by Andrea Foot*

For the last decade or so, all in one practice management systems (PMS) have been the most practical technology choice for mid-tier law firms.  But let’s face it, there is no ‘one stop shop’ when it comes to practice management systems. Different types of work require different types of solutions.  Plus, with the invention of cloud and SaaS, to name but a few new trends, mid-tier firms now have access to the same best-of-breed solutions as the big legal players. What does this mean? Well it’s simple really. You can now take your already functionally rich practice and case management system and layer on top other integrated technologies, delivered in the way you want, to achieve business continuity and ultimately power-up your PMS!

When I think about a PMS, I think of them as the Swiss army knives of technology. Typically they do legal accounting, timesheets, a bit of CRM, some knowledge management, maybe some workflow and document assembly. Basically your everyday business needs are catered for. However what happens when you want to build your competitive advantage, your reputation and take your business forward in new and interesting ways? You will find as you start to ponder this question, that there will be things you want to achieve that your PMS can’t address.  Why? Put simply it wasn’t built that way.  Fast forward to today and you have so many options at your fingertips.  Cloud technology for example offers a lot more options. So don’t abandon your PMS, add to it, make it better and use modern technology to do this. And cloud for me sits at number one.


What’s so great about cloud? Well it has a number of useful characteristics that make all kinds of difference for mid-tier firms. Probably among the most important is cost. Cloud brings with it the capacity to simply login and you’re off. It takes out the bit where the firm has to provision servers, load software, reload software whenever there’s an update, and make a big, up-front payment to buy in a solution.

With cloud there are no more unwieldy IT installation projects to fight through, no more long-winded training to drag staff to. No more costs of any of the above. The firm simply pays a per-user subscription fee to access an intuitive service that sits in the cloud. No CAPEX, only OPEX – and its highly scalable. Your subscription numbers can grow and shrink month by month so you’re hardly ever paying for capacity you don’t use. Cloud therefore puts much better solutions within financial reach. (I’ll get on to the ‘much better’ bit later on.)


One concern cloudophobes felt was that cloud is inherently less secure than keeping your data on the ground, in-house.  If this was true in the early days of cloud technology, it’s fantastically out of date now. In reality no one law firm, no matter how large, could possibly invest the millions in information security and encryption that the big cloud providers do. Yes, information security is rightly a huge issue, and your clients have the right to ask probing questions about it. But you can assure them that the cloud solutions that we advocate are not only used by some of world’s biggest financial institutions, they are subject to on-going certification of their compliance.


The final piece of the jigsaw is that you’ll recall I said cloud would give you more flexibility. Because actually there’d be no point in changing anything just because it’s affordable or technically doable if it wasn’t going to make improvements. But it will.

And be in no doubt, by the way, that these improvements matter. On the one hand, it’s a little about expectations and a little about usability. Lawyers use tech in their lives outside of work: slick, intuitive tech with consumer grade interfaces. It creates an expectation about how technology can be, how pleasurable it can be to interact with. It lowers the tolerance bar when they’re back at work dealing with systems that are convoluted and slow. It also demonstrates that the tech needed to work remotely does exist.

On the other hand, the gains could be about productivity and profit. Broadly speaking, the more automation and engagement you can get with technology the more productivity the firm can generate. This ultimately has an impact on the bottom line. So a better solution can also do your profits the world of good.

With agility top of the agenda for most firms it stands to reason that layering on cloud based apps offers more flexibility than you have in just your PMS alone. Plus a dedicated cloud app vendor – in my mind’s eye I’m thinking here of NetDocuments – you have a relatively large vendor, with a big team of developers, and all they ever do, day in and day out, is work to make their one, single, sole product better.  So adding this best-of-breed technology to your PMS ecosystem really is a winner!


I’m going to conclude by focusing now on the difference that one big app can make to the average mid-tier firm. And I’m picking a document management system (DMS). This is because a great DMS makes a big impact. After all, people in law firms create documents and send emails all day long.

Introducing a top of the range DMS, such as NetDocuments, will radically reduce the effort of storing and retrieving those documents. A huge proportion – up to 75 per cent – of information is now in emails. These can be automatically filed where they ought to go. The system thus creates electronic files that are robust, complete, and completely reliable.

Better yet, data is stored in a particular way which enables sophisticated linking, extensive reporting and advanced searching. This includes fully text indexing of all of your documents, emails and attachments – something that case management systems haven’t been great at historically. It can greatly reduce the time spent just chasing down information and documents, and the frustration that goes along with it. It keeps growing too, with predictive email filing providing one-click saving provided by clever analysis of your email as you type it.

In addition, the top performing DMS introduce the ability to share documents with clients in a secure environment. And the ability for documents to be encrypted and accessed on your mobile devices. It could help the firm introduce genuine remote working. Demonstrably a cloud-based DMS can move you onto a whole different level of functionality, leading to happier lawyers, happier clients and a happier firm.

It turns out that the 2018 Bugatti Veyron is the most expensive new car in the world. For your money you’ll get some nice stuff: calfskin trim, a high end stereo, a quad turbo eight litre V16 engine with a top speed of 250 mph. But the chances are you can’t really afford to spend $1.3m on a ride this nice.

My point is that when it comes to a top of the range DMS, you can afford it.  And if it works with your PMS, seamlessly passing that data to and from the case management system that’s a game changer! What we might call the Bugatti Veyron of DMS is a purchase that’s now totally within the reach of every mid-tier firm and gives you that flexibility and agility you’ve been craving!

*Andrea Foot is the General Manager in Australia of Tikit Ltd, a world-leader in technology solutions for law firms. Andrea has worked with firms large and small in the UK, North America and APAC to help them find and get the best from technology solutions.