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How to Select Practice Management Software for Your Personal Injury Law Firm

The complexity of both practicing law and running a law firm requires an automated approach to time, billing, accounting and calendaring. Without an automated system for each of these operations you risk making serious errors, losing valuable billable time, lagging in your billing and collections and operating without knowing your productivity rates. Purchasing practice management software is a big step for your firm. You will depend on the software all day, every day as the backbone of your practice. You want the best software available that will serve your personal injury firm now and for years to come. Review the following sections to ensure the software you invest in is the best fit for your practice.

It is important that your practice management software is complete. Research demonstrates that more and more malpractice suits come from common mistakes that occur as breakdowns in common practice activities such as missing appearances or deadlines. Practice management software, if complete, can shield you from these mistakes. Complete software includes case intake forms, legal calendaring, rules-based calendaring, contact, case and document management, document assembly, conflict checks, reporting, phone and instant messaging, cost and time tracking, billing and accounting. If your practice management software has all of these things your firm will be able to properly manage all of its cases.

Your personal injury firm has unique needs in terms of the information you manage, the documents you generate, timeliness you follow, the dollar figures you track and the reports you generate. Personal injury firms produce a high volume of documents and forms. Generating these documents is often unnecessarily labor intensive, tying up significant staff time and resources. Make sure the software you purchase includes intake and matter screens that include information about your client, defendants, defendant's insurance, the accident, damages, medical and wage amounts, settlements, litigation tracking, discovery and deposition. It is also important to have software that has settlement and negotiation tracking, state specific civil procedure rules, document templates and forms, case status and settlement reports, workflow rules and a settlement calculator.

Each practice is unique in terms of people, policies, data organization, services, and case management style. Make sure your practice management software can adapt to meet your specific needs. Make sure you can modify any of the intake screens, case screens, name screens, workflow rules, queries, reports, documents and forms to your needs. Also, make sure the company you work with provides customization assistance so you can quickly adapt the software to your unique practice style. In the end, make sure the software you purchase works out of the box yet is flexible enough to adapt to your style.

Personal injury firms are paper intensive. With record requests, represent letters, court forms, questionnaires, complaints etc., it's easy for mountains of paper to build up. A lot of time, space and resources are required to maintain paper. In a paperless office, anyone can quickly search for and retrieve electronic documents. Once found, they can send these documents by email to colleagues, or clients, share them on the network instead of passing them around and reduce confusion about using the right version of a document since files are time stamped and ordered.

Make sure your practice management software is set up to go paperless. Auto scan and save features convert paper documents in your scanner to PDF files and link them to your name and matter screen in a one-step process. Automatic document organization is also important since it establishes a standard naming convention and path for saving Word, Work Perfect and PDF forms, eliminating the manual set up of case folders and the naming of case documents. Other important features of practice management software that will help your firm be paperless are document management, instant messaging, phone messaging and email linking.

Practice management programs offer different levels of integration with the software and hardware in your office. Some programs are not compatible with the newest operating systems, some don't work with your server, and others don't work with your smart phones. Make sure there aren't any hidden incompatibility issues.

Implementing your practice management software correctly is essential to your personal injury firm's success. Even the best practice management software won't help your firm if you can't get it to work. Implementation can be a time intensive process in terms of training, data input, data conversion, and down time. Make sure the vendor you work with provides specific action steps and a timeline for implementation. Ask about delivery time, installation time, installation steps, delivery of training, data input, data conversion and software set-up.

Ideally, you will want a vendor with a clear implementation process and a track record of success. You should look for an implementation manager who will review your individual needs and ensure the installation, setup, training, data conversation and customization is smooth and successful.

Practice management software is a must-have technology tool for any personal injury firm in the modern age. A good practice management system suite will not only improve productivity but also reduce the chances for costly errors in your practice. To be truly effective, you need to have the suite networked into each desktop in the firm and populate the databases with relevant information on a consistent basis.

Judd Kessler

Judd Kessler, Esq., is the CEO of Abacus Data Systems. To learn about their fully integrated law office software, AbacusLaw, call 800-726-3339 or visit http://www.abacuslaw.com for a free demo

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About the Author: Judd Kessler, Esq., is the CEO of Abacus Data Systems. To learn about their fully integrated law office software, AbacusLaw, call 800-726-3339 or visit http://www.abacuslaw.com for a free demo

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