Practice Management in the Clouds; How About a Meal?

Would you believe this; someone wanted to dine in the clouds.  If you really want to, there is a restaurant that caters to this.  Check out Yahoo!!.

Law Firm Practice Management in the Cloud is certainly a goal. For that, there are programs like Advologix, FirmManager, ActionStep, Houdini, Clio and Rockmatter, and coming soon Amicus Cloud.  If you are moving your servers to the cloud, why not move yourself and have a good meal while you are at it.

Bon Appetit!!

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 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.

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 and that of Bob Butler’s efforts in building Time Matters. 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 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’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  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.

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 ( – a cloud-based legal practice management system- and Clio ( – 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.