Credenza, Houdini, AdvologixPM, RocketMatter, Clio, TimeMatters 10 & Amicus 2010

Wow!!!!! The marketplace for practice management software has exploded this year.  They must have added something to the water that programmers drink (they do drink , don’t they?).

Well, yesterday, Gavel & Gown released Credenza (Click for more info).  Now you can have your Outlook and your case management; no synchronization, no exchange.  Rather, you now have FILES within Outlook.  A $9.95/month subscription is the cost.

Meanwhile, I am currently reviewing HoudiESQ. This system is a web-based practice management system designed by Frank Rivera (who architected Time Matters World Edition). It is offered on either a SAAS (Software as Service) or self-hosted basis. What is different is that it entirely redesigns and rethinks the interface for a practice management system.  Stay tuned for my review in Technolawyer later this month.

Not to be outdone, LexisNexis has released Time Matters 10 (on an all-SQL platform).  Apart from major improvements in stability and access speed, the system includes Desktop Extensions.  These widgets give you a window into Time Matters on your desktop and could change entirely the way you work with your practice management system.

Gavel & Gown, with the release of Amicus 2010 Premium Edition, has produced a solid, stable product.  While continuing its focus on “separate offices”, the Premium Edition, centralizes the data on a single SQL Server (full SQL Server 2008 Standard is included with the license) and added extensive customization in the form of custom pages and custom records.

On the SAAS front, RocketMatters, Clio and newcomer AdvologixPM are coming into their own.  Each have been progressively adding features to fill out the requirements of a robust practice management system.  Clio and RocketMatter have expanded their billing and trust accounting features. AdvologixPM, with its support for extensive customization, has released a new document automation module that lets you launch full document packages, populated with data from the Force.com platform.

So what is going on?  For several years nothing happened in Practice Management.  Many vendors “treaded water”.  Some vendors exited.  Few new players entered the market.  And existing products pretty much stayed the same. There was no excitement, no ferment.  Something is clearly happening.  And it may not be good for established vendors unless they respond to the new environment and try to generate buzz and excitement about their products.  The SAAS products are looking at a complete redesign of the way practice management is done (anywhere, anytime, any platform) that reflects the new business reality.  The SAAS products also are looking at entirely new interfaces and windows into your practice data.

How can the SAAS developers do it?  There are two answers.  First, the SAAS developers control the software and the hardware.  In a hosted environment, the developer can make instant improvements.  There is no need to wait for the “long-tail” of users to upgrade; no need to support multiple platforms, legacy software and legacy hardware.  The host is the platform.  And that makes the SAAS developers much more nimble.

The second reason, perhaps, is more significant.  And that is the pricing model.  SAAS is “cheap” on the start-up, and expensive in the long run.  It is very easy and cheap to get started with Credenza, RocketMatter, Clio and AdvologixPM.  Once you have signed on, you will keep paying so long as you use the platform.  That means that there will be ever-increasing revenue for the SAAS developer so long as it continues to innovate; with the more innovation leading to more sales, and further increases in revenue. This is a “win-win” situation.  The SAAS developer wins by the “monthly” vote by the end-user paying their fee.  The user wins by having that vote courted with constant innovation.  By contrast, the up-front software sale with nominal maintenance produces a “disincentive” to constant innovation; once you reach market saturation in your segment, the revenue actually decreases.

Despite the groans from the current users, LexisNexis has got it right with its new AMP or annual maintenance plan.  In doing so, they follow the example of PC Law and STI/Tabs.  The hope is that LexisNexis uses this annualized revenue and maintenance to “innovate and improve” the product steadily and attract new users, rather than simply extract the profits from its existing user base.  It is this transition to software as a service (whether on a desktop or in the cloud) that represents the future of practice management.

Salesforce.com Apps for Lawyers

What if you could access your network from ANYWHERE and at ANYTIME?  What if you could check your calendar, check your task list, do your billing and access all your documents? What if you could do this WITHOUT A NETWORK?  What if you could do it WITHOUT a Server, without a terminal server, and without any network infrastructure at all?  What if the entire network was IN THE CLOUDS.  Wouldn’t that be great (for you that is)?  What if this cloud-based system was infinitely customizable, and infinitely expandable?  What if you could purchase “plugins” and other packages to extend the functionality of the database? What if there was a network of consultants who could assist you?  What if there were hooks into Web-based document assembly applications like EXARI? What if I told you this system was already built and opened for business last month.  Take a look at AdvologixPM.

