he largest technological investment many law firms will make is in a database. Not only are databases expensive, but they also require untold man-hours to set up, implement, and maintain. A law firm’s existing corporate culture will change surrounding the initial implementation of a database or the transition to a new database. Take time to consider the following before making this important purchase.
CLOUD OR SERVER BASED
How many days in a week, month, or year do your attorneys travel? Do you allow all staff or select staff to work nights and weekends? If you have a significant number of employees working remotely, your law firm should consider cloud-based case management software. Internet access from virtually any location will provide your attorneys and staff the ability to work away from their desks.
If your attorneys and staff spend most of their time behind their desks, a server-based solution might work best. Server-based case management systems are more stable, time-tested, often work faster, and are less prone to crashing during an Internet outage.
The method by which you remotely access a law firm database varies based upon how it is set up. Remote access to server-based databases occurs through a virtual private network (VPN) or other remote access platform (i.e. Citrix) via an Internet connection. You can protect remote access your law firm server by using several layers of login credentials. Using a cloud-based software solution generally requires only a single set of passwords for access and is accomplished either via an app or online on a dedicated URL.
Cloud-based case management software, often referred to as Software as a Service (SAAS), might make some law firms nervous, and for good reason. Hacking, Internet outages, and the instability of relatively new cloud-based software companies must be considered when selecting a product. Cloud-based legal case management companies have worked to secure data through encryption and multi-server protection in order to comply with the legal and ethical obligations regarding information security required by law firms.
When using server-based solutions, you will need to consider where to store your server. Law firms are increasingly turning to offsite server storage with companies like Rackspace to reduce the cost of maintaining and updating in-house servers. To decide, price the cost of maintaining your own server over a ten-year timeframe. Most server-based solutions require a certain amount of dedicated storage and can present your firm with a server update schedule. If the ongoing long-term cost is not prohibitive, stick with what works.
VOLUME & COMPLEXITY
Does your firm handle 50 cases or 500 cases per year? Your caseload factors into database selection. Larger caseloads require more robust databases with greater reporting capabilities. Smaller caseloads can run well on fairly simple database solutions (which are often cheaper).
LAW FIRM DATABASE WISH LIST
Purchasing case management software provides an excellent opportunity to create and/or update your law firm database wish list. We have posted previously on features law firms should inquire about when selecting a database. No one piece of software contains all items, so your law firm must consider a list of available options, and prioritize your needs accordingly in the database selection process.
- QuickBooks or other accounting software integration
- Email posting
- Integrated document management
- Advanced reporting functions
- Advanced SOL calculation
- Workflow technology (i.e. checklists or to-do packages)
- Custom field creation
- Contact management
- Document creation and merge forms
- Security settings
- Marketing automation
STACEY E. BURKE, P.C. TO THE RESCUE
The experienced law firm technology team at Stacey E. Burke, P.C. can help your law firm find a database that fits your needs.