UK: Legal Software – Decision Time

Last Updated: 18 February 2009
Article by Select Legal Systems Limited

The UK is facing its worst recession in living memory. Across the country, companies in all sectors are shedding staff and taking a hard look at the way they do business. In the legal profession, the statistics make uncomfortable reading. According to The Law Society, 1,240 law firms are in 'financial intensive care'; more than 1,000 legal jobs have been cut in Top 100 firms, customer attrition is on the rise across the board and it's likely that large corporates will take back a substantial proportion of their outsourced legal work over the coming year. Coupled with clients that are becoming more discerning, more willing to shop around and more likely to choose a firm on the basis of price, regardless of quality, the outlook does seem bleak.

No Choice?

Alongside the economic realities of the downturn, law firms and sole practitioners also face another threat. Legal software company mergers and buy-outs mean that thousands of practices are using software that is about to become unsupported or even obsolete. The choice for these firms is stark: Upgrade now for a solution you did not choose in the first place with all the associated disruption and potential loss of income, unbillable hours, retraining, uncertainty, unhappy employees and lost information or cross your fingers and run your current system until it becomes unsupported – or until it's too late.

David Taylor, Partnership Secretary at Cozens-Hardy LLP in Norwich says: "In that situation, my main concern would be losing the continuity of support and continuity of product development. It takes time to build up a relationship with a supplier - for them to understand your culture and business. If you've used their software for many years, to be faced with that uncertainty, the potential lack of upgrades or the slow deterioration of service, that would make me start losing confidence in the whole system. And after that there's no real option but to change."

Your Most Valuable Asset

Legal software has a profound effect on the way you do business. It's the backbone of your business. Employees are used to using a certain software package and that package affects the way they work; streamlining processes; controlling workloads and helping to deliver targets. Your software is in many ways your most important member of staff.

"Legal software is totally integral to the success - or otherwise - of any practice," says David Taylor. "It's very hard to imagine how you could function at all without it. Handling thousands of new cases a year - and dealing with a wide variety of transaction types - would be totally impossible without our system. I estimate we can handle several times the volume of work with the same number of staff. Plus it allows us to keep a tight rein on management information; where as at one time you would look at the books at the end of the year and find out if you made a profit, now you can measure key financial indicators every day or even hour."

But what if you want to change software? What are the problems? Most employees do not want to change, nor do they want to be retrained. But if you're having new software forced onto you – without choice - that only makes this problem even worse. People without a choice or a voice tend to begrudge any new system, no matter how effective it is. Unhappy people are inefficient; they handle change badly and become de-motivated. Couple that with the inevitable disruption and you could see profits fall when you can least afford it.

Practice Management Opportunity

But is it all gloom and doom? Is changing software always such a bad idea? Can change actually help you work your way through the recession and take back control? It can if you choose a software package that's superior to your current system, one that will help you emerge stronger and fitter. We all know that recession can be a distinct opportunity. One that forces you to make the long-term efficiencies you need to not only survive but to be in the perfect position to grow, expand and capitalise once we hit the bottom. And the right legal software, with the right customer service can help you beat the downturn. But only if you act now.

John Britten is Chief Executive of Actons in Nottingham. John says: "During a downturn, at a time when it's likely a firm will be less busy, it's important to use your time effectively to look carefully and in detail at all your systems and processes. A quality legal software system helps you make the best use of time and manpower. It can help you establish where you can make savings, which in the longer-term will allow you to become more efficient and better able to compete."

Select Legal: Award-Winning Software & Service

The LAWFUSIONTM Practice Management System is a 100% Microsoft Windows compatible product, fully compliant with the Law Society Solicitors Accounts Rules and the LEXCEL standard. The software also meets the LSC LAFQAS requirements to provide a comprehensive legal Accounting suite and can be implemented as a stand-alone or integrated solution suitable for any size of legal practice including small firms, high street practices or larger regional multi-branch law firms.

Voted number one for Customer Satisfaction in the 2008 Law Society Guide and Best of the Best of Breed in the Law Society Software Guide 2007, Select Legal advanced software automates all your processes, centralising them around one database, reducing operating costs, and increasing turnover and profit.

Actons has been using Select Legal software for more than 10 years. "Select Legal are good people to work with," says John Britten. "I particularly like the fact that I can talk to a Director, and whoever you contact they never treat you like you're just a number. They're hands-on and professional. If we have a problem they reply quickly – they're very efficient. Their customer service combined with the reliability of their software, which is bug-free and very resilient, means that I have total confidence in the system. In these difficult economic times, it's one less thing to worry about."

Cozens-Hardy has used Select Legal software since 2001. "I've been very impressed with Select Legal," says David Taylor. "I have total confidence in the system. It's highly robust; doesn't fall over and is not prone to system failures. It just goes on working day in and day out. It does exactly what it's supposed to do: and that is what Partners and Solicitors need most considering all the other pressures they face."

David is equally impressed with Select Legal's customer service. "Select Legal don't over promise and they always deliver. Their customer service is excellent, they're quick to reply and they take note of longer-term issues and always integrate them into upgrades. They also offer a holistic service – helping us on the hardware side, integrating the two when we did a recent server upgrade. They are very constructive and very helpful – nice people – which is a important factor when you're under pressure. Select Legal really do deliver an excellent all round service."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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