AdvogixPM is a Force.com Application.  It is built on Salesforce.com.  This platform is used by almost every Fortune500 corporation.  It is a cloud-based application that was designed, originally, to make a “mobile salesforce” truly mobile. Rather than replicating databases (which could be stolen or lost), it was designed as a complete and secure CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that allowed salesmen and women to track leads, manage accounts, post documents,track calls and emails in a centralized hosted environment on the Web.  What turned this from a hosted CRM into a world-shaking application was the open API that Salesforce.com built.  To make the system acceptable to large sales organizations, Salesforce.com enabled users (with privileges) and developers to add new fields, add new reports, record types, dashboards, analyses, and ANYTHING they wanted.  They then let developers “package” the customizations and created a marketplace where those packages could be “given away” or “licensed”.

So where does this affect lawyers who, by their own classification, are not in the sales business?  The answer is AdvologixPM.  The infrastructure of Salesforce already meets many of the needs of lawyers.  What is missing are MATTERS, and support for practice-specific details that lawyers want to know about their clients.  Further, the system does not natively support client billing.  What Advologix has done is stand on the shoulders of giants and build a Legal Practice Management system on top of Salesforce.  It is, indeed a complete and comprehensive system.  It does what a practice management system should do, and does it quite well.  And you don’t have to worry about backups, network services, remote access or anything.  All you have to worry about is paying your Monthly user fee. The fee will be more than you pay annually for your current practice management solution software.  The difference, arises, however, if you look at TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).  No server; no need to apply software updates, no installation costs, and worldwide access.

Now where the application gets interesting for me and my clients is in two areas.  First,it is infinitely customizable.  If a client comes to me with a bankruptcy practice and wants to track special creditor details in a table, I can modfy the application to add the necessary table and fields.  And, if I do a good enough job, I can package up those modifications and “license” them to another client.  They could make the changes themselves, or they could leverage my expertise in data gathering, workflow and document assembly in that field. The second place where it gets interesting.  Exari has released a Force.com application NDA Generator on Exari.  Here we are leveraging a world-class web-based document assembly engine with a world-class CRM system, none of which needs to be installed on a server that we manage.

There are some TRADEOFFS when you program a Force.com application.  There are somethings about the way the application works, what some tables are called that you cannot change.  Since the core application was designed by someone else, you are limited to working with what that company has built.  As a result, you will not have the spartan and intuitive design appeal of a RocketMatter or a Clio practice management system that was designed from the ground up as a practice management system.  You will need to look closely at what Advologix has done to Salesforce, and weigh what additional modifications you can make and compare them to both Client/Server applications (like Time Matters, Amicus Attorney and PracticeMaster) and to RocketMatter and Clio offerings.  The good news is there are a lot of innovative solutions out there for to choose from.  And now there is one more.

Going Paperless – The Legal Stuff

Have you ever considered going truly “PAPERLESS”?  If you do, did you plan on telling your clients?  And what do you do with all their STUFF? The answer may lie in your client engagement letter.  So long as you disclose to your client what you are going to do with the documents in his/her case, and so long as you keep originals of those documents you are legally and ethically required to keep, you should be in a position to go paperless without increasing your risk of malpractice.  Wells Anderson and I have developed some model language that you can you in your engagement letter.  We give it with the caveat that while we are lawyers, we are likely not admitted to practice in your jurisdiction, and second we are not offering this language as legal advice.  We are asking you to consider this language and review it in light of your firm’s document retention procedures and your state’s legal and ethical requirements regarding document retention.

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Three-Click Solution with Basha Office Management System (OMS)

Have you ever wished to unlock the power of Time Matters so that any item of data you enter on a case can be retrieved in Three-Clicks of a Mouse.  For you, we have developed OMS – The Basha Systems Office Management System for Time Matters.  It takes just a few minutes to install, and will save you at least 30 minutes a day hunting for information that you have already entered.  It will make Time Matters eminently more user friendly.  Here is the basics.  Step 1: Choose your record, whether it be a matter, contact, event, todo, or UDR.  Step 2: Choose your Powerview.  There are over 80 customized Power Views in the package. Step 3: Click on PRINT or on EXPAND ALL.  It’s that easy.

