How to choose software for your small law firm

I am often asked to speak to lawyers about mobile and cloud computing and when I do, members of the audience tend to have lots of questions. That was certainly the case last week when I spoke to a group of lawyers in Buffalo.

At one point one of the attendees asked a question that typically comes up during my talks: how do you choose the right software for your firm? He then followed up on that question and wondered if there were there any online sites that offer comparisons and whether any bar associations had pre-screened any software programs and deemed them to be ethically compliant.

Unfortunately, when it comes to bar associations and software, they are unable to give the green light to any specific software program since the way each firm intends to use software may vary, including the types of data that will be stored using the program. This is especially true when it comes to cloud computing software.

But bar associations do sometimes offer guides that describe and compare different types of legal software, which can often be very helpful. For example, the American Bar Association provides a useful case/practice management comparison chart on its website (http://bit.ly/1h0FuZM).

There are also software comparison sites that purport to offer accurate comparisons of all types of software, ranging from very general software such as word processing or website hosting platforms to very specific types including software for the legal industry. Although these sites tend to offer a fairly general overview of the different products and are often drafted by someone with little to no understanding of the particular industry, they nevertheless sometimes offer valuable information both in terms of the comparisons and the user reviews and ratings that are included for each product. Examples of these sites include capterra.com and getapp.com.

Another way to research legal software is to frequent online forums for lawyers. You can ask fellow lawyers for their recommendations or experiences, in addition to searching the archives of the forums for past feedback. Your state bar association likely has a few relevant forums or listservs available, so that's a great place to start.

You can also join Solosez (http://bit.ly/1Kuf4cy), the American Bar Association's listserv for solos. The Macs in Law Offices Google Group (http://bit.ly/1XoHG0d) can also be very useful for researching Mac or cloud computing software (since when you use cloud software the type of computer you use is irrelevant).

Finally, the Lawyering Advisory Board forum (lab.lawyerist.com/) is another good online site to consider. In fact, this forum recently conducted a poll to ascertain the most popular law practice management software (http://bit.ly/1LLnPB0). That poll received nearly 9,000 views, 108 comments and 540 votes. There's lots of great information there that will help you choose the right software for your law firm.

So if you're in the market for new software for your law firm, never fear. There are lots of great resources available to help you choose the right technology tools for your needs. It's simply a matter of carefully researching your options, narrowing down your choices, and then test driving a few programs before committing to one of them. Follow those steps and you'll be on the right path to making software choices that work best for your law firm's needs.

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Nicole Black is a director at MyCase.com, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is also of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book "Cloud Computing for Lawyers," coauthors the ABA book "Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier," and co-authors "Criminal Law in New York," a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes three legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com

Published: Tue, Oct 27, 2015

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