Tech Tips: Law Firm CRMs and Accounting Systems

Running a law firm involves so much more than knowing the area of law you practice. Among other things, it necessarily requires understanding certain software systems to make office management run smoother. Read on to learn more about to important types of software: accounting systems and customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Accounting Systems

Q: Hey IT Guy, my firm has just signed the contract for an accounting system that runs on SQL database architecture. We decided to hold off on purchasing the Marketing and Docketing modules. As we have been going through the data to be migrated the thought of adding in the two modules has resurfaced. Do you have any experience to guide us in making a decision? It would be nice to get an unbiased opinion.

A: Thanks for the question; it is always a great idea to get information from other software clients before and during a software purchase and installation. It has had a substantial impact on my software decisions over the years. A SQL based accounting system will allow you to tie all the data integration points into any modules being added. There may be a slight advantage to having the same integrator work with the module software integrators. One consideration is what is the potential speed your employees will be able to learn and use the software. Rolling out the modules after the main accounting software is in place and working well may offer a better integration and allow the employees to learn progressively instead of being overrun with too much software.

Customer Relation Management Software

Q: Dear IT Guy, I am the marketing director for a mid-sized law firm and we are in the process of looking for a Customer Relation Management application. We currently use Act! but it requires a lot of maintenance and exporting from our Email/Contact system. What are your thoughts, and how scalable are the products?

A: Thanks reader, most of the more reputable CRM products are very scalable and will allow for a firm to step into using the software. If you haven't already, you will need to create a list of features that are important to how you manage your contacts and what kind of an impact the contact management will have for attorneys and staff. Without knowing what kind of integration you want with your accounting system, conflict/docketing system and operating system, I can only loosely point you to some CRM options. Interaction by Interface Software has a strong product that is focused on the needs of a law firm. Some strong points are its functionality of data management and relation tracking, especially prior relations. Microsoft has a product that has much promise for the future. MS-CRM is unfortunately currently targeted at sales, but its strong integration with Outlook, MS OS and Active Directory could make this a stellar product if developed for the legal crowd.

Tips courtesy of Chuck Linebaugh of O'Hagan, Smith & Amundsen.

Technology changes quickly. For a more up to date discussion on this topic, please visit the Legal Software section at FindLaw’s Technologist blog.