The Practice Management System “Check List”

In this series of “Check List” articles the next area to consider is choosing a Practice Management System, if any.

For any practice the efficiency with which you manage matters will be critical for success. In these highly competitive times wasted time and poor control of costs are a burden that no firm can afford.

Additionally, where involved in litigation it is critical that you have up to date figures on WIP and costs so as not to fall foul of the new costs management requirements.

Therefore in most cases it will be beneficial to have a practice management system. So what should be looked for in a new solution?

1. Data security and regulatory requirements

Firstly it is critical that you are sure that you meet your regulatory responsibilities. Data security is the most critical consideration.

If you invest in local servers and software you will need to spend significant funds on firewalls, backups and other data security measures. You will also incur higher IT support costs to manage such solutions.

Taking all of this into account firms can find that hosted, or truly cloud based solutions offer a better option. However these present challenges as well.

You need to ensure that you understand where data will be held, how it will be protected and that the provider is willing to work within the SRA requirements (including allowing the SRA access should they so demand). You also need to be sure that your internet access speeds are sufficient to be able to use the solution reliably.

When comparing your options consider:

  • a) How data can be accessed, and not just by you – ease of hacking.
  • b) Antivirus and Anti-phishing protection
  • c) Back-ups and protection against hardware failures
  • d) Encryption
  • e) Emails – often still left on local laptops and PCs
  • f) When and/or why data will be held on laptops and local PCs. If so how will this data be protected?

it will be important to show that you carry out an annual review where services are outsourced, particularly with respect to points iii and iv.

b) Do you promote equality and diversity enough to potential employees, third parties and your existing staff?

If not, make sure that your equal opportunities policy is up to date and seize this opportunity to undertake the required annual review and analysis of your findings.

2) Ease of use

The usability of the solution is a critical consideration. A good test of how easy a solution is to use will be to explore how long it takes to set up and how much training will be required to get to use it properly.

A good solution should be simple to set up, easy to use and self-evident as to how it works, therefore needing relatively little training for staff to get up to speed.

When considering the various solutions, ask how easy it will be to:

  • a) access data wherever you are and via laptops, tablets or mobile phones as required
  • b) see general information on a matter “at a glance”
  • c) identify the current position and forthcoming deadlines (particularly if supervising others)
  • d) see all contact information (including the other side, counsel, experts, etc.)
  • e) carry out conflicts checks
  • f) see deadlines and diaries (for those that you supervise as well)
  • g) find all documents on a matter, including email correspondence
  • h) use templates, work flows and standard forms (be honest here as well, how often do you amend the standard documents provided? Are they     really fit for purpose?)

Take time consider (and liaise with your staff) other aspects of the system that you may not be directly involved with. Contact management, client ledgers, work flows and accounts packages can all impact on the smooth running of your firm.

For instance, many solutions provide an integral “accounts package”. However these often appear to be secondary in the developers’ considerations, being cumbersome with limited reporting functions. It may be more effective to consider a separate accounts package, truly fit for purpose. Some independent packages are already designed to work together (e.g. Clio Practice Management with Xero accounting) meaning that data can be easily transferred between the two.

A good test is to see how comfortably your solution will link with other services, meaning that you can choose the experts in important areas and not a compromise solution that fails to meet all of your expectations.

3) Think about the future

A significant amount of time and resources will be invested in getting up to speed. Be sure to invest in a solution that will support your practice going forward. Points to consider when selecting your preferred solution might include:

  • a) Can the system grow with me? How easily and at what cost?
  • b) Can it easily adjust to reflect changes in organisational structure (e.g new departments or offices)?
  • c) Can lines of reporting and supervision be easily managed and changed?
  • d) Is the solution reviewed, updated and maintained on a regular basis to ensure functionality and adherence to regulatory requirements.

In summary, if you chose a solution that answers all of the above to your satisfaction then you will be doing much to ensure success. Allowing you to focusing on clients and growing your business, rather than wasting precious time with frustrating solutions that don’t seem to deliver what you were promised.

Company: Esterase Ltd
Author: Alex von der Heyde BSc (Hons), MBA, MIoD,
Job Title: Managing Director
Tel: 08455 199 149



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