The Office Management System comes with a full suite of Power Views. One of the most significant are power views that give you ALL fields on the underlying record in a single printable view.  These fields are grouped by area, with the ability to customize the label for the area, just as you can do on the record’s form style.  Moreover, the system also is dynamic.  As you change the prompts on the underlying record, the prompts on the Power View adjust.

But, there is more.  The current OMS system ships with several basic best-practices form style. These include a new INDIVIDUAL contact form style and a new CORPORATE contact form style that you can use as a base and are closely tied to the Power Views.  It also ships with a system for managing your file room and a mini litigation documents management system, previously shipped separately.  What better way to jump start your existing Time Matters installation or to use for a new installation.  We have invested hundreds of hours in developing this system which you can have in just a few minutes.  Installation and training on the system is included in the purchase price of $1500 for the first user and assistant and $200 for each additional user.  Give us a call.

Easy Case Management & Technolawyer

A recent series of posts on Technolawyer, titled “Legal Software and Consultants” troubled me.  In this series, Mark Deal, Ay Uaxe, and Jason Havens spared on the role of legal consultants in implementing case management solutions. There was a touch of resentment on both sides.  On one side, the lawyers (of whom I count myself), look to their extensive education, their extensive domain knowledge and work experience as qualifiers in the world of software design and process.  It should be “easy”; it should be “cheap”; and anyone can do this stuff; it’s not rocket science.  Why don’t those vendors understand?  Why don’t they anticipate and design for my needs. On the other side are the legal technology consultants who have spent years studying the software tools, designing solutions with the software, and implementing and training. Many serve in defacto advisory capacity to software vendors, fielding feature requests and reporting on bugs. 

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Cloud Based Practice Management

In the next few weeks, my reviews of CLIO and RocketMatter will appear in Technolawyer, with copies on this site.  I don’t want to give away the results, but I want to comment more generally on the development goals of cloud-based offerings versus client-server offerings.  To some degree, I have dealt with that tension in my development and advisory role in the creation of Wealth Transfer Planning and its unique front-end for HotDocs.  It is this balancing act between simplicity and sophistication, between stability and customizability, that marks really good software. CLIO and RocketMatter are following in the footsteps of the two giants of software development.

CLIO and RocketMatter are following the outsized success of SalesForce.com and that of Bob Butler’s efforts in building Time Matters. SalesForce.com is a ubiquitous platform that promises data anywhere, on any platform, from any location. Resources are “rented” at a hefty monthly fee.  The user has no upfront costs, no hardware costs, and pays only based on usage. The user gets service guarantees. But what has made SalesForce.com so successful is the API (application programming interface) which lets it read data from and write data to just about any resource, its customizable front-end, and the ability to create and purchase add-ons that interact with the data. All this together is responsible for SalesForce.com’s outsized lead in the Cloud market.  It can be whatever you need it to be; and it is likely, if you want it, that someone else has already customized SaleForce to meet the needs of their industry, and can give or license you that customization module.

Time Matters, in the Client-Server environment is much like Salesforce.com.  It is a powerful, structured database that allows near infinite customization.  Out-of-the-box Time Matters works as a full-blown practice management system.  It can be easily customized.  There is a network of consultants and third party vendors who have harnessed the power of the data in Time Matter’s SQL databases, and those who, like yours truly, have built and marketed add-ons for Time Matters.

So how can CLIO and RocketMatter follow in the footsteps of the two giants?  At the moment, they are ensuring the stability of their core offering.  Both have delivered solid, functional practice management systems.  Both have unique visions on what usability is, and how it should work.  Their interfaces are innovative; client/server vendors should take notice of what they have done in terms of usability.  And yet, both CLIO and RocketMatter have a singular vision; a single view of what the interface should be, what features should be available.  They try to fit all lawyers and all law practices into one mode of operation, one mode of billing, one mode of practice.

In their efforts to get out a 1.0 release, the software at present does not represent the full diversity of practices of lawyers in the market place.  This is not to say that these programs will not or cannot represent that diversity.  Unless your core product works, is stable and supportable and dependable, it doesn’t matter how customizable and flexible the product will be.  The learning curve on both products is measured in hours, and not days or weeks, like it is for other practice management solutions.  CLIO’s tagline is “Practice Management Simplified”. RocketMatter, in some ways, seems to think for you, seamlessly building interrelations between contacts and matters. Both make it easy for lawyers to bill and capture their time.

