Purchasing and implementing new software can be intimidating. There are countless different programs with similar features. Even with a free trial period, you still never really know what you’re getting until you spend considerable time setting it up and actually using it to do your work. In order to make the process of buying law firm software as easy as possible, we put together this ultimate software buying guide for law firms. It uses a simple, 3-phase approach and gives you actionable tips on how to buy great software that will help your firm succeed.
Phase 1: Define Your Process
The software buying journey should not actually involve any software early on. Don’t just haphazardly sign up for a bunch of free trials and demos. You will likely end up wasting your time and feeling overwhelmed.
The first phase of the buying process is one of self-diagnosis and identifying pain points. After all, you can’t possibly expect to choose a good solution when you haven’t clearly defined the problem yet.
Map Out Your Workflow
The right software will help support your workflow by providing structure and organization, and streamlining manual processes.
Before you can find the right software solution to meet your needs, you must have a thorough understanding of your business processes, including their deficiencies.
If you have no processes at all, you shouldn’t just expect software to magically solve your problems. Software by itself cannot fix a broken process. Rather, it helps improve processes that may be inefficient or disorganized.
Spend some time mapping out your current processes on a flow chart. Take note of any gaps, bottlenecks, and areas where no process currently exists.
Identify the Pain Points that Software Can Solve
The right software program will solve your problems by adding efficiencies, improving organization, and automating or eliminating manual processes.
Going through the exercise of mapping out your workflow will help highlight the problem areas and pain points. These are the key areas to focus on when researching possible software solutions.
Pain points to look for would include the following types of things:
- Manual steps which could be automated (e.g. drafting standard documents)
- Processes which take up a lot of time (e.g. keeping in touch with important contacts)
- Things that you do offline which could be brought online to make them easier (e.g. signing agreements or accepting payments)
- Instances where communication breaks down, data is missing, or organization is lacking (e.g. leads that slip through the cracks)
Write down a list of the key pain points you hope to solve. Have this list in hand when you move on to phase 2.
Phase 2: Research Solutions
Now that you have a list of pain points to solve, your focus shifts to looking for software products that can accomplish your goals and solve your problems.
At this point, you will start comparing features, signing up for free trials, going through demos, and actually testing out software you might want to use.
Identify Possible Solutions
First, you should research some potential software solutions that can meet your needs. This process involves matching up features with pain points.
Ideally, each pain point you identified in phase 1 should be solved or improved by one or more features of the software.
Do some searching on Google and check out software comparison sites like Capterra and GetApp. Write down a list of software programs that look interesting and that have the right kinds of features which match up with your pain points.
You should also spend time reading customer reviews. Obviously highly rated software products are worth considering. But you can also use the reviews to get a sense for what kinds of companies are using the software and getting value from it.
If they are similar to your law firm in terms of size and processes, there’s a good chance the same solution they use can benefit you.
Engage with Sales Teams
Of course nobody likes being sold to, but that isn’t a reason to dodge the salesperson who contacts you when you sign up for a trial or demo with a software company.
A good salesperson won’t be pushy at all, but will be more of a helpful consultant who can answer your questions and guide you toward making the right decision, even if that means not buying their software.
Set aside some time to interact with the sales team of every software company you are considering. Join a webinar, hop on a phone call, or sign up for a product demo and use it as an opportunity to ask questions about the software and get a feel for how their organization operates.
Believe it or not, interacting with the sales team will actually improve your chances of making the right choice.
If you work with a helpful salesperson, they’ll provide all the information you need to evaluate the software and make the right decision. If you work with an overly pushy or incompetent salesperson, you might just want to look elsewhere because it’s a bad indication for the company overall.
Ask Lots of Questions
It is imperative to ask questions during the sales process and identify potential red flags or limitations which are deal breakers. Here are some good questions to ask during your interactions with the sales teams:
- How often do you perform maintenance or have scheduled downtime?
- What security measures are in place to protect data?
- What are the pricing terms?
- Will pricing scale up with higher usage?
- What is the cancellation and refund policy?
- Are there fees for implementation or additional services?
- If I cancel, what happens to my data and how will I get it out?
- What types of support do you offer? (e.g. phone, chat, email)
- What is your average response time for support?
- Do you offer advanced training or certification programs?
- Will I have a dedicated account manager or is it self-service?
- What integrations with other software do you offer?
- What is the strategy for integrations in the future?
- What does the product roadmap look like for the next few years?
Phase 3: Make Your Decision
Once you’ve gone through some demos, trialed some products, and interacted with the sales teams, you should have a pretty good sense of which products will meet your needs.
Naturally, you will have narrowed down your list to just a few options. The final step is to make your decision and buy the software you think will fit best.
Prioritize Your Goals
Inevitably, no software will have 100% of the features you wanted. Most programs will be strong in certain areas, but weaker in other areas.
You just have to accept the fact that there is no perfect software solution. It will always require making a few concessions and implementing some workarounds.
So the important thing to focus on is prioritizing your goals, and finding the software that matches up with your highest priority goals the best.
Don’t Cheap Out on Cost
A common mistake that people make is just going with the cheapest option to save money. This is almost always a bad idea.
When it comes to software, the saying “you get what you pay for” certainly rings true. There is usually a very good reason why a certain software product is cheaper than others, and it’s not because the company is just being charitable.
Lawyers tend to focus only on the dollar amounts, as if every dollar spent on software is just another dollar missing from their paychecks. In reality, in today’s technology driven world, software should be looked at as an investment, not an expense.
If you pick the right software solution for your needs and you implement it correctly, the software will pay for itself many times over.
You’ll save time, work more efficiently, be more organized, and your entire firm will be more productive and capable of taking on more work while expending less resources in the process. You might even capture revenue you would have otherwise lost.
For example, consider a product like Lexicata, which helps law firms track, follow up with, and intake potential clients. If you were to acquire even a single client by using our software that would have otherwise slipped through the cracks or hired another attorney, the software would easily pay for itself for several years.
That wraps up our simple, 3-step software buying guide for law firms. We hope you find these tips on how to buy the right software for your law practice useful.
Just remember that software is not a magic bullet and it won’t fix an already broken process. You must first define your business processes and hone in on the problems and pain points which software might solve.
That way, when you do go out and look for software solutions, you’ll know exactly what features to look for and why.
For more information, check out our related posts:
- The best cloud software for lawyers
- Case management software reviews
- Why software is the key to a thriving law practice