New Software Choices: Get involved, get the training!

Published On: November 4, 2021

In the legal market there are numerous pieces of software available which all have certain features and nuances that make them all slightly different. We are not in a market that can simply rely on a Sage, Quickbooks or a Xero due to the number of regulatory requirements surrounding client money and how ledgers should be presented. This has resulted in a magnitude of different case management and accounts systems coming to market over the years.

With this, brings an inevitability that law firms will change their provider more regularly than other industries. Software houses are making ongoing developments constantly, some that benefit specific areas of law, some that benefit the accounts department and some that benefit the firm as-a-whole. Solicitors’ practices are more live to these improvements that they were historically, and many seek to be at the forefront of these developments.

Historically, the main area of focus for legal software was the accounts department. Legal software companies knew that most solicitors ran a paper file, but the accounts were electronic. It was therefore often the cashier having the final say on a choice of software. The process now is very different. Software companies are concentrating on the solicitors’ working practices and operation of digital filing and electronic, paperless or paper-lite working. This switch of focus means that the accounts department is sometimes overlooked or given minimal training and demo time when it comes to the sale and post-sale of software. This is a trap that cashiers can easily fall into.

My recommendation is that the cashier/accounts department is heavily involved in any software choice from the beginning. They need to be part of the search for software and be involved in all the demonstrations. It is crucial that the software works well for the accounts department and the choice does not result in extra time having to be spent doing the same job. Any upgrade in software should provide efficiencies for all areas of the practice.

I also recommend that the accounts staff make the most of the training that is provided after sale. Spend the time to learn about all the features of the software surrounding the accounting function. Seek out where time savings can be made and see if it is possible to “work smarter” on the new package. There may be built in accounts slips/requisitions, bank statement upload functions, fast ways of bulk reporting at period ends or even integrations with companies such as search providers which can be made use of by the fee earners which in turn speed up the accounts process. For legal aid firms there are even pieces of software that link to the LAA website allowing for the monthly submissions to be uploaded through it directly, saving masses of time manually entering outcomes on the LAA portal.

The change to a piece of new software should be a three-stage process for the accounts department:

1 – Research: Make yourself available to research alternatives and be at the demonstrations. Question the sales representatives and understand how the core functions work for each one. Look into whether the software suits the area of law that the firm is practicing because what affects the fee-earners will affect the accounts department at the end when it’s time to handle the transactions.

2 – Get the training: Once the software has been chosen, interrogate it further and work closely with the trainers to ensure that you can maximise your use of it and all its functions.

3 – Use it: If the functionality can help you save time, then make use of it. Don’t stick to a process because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Change how you work slightly to benefit from the new features and make your job easier. Use the new software to “work smarter, not harder”. Then have a look at how other staff use it and make suggestions for them to use the new features too. If everyone is making the most of the software that the firm is paying for then the firm overall will benefit from greater efficiencies.

The accounts department should always be at the heart of any software decision and one that is open to change and learning how to benefit from those changes will help make that decision the right one.


Alex Simons – New Business Manager
The Law Factory LLP