And yet, in this drive to simplify, make practice management easier, more available, these vendors have missed the richness and diversity of the practice of law; they have missed the benefits of interconnectedness between data and documents, between applications.  Much of what I am asking for in these offerings can be added on and built into these offerings, and most likely will.  And since the cost of distributing updates of Web 2.0 technology are zero, may come to pass.  We need more recognition of that diversity, the ability to customize by practice area, to recognize user-specific preferences in the interface, to recognize new and unique record types, and the ability to package and deliver such features.

I will save for another time why The Cloud is so important, particularly for lawyers.

The Return of Bob Butler – BestThinking.com

There is not much to write at the present time, but rather, a heads-up of something coming down the pike.  Bob Butler, former CEO of DataTXT (aka Time Matters Software) has gone public with a new venture called BestThinking.com.  The website has been in development for a while and has just been launched.  It promises a blending of the best social networking in Linked-In and Facebook, along with the social ranking in Diggs, and the collaboratively edited content of Wikipedia.

Related Link:

Here is what Bob writes in his public email announcement:

Friends and Collegues:

Everyone who knows me knows that along with an amazingly talented team, I have been working for the past 2 years on BestThinking.com. Well, BestThinking.com is now open to the public!

As we all know, it’s not only who you know, but it’s also what you know. While there are many places on the Internet, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc. for showing who you know, BestThinking is the new best place to show what you know.

Since all of you are working to advance careers, find better jobs, or expand your businesses and practices, I thought BestThinking.com might be of interest to you beyond just what I have been up to. I’m sending this email to introduce you to a no cost opportunity to establish a new and important web presence.

There are several advantages to getting started early, including improving your visibility to search engines by being the founder of high profile Topics and securing your name and unique URL for your Thinker page.

It has never been so easy to become widely recognized for your passion and expertise. Don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues that you are now a Thinker at BestThinking.com and ask them to join us.

Bob Butler
CEO
BestThinking.com

At present, BestThinking represents the best thinking of web designers, rather than actual thinkers.  View it as a new home that still needs to be furnished. The structure has been built and the rooms created.  But at present, there is no furniture or decoration.  There are “Latin” placeholders.  It is up to you (the Thinkers) to turn this website into a new home and place to go.

What makes it real exciting is that the website can build a self-policing community.  Each Thinker and each Thought can be rated by users.  Based upon user ratings, articles and thinkers will rise into favor or fall from favor.  That is the genius of the website.  It is now up to you, if you view yourself as a thinker, to hang out your shingle.  Be prepared for the critical review of the masses.  Who knows, you will be able to get some recognition and maybe even some engagements.

Deciding on a Practice Management System: The Three Lists Method

By this point, most law firms and businesses have automated to some degree. Few offices still depend on the typewriter and the paper calendar. Word Processors, MS Outlook and some form of billing program can be found in most, if not all, offices.

Lawyers, paralegals and businesses are ready to move to the next level. The most important thing to determine, of course, is which is the most efficient and cost effective move to make.

FROM THE FRONTLINE:

I often receive inquiries that go something like this: “I’m looking for some software for my office. My office has gotten to the point that I really need to get things more organized. It takes forever to find information on a client. It is also taking us far too long to create documents and get them out the door. We’re losing money on client work. In fact, I’m having a hard time keeping track of my billables and I’d really like to get a handle on how long it is taking my staff to do certain tasks and how to speed them up. If possible, I would like to be able to increase my business without having to hire new staff.”

When I hear this, the first thing that springs to mind is that what they are looking for is really three different types of software: (1) Case Management, such as Time Matters, Amicus Attorney or PracticeMaster, to organize their matter data, documents and case notes; (2) Document Assembly software like HotDocs to more quickly create quality controlled documents like Wills and Real Estate Contracts. And (3) a good billing program to track time and invoice clients.  The question that also springs to mind is: “Do they need all of these all at once?”

It is natural to want it all at once. However, the cost f such an implentation and the disruption of a wholesale transformation may undermine the very value of such action. It is far better to prioritize – both areas of frustration and desire. That’s why I always ask my prospects to make three lists.

LIST ONE:I AM SO FRUSTRATED THAT . . .

I ask them to list, in order, the five to ten things that are happening in their office that are driving them up the wall.  For some people, its “I am so frustrated
because when I have a paralegal or a junior attorney create a document, I often spend more time revising it than it would have taken to do it myself.” Or, “I am so frustrated because I have such a hard time tracking phone calls and other items that I know I should be billing.”

