How long does it take to implement new law firm software?

By LSSA member company Access Legal

Size matters…

For a new start-up law firm, with a handful users it can be relatively quick to get up and running with a new suite of software. It could be anywhere between 6 weeks and 6 months depending on many factors. For example, for a new firm with say up to 5 users, it could be six weeks or less from placing the order to go-live. This would include the training of staff, for a straight-forward legal accounts software implementation. However, for larger firms, with several branches, and more complex needs – it can take a while longer. For example, for a 100+ user firm with national branch offices implementing legal accounts, and case management with workflows across several practice departments. Especially if there are complex integrations with third-party software applications, plus a data migration to consider. The law firm could be looking at around 6 months to get the software in and everyone trained up ready for go live.

8 key considerations affecting law firm software implementation timescales

Here is a list of the most important factors a law firm needs to consider when working out the timescales for a new legal practice management software implementation:

  1. The size and complexity of the law firm

An obvious one. But important. A newly established specialist firm starting with a clean sheet is of course a far simpler, and quicker implementation when it comes to software. There will be a small number of dedicated users, no legacy system from which they need to migrate data and with one specialist area of law their workflow configuration should be quick to get right. At the other end of the scale a firm with lots of users across several offices, practicing many areas of law that has a wide variety of software needs – will take much longer. Also, if the larger firm is switching from an older – system, it will more than likely need to a data transfer, and it may also require integrations to other mission-critical tools. However, if the firm plans ahead, talks to its chosen supplier about its go-live aspirations early on in the decision-making process, and all the key people from both sides are involved early on during planning, there is no reason that would prevent a mutually convenient go live date being agreed.

  1. Coverage of practice areas

Most firms buying new legal practice management software want SRA-compliant legal accounts software modules, to ensure they are practicing in line with industry regulations.  However, many firms also need case management software that is fully integrated with their legal accounts software. For specialist firms that practice just one area of law, implementation can be relatively straight forward, depending on the complexity and how niche their area of law is. For full service firms that offer a wide range of legal services across many areas of law, there will be more software configuration to plan in for workflows, for example. But a good software supplier will have tackled all scenarios many times over, and will be able to advise the firm on the best way of achieving efficiency for planning practice-wide coverage.

  1. The firm’s technical infrastructure

The complexity vs simplicity of the firm’s technical infrastructure is another consideration when thinking about timescales. Is the firm on-premise? i.e. its IT is managed inhouse, and its legal practice management software is installed locally on the firm’s own hardware servers. If on-premise and there are multi-branches to consider, this all adds to the time needed to install the new suite of software.

Does the firm want a cloud-based system, where software hosting is outsourced to their trusted software supplier, or a third-party hosting company? Maybe the firm is switching from a traditional inhouse set-up to the cloud for the first time. If so, there are several cloud options for law firms to consider, which each have ramifications on timescales. So once the firm has decided whether cloud or on-premise is best for them, there is another Access Legal blog here that describes the different cloud options for law firms.

There are benefits to both cloud hosting and on-premise and it is a unique decision for every law firm. But the take up of cloud is far greater than on-premise these days. Gartner says that almost 66% of application software spend will be for cloud tech by 2025. Cloud computing is definitely the way the world is going, however, in 2022 a good software supplier will offer law firms both options.

  1. Integrations required

There is such a massive stack of third-party software tools available for law firms in today’s tech markets, most legal teams will want some kind of integration with their practice management software.  And all law firms have their favourites.

A good software supplier will be open to providing integration with some of the more important software applications your firm relies upon. Some integrations are simple, whilst of course others much more intricate, depending on the level required. Some firms require something as straight-forward as an interface between two pieces of software. Others require more in-depth integration, where the two applications are required to utilise a common database in real-time with minimal file duplication. Sometimes firms need to be able to extract and transfer data between a piece of third-party software and selected practice management software modules.

A good supplier will offer a wide range of integrations for your legal practice management software, providing more chance of your favourites being on the list. Access Legal offers over 100 integrations across their 3 legal practice management software packages, including: submission portals, court services, Government services, conveyancing searches, digital dictation, ID and verification checks, performance metrics, payments, postcode lookups, self-serve portals, SMS, CRM/marketing tools, complementary document and workflow tools, other legal accounts and finance systems.

  1. Data migration

When a law firm decides to switch over to brand new software from a system it has outgrown, there is the matter of the firm’s data to contend with. This is where a data migration is often necessary. Sometimes also referred to as a data conversion or a data transfer, there are several options for a firm to consider. Some legal software suppliers are easier to move away from others. The good news is a good legal software partner will have migrated data over from most law firm packages before, and they will be able to guide you to ensure it doesn’t hold up your implementation.

Read more about this matter in the following articles by Access Legal experts: “What is a legal accounts data conversion?” and “Eleven top tips for a successful law firm data conversion”.

  1. User buy-in

It goes without saying, that good user buy-in within the firm and the willingness of those involved to work with their supplier to get the job done plays a huge role in the success and speed of your implementation. Communication, planning and the right level of involvement of users at all levels is the key. There is an Access Legal blog on “Why don’t my fee earners want to use case management software?” that anyone at a law firm planning a software switch will find useful.

  1. Are the law firm’s users tech savvy?

How much training does the law firm need? Is the firm’s staff tech savvy? How much hand-holding will they need? Does the firm want to go the train the trainer route and share knowledge via super users across the firm. Would the managers at the law firm end prefer the supplier organises end user training? The answer to all these questions will affect the timescales of your firm’s implementation. Your software supplier is used to helping firms develop training plans that work.

  1. Software supplier demand

Finally, it’s sensible to take into account the demand for the software solution you have identified as the favourite for your law firm. Popular legal practice management software usually encounters high demand. Again, speak to your preferred supplier early. Share with them your ideal go-live dates. A good software partner, although probably busier than others, will bend over backwards to meet your timescales.