Welcome back, everyone. It’s the return of the Legal Tech-to-English Dictionary! Hide your paralegels and your redwelds. (And, your paralegals managing redwelds.)
In this saucy, special edition of the LTTED, we’re covering the customization options for law practice management software and answering an age-old question: “If I’m a personal injury lawyer, how can I use a generic case management system?”
First world problems, amirite? But, problems nonetheless!
As always, in the Legal Tech-to-English Dictionary, we strive to generate meaningful and useful definitions for real-life legal tech components, while having a bit of fun at the same time.
We’re kind of like “The Benny Hill Show” for tech-savvy lawyers, just without the theme song.
So, without further ado, here’s a brand-new set of definitions.
(For more, check out our the Practice Management by Practice Area section of the Non-Event.)
‘Practice Area-Specific Case Management Software’
- Law practice management software that includes features customized for specific practice areas out of the box, whether as a standalone product, or as a bolt-on to an existing product.
One challenge is that this software is often not as popular or feature-rich as the generic tools that have a wider customer base. Niches lead to riches, they say — I guess, unless you’ve got a practice-area specific case management software product.
Lawyer 1: My practice area-specific case management software is pretty cool. But, it can’t connect to my email or my CRM. And, it doesn’t really do workflows. And, it doesn’t have a payments feature. And, it doesn’t have a client portal. But, I don’t have to pay for a time and billing product that I don’t need, because I don’t track my time. This is how I win.’
- The art and science of pushing data fields (information types) into and out of connected software systems.
If you’re going to integrate softwares, which may be essential when you’re trying to leverage a generalized case management software product for a specific legal practice area, you’ll need to have a basic sense of what field mapping is.
Essentially, it means that fields in one software need to export directly to fields in another software, potentially continuously, so that the two systems can work together. The challenge is that fields often have slightly different names between softwares — that’s why this is a challenge. If everything was named the same way, this would be easy.
Lawyer 1: This field mapping is a real pain, Marguerite. Now, is it “first-name” or “first/name”? And, wait: Do we want separate fields for first and last names? Ah, to hell with it. I’m gonna go get a caramel macchiato.
- Data fields that users can create, and which are not available by default within a software.
This is one of the reasons why field mapping is so hard, because in some softwares, users are able to create whatever fields they want. Now, try linking that software with another one in which the user can create whatever additional fields they want. The permutations boggle the mind and confound implementation consultants. This is a great (necessary?) feature, if you want to customize generic case management software for your practice, however.
Lawyer 1: Can we create a custom field for peoples’ pets on their contact pages? Maybe for, like, multiple types of pets? Different breeds? Does anyone know how long a leopard gecko lives for?
Lawyer 2: Too long. . . . Too long.
- Aggregated data sets that users can create and compile, and which are not available by default within a software.
So, within specific practice areas, attorneys may need, not just custom fields, but reporting tools that can build upon those custom fields, to generate KPIs unique to the law firm. That means that if you’re trying to customize a law practice management software to your unique needs, you’re also going to need custom reporting tools, which will allow you to create your own unique reports. The ability to generate custom reports also allows law firms to create totally unique KPIs, specifically suited to their business.
Lawyer 1: This custom reporting feature is dope. I never knew that Sylvester neglected to sign office birthday cards 75% of the time. I always knew that that guy was a jerk.
‘Document Templates’ (or ‘precedents’ – for our friends in the Commonwealth nations)
- Base document types which can be customized for specific clients via field inputs and logic.
Specific legal practice areas require specific documents, both those generated by court systems and internally by law firms.
Thus, an estate planning firm needs estate planning documents suited for its jurisdiction, while a small business/corporate law firm needs the right formation documents. And bankruptcy and immigration law firms need the appropriate court and administrative forms for their practices.
Those documents can be completed, potentially automatically, by pulling in field information from a case management software and by completing “interviews” that generate completed documents.
If you’re using a law practice management software for a specific practice, you’ll need to acquire or build template documents, and automate them, via that software or an integrated software — that is, if you want to be more efficient and make more money.
Lawyer 1: I asked Anita for the document templates like you asked, and she told me they’re in something called “Word Perfect.” Is that, like, “Candy Crush,” or something? Can you please help me?
Jared Correia, a consultant and legal technology expert, is the host of the Non-Eventcast, the featured podcast of the Above the Law Non-Event for Tech-Perplexed Lawyers.