LIST TWO:  I WISH I COULD . . .

This is your dream list. These are the things you wish you and your office could do that would make it into the model office of your dreams. Such as “I wish that I had an easy way of accessing, from my desktop, all of the information I need on a client. Then when they call for advice or a case update, I could tell them everything they need to know instantly instead of having to send someone to look for a file and flipping around in it.”

LIST THREE: THERE’S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY TO . . .

This in some way overlaps with the first two lists and is not completely necessary but it is a good exercise in office psychology and basic venting.  In the heat of the moment, you may cry out “There’s got to be a better way” – to prepare documents for real estate closings, to track estate assets, to communicate with other firms on document changes, etc.

ANALYZING THE RESULTS

Now, put your lists side by side.  Do most of the items have to do with billing, document preparation or general office organization?

  • If most of the entries have to do with billing, start there. Possibly, your greatest need is a well set up billing program like PCLaw, TABS or even Quicken and the services of a specialist in that area.
  • If most of your frustration lies with lack of organization, it might be time to look into a Office/Case Management system, like Time Matter or Amicus Attorney, that can help you organize your data on the computer.
  • On the other hand, if getting any document out the door is a slow and tortuous process, HotDocs might give you the best initial bang for your tech buck.
  • Or, possibly, your biggest issues involve none of the above. Maybe, your greatest area of frustration is computer crashes or other hardware issues and not a software issue at all. In that case, you must address this issue before investing in the newest software.

This is something that I cannot urge too strongly.  Before you invest in any of these great software programs, you need to be aware that they can take a toll on computer memory and performance. Putting wonderful, memory intensive software on a clunky, obsolete computer will only result in additional frustration, software returns and many, many bouts of misdirected cursing.

Use the three lists methods to get a handle on your real tech needs. A ounce of foresight can avoid pounds of future regret.  NOW, you’re ready to give us a call.

New Players in the World of Document Assembly and Case Management

For the past few years, the world of document assembly and practice management as be S.O. (or same old …).  There have been a number of interesting upgrades to existing products.  There have been some exits (notably GhostFill).  There have been a few acquisitions (Lexis’s purchase of PCLaw and Juris, to name a few).  Into this “void” there are 3 new players who I will be examiniing: Zunesoft (maker of WordFusion, a document assembly platform), RocketMatter (www.rocketmatter.com) – a cloud-based legal practice management system- and Clio (www.goclio.com) – another cloud-based practice management system.

The CLOUD, for those who don’t know, is a word for software services that are made available through the internet where the data is stored, not on your server, but the server of the software service provider.  It is called the internet CLOUD because in the cloud you cannot see where the data is actually stored.  And, in practice, the data may be stored on dozens of different machines in multiple locations, and can be accessed from anywhere.  More on these systems later.

Restarting and Rescusitating the Time Matters Indexer

The Time Matters indexer may get stuck or corrupted.  This article steps you through solution to that problem.

TRASH AND RECREATE THE LNDATA INDEX

1. Log Everyone out of Time Matters
2. Find the Index Folder and Rename LNDATA
e.g. P:TMW9DataIndexLNDATA
3. There may be a locked open file.  You need to make sure it gets unlocked before you move the file.
4. Log into Time Matters and leave it open to allow LNDATA to be recreated.
5. Check for the Icon in the system tray.

OPTIONAL STEP: ACTIVATE SYNCHRONIZATION
1. File -> Setup -> Program Level
2. Synchronization -> Activate Time Matters Synchronization
3. Give it a name:  MAIN OFFICE
4. Log out of Time Matters

OPTIONAL STEP: REINDEX DATABASE
Now Go to the Time Matter Utilities
1. Select the Database
2. Check box to Reindex Main Database

[Note: Potential problems if there is a SPACE in the File Path to the Data Folder]
[Caveat:  If you have extra licenses, you can leave the indexer running on the server]

Clearing out Temp Files

LOCATE THE USER PROFILE SPECIFIC “LNPTA” FOLDER and TRASH THAT
1. Make sure you can see Hidden Files.
2. You should rename the LNTPA folder.
C:Documents and Settings[UserProfile]Local SettingsTempLNTPA
3. You may need to copy the TMWORD.DAT into the new folder