By Legal Futures’ Associates Insight Legal
If the last 10 weeks has taught us anything, it’s that a lot can change in a short space of time. Law firms have needed to be agile and to re-think many operational processes to deal with staff issues and continue to provide their clients with expected levels of service. As lockdown restrictions ease and the practical implications of what ‘return to work’ actually means are considered, law firm leaders are working to identify the priority areas that need their attention.
The enforcement of the lockdown period and resultant sudden requirement for different working practises has meant that most law firms have had no option but to implement new procedures. For some, this has been a welcome push in a direction they always intended to take; for example, working more paper-lite or relying more on technology to automate processes. For others, lockdown has not only highlighted inefficiencies, but in some cases has exposed gaping holes in contingency planning and left firms teetering on the edge of survival.
Drawing on our many years of experience, including supporting over 850 law firms through the events of recent months, Insight Legal are publishing a series of articles with a particular focus on legal software. The series includes guidance on what you can – or should – expect from your software and your software supplier, as well as insider information on the process of transferring from one supplier to another and why now might just be the perfect time to change.
Part 1: Change offers opportunities to enlightened firms
How can you manage a law firm effectively when the only certainty is uncertainty? It seems to us that the answer is maximum flexibility regarding every arrangement and relationship. Your firm will have a myriad of such arrangements and some of these will be under contract. These provided certainty in stable times but now may become a millstone. Is it too much to suggest that, during the recovery phase, there is nothing that is not re-negotiable?
If lockdown shone a light on new working practices, and how technology enabled these, it is only sensible to ask your software supplier how these can be adopted and supported going forwards.
There are many different reasons why a practice might decide it is time to re-evaluate its software supplier, including:
- End of contract
- Change in fortune of the existing supplier
- Change in circumstance of the firm
Perhaps there is nothing “wrong” with your current software as such, but you feel that there just may be a better solution out there. Whatever the trigger, it is most important to have in mind a
3-6 month window in which to evaluate what you have and assess alternative solutions. It is not a decision that should be rushed, and if you don’t leave yourselves enough time then you could easily be swept in to an automatic renewal, and tied to your current software for perhaps another two or three years.
In our experience, the firms that extract the most benefit from transferring to a new system are those that followed a structured review process. Before starting a search of alternative providers, we recommend the following:
- Gather together all essential information about the existing software contract
- The contract end date and what happens immediately afterwards
- Any notice period needed to avoid an auto-renewal taking place
- What happens to the firm’s data in the event of not renewing?
- How will data be returned to the firm and will it be in raw form or in a report format?
- Will a charge be made for returning the data from the current supplier?
- How will any residual data be managed to satisfy GDPR regulations?
- Establish a project team of all vested stakeholders who will be at every stage of the review and recommendation process.
Deborah Witkiss, Chief Operating Officer at Insight Legal Software
Next time: Part 2: Drawing up a list of necessary software functionality and the traits of a reputable system supplier.