature, and PayPal integration for convenient payment.
Users can access task and event workflows, view notifications, respond to chats, view the client portal, and more from anywhere, on any device with synced, real-time information in Practice Panther’s mobile app.
PracticePanther integrates with a variety of tools that law firms use on a daily basis, which means that there is less pressure to commit to an all-encompassing platform if you favor your current tools.
Rocket Matter offers cloud-based legal practice management software that is designed for small and midsize law practices. With Rocket Matter users can manage cases, time, billing, and calendars, but Rocket Matter really shines in its automated functionalities.
Rocket Matter takes a project management approach to matter management, complete with Kanban boards and a bill-as-you-work technology that records billable and non-billable time, creates bills, and sends invoices to clients. Rocket Matter affords options for automation, such as setting up parameters for accepting new cases and categorizing existing ones. It also helps practices define relationships within complex, active cases that involve many actors.
With Rocket Matter, users can also easily share and manage documents securely. It stores essential documents according to set categorization settings in one, easy-to-find place and integrates with Dropbox, Box, and other cloud storage systems. For easy document creation, Rocket Matter features a document assembly module where frequently used forms and templates are available.
SmartAdvocate is a fully browser-based system that offers a cloud, server, or mobile app version of its software, allowing users to access their cases from anywhere. By managing all case information within a single platform, duplicate information is reduced if not eliminated. In addition to case management, SmartAdvocate helps attorneys manage contacts, communication, billable time, documents, calendars, and more.
SmartAdvocate can send mass email or SMS messages, automatically forward documents to clients via email, or send physical copies in the mail for simplified document management. It automatically integrates inbound text messages from clients into their electronic case files.
SmartAdvocate also offers a dashboard interface that is designed to display as much relevant information as possible on a single screen. Users value this function that allows them to see everything in one place.
Smokeball offers cloud-based legal case management software that also runs from desktops. It facilitates tracking of billable hours, e-filings, dockets, and payments all in one place.
Smokeball allows attorneys to manage cases and customize commonly used forms in its document automation feature. Smokeball draws from an extensive library of 20,000+ court documents and more than 14,000 automated forms. Document management, however, is also a sore spot with users who report duplicate files, slow file creation/retrieval.
Collaborative tools are Smokeball’s exceptional feature. They allow colleagues to chat and collaborate via the built-in messaging app. This can come in handy for law firms that have remote and/or geographically dispersed staff.
Zola Suite is a cloud-based legal practice management solution that seamlessly connects your front-end and back-end offices. With matter management tools and integrated billing, accounting and reporting in a single cloud-based solution, Zola Suite’s key features include task management, built-in email, document management, client portals, calendar, contact management, automation, as well as reporting and analytics. Zola Suite also features complete business and trust accounting.
Zola Suite stands out from the rest with its dashboard, email integration, and collaboration features. It provides a dashboard that enables users to manage and track legal cases from a single place. From there, they can also track activity through an activity log and events through its calendar function.
Zola Suite also integrates with users’ existing email accounts and automatically detects inbound emails from case-related contacts. Additionally, through the email integration function, users can convert emails into to-do lists.
Its document management capabilities allow users to store documents and view previous document versions and collaborate through annotation tools like commenting and tagging. These documents can also easily be shared with clients through the secure portal to facilitate even more collaboration.
Zola Suite is ultra versatile and is even available via device agnostic mobile app that can scan documents and business cards. This is convenient for out-of-office work where a scanner isn’t in reach. The platform integrates easily with LawPay, RPost, Dropbox, Box, Drive, OneDrive, Ricoh MFPs, Microsoft Word and Outlook.
Each vendor covers basic features necessary for law practice management, however, they have different focus areas and strengths.
For law practices focused on growth and retention of their client base, the CRM function will likely be of significance, so check further into MyCase, PracticePanther, Smokeball, or Zola Suite.
If you’re looking for a solution to make document management more efficient, all of the vendors have something to offer in this regard, but only some of them provide templates. You don’t have to reinvent the document wheel if you go with Bill4Time, CosmoLex, Rocket Matter, SmartAdvocate, or Smokeball, as they all provide templates that, in the end, save you the time and hassle of creating them from scratch.
Some law practice management solutions focus on accounting, so if you’re already using software like QuickBooks, an accounting-oriented solution may not be the best fit. Other solutions focus on document and form creation and management which won’t necessarily be a high priority for some law offices. To this end, it’s worth asking whether a comprehensive platform solution or individual tools are a better fit for your firm’s needs.