When I speak to attorneys about law office management issues we often are discussing how the attorney can gain control of the practice (client lists, deadlines and ticklers) and gain control of their time. The simplest way to accomplish both of these goals is to purchase, install and be trained on an integrated “case management system.” These programs increase the attorney’s time management skills because the software avoids duplication of effort by allowing a single entry of information that is available where needed. In addition, time management is improved by having all critical information available in one program. You no longer have to open multiple programs or, worse yet, wait for your secretary or bookkeeper to get back to you.

Most attorneys will make more money also. First, there is more time for billable work. Second, more billable work is captured by using the built in timers. Third, realization rates will improve because invoicing is much easier and thus increases the likelihood of timely invoicing.

Attorneys that use the software will also decrease stress and increase their ability to sleep soundly because they know they will not miss deadlines. These programs allow deadlines to be calculated and calendared, with reminders and alarms notifying the attorney that it is time to act.

Now if these three reasons are not sufficient to implement a case management program, please read David Bilinsky’s blog Thoughtful Legal Management,
which does me one better (or more accurately, twenty–two better) in his article “25 Benefits of Case Management.”

There are a number of very good case management programs out there and you should look at a number of programs to determine which will be most intuitive for you. David discusses a number of programs that he is either familiar with or has used. In particular, he likes Amicus Attorney, which recently released Amicus Attorney 2008 – Small Firm Edition. You may find David’s book “Amicus Attorney In One Hour for Lawyers” in the LOMAP lending library. I used and really liked Time Matters with Billing Matters and, now use PracticeMaster with TABS 3 which I chose for its value and the breadth of its integration. The list of practice management programs is increasing all of the time. A partial list can be obtained from LOMAP. However, being risk adverse, I would tend to use a program from a well established company that will not disappear. Also, if you chose a web-based solution, review the terms of service related to confidentiality, security and ownership of the data.

Of course, these programs are not magic and you must be willing to invest some time and effort into learning the programs, and possibly hiring a consultant for training. But once you have made that investment you will create time, capture billable hours, bill more efficiently, and sleep better knowing that you are not missing deadlines for years to come. I highly recommend that if you don’t currently use a case management program that you review David’s article, invest in a program, and give yourself more time to practice law.