“There are some things I keep time for but don’t charge the client,” writes Mark for CoffeeShark’s blog, “Like breathing. Just kidding, I charge for that too. But I do charge different rates for different activities and I would like my practice management system to work with me on that.”
Mark’s not alone in that desire.
Attorneys need a lot from their software. Below I’ve done in-depth comparisons of five of the top law practice management software products aimed at sole proprietorships and small-to-medium sized firms. These solutions have been reviewed and written on, and I’ve consolidated this information into an easy-to-read comparison.
If you know what you want and are just interested in comparing features and pricing, the below chart is all you need. If you’d like more in-depth information, including the thoughts of other attorneys who’ve used the software, read on.
All law firm practice management software will automate and manage correspondence, documents, calendars, timekeeping, and billing for your clients. The differences are mainly in the extent to which the software can automate those tasks, how easy it is to use the software, customer service levels, and other features.
Here are six law practice software products and how they compare. Jurispage reviewed every software product on this list. Bless Andrew Cabasso’s heart, this rundown relies heavily on his research.
1. Amicus Cloud
The set-up screen, and overall user interface were great, according to Cabasso. It also features the best Microsoft integration.
While Amicus integrates perfectly with Microsoft Outlook, non-users will have to pay $10 per month to use the software. Gmail and Google Drive users are out of luck entirely. Amicus has no client portal, and obviously can’t accept online payments either. There’s no app for iPhone or Android, only Blackberry.
$45 per month per user. For an add-on email account, it’s another $10 per month if you don’t have Microsoft Exchange already set up.
This is a good solution for attorneys who really want an easy-to-use software with a billing app and Outlook integration, but don’t need much else.
Clio gets partial credit for its QuickBooks integration. “Successfully and efficiently using its Clio to Quickbooks export feature has been a nightmare,” wrote Rob at Lawyerist. To be fair, the consensus is that Quickbooks really doesn’t play well with any law practice software, though Mark at CoffeeShark was pleased with Clio’s Google Contacts import. “I had a fully functioning conflict checker within minutes,” he wrote.
In September, Clio announced a new integration partnership between Clio and the Fastcase legal research platform. Clio is the only practice-management software which integrates with Fastcase. This integration lets users “start a Fastcase session from Clio, start a Clio timer from Fastcase, and import Fastcase search results into Clio and save them directly to a matter. A separate Fastcase subscription is required.”
Clio’s timer is pretty advanced. You can pause the timer for one client, and start a separate timer for another client. This is helpful if, for example, you are working on one client’s case, and another calls. “This is a huge deal for any attorney trying to manage more than one client, which is all of us,” Mark wrote.
Cabasso was impressed by Clio’s ability to generate reports by client or revenue and run a report that tracks lawyer productivity by client. He also described the support as standout.
The walkthrough can be cumbersome, but necessary, since many features aren’t immediately obvious. Another huge drawback is that you can’t draft and send e-mails from Clio so it logs correspondence with each client, separated by matter.
Finally, Clio’s Social Media and Content Marketing Manager, Derek Bolen, told me Clio’s shortcomings included that it “lacks full-feature accounting” and has a calendar system which “isn’t as sophisticated as Google Calendar.” However, he added, Clio’s integration with three different kinds of accounting software, and integration with Google Calendar helps alleviate those problems.
Clio is currently the most widely-used law practice management tool. It’s got some great standout features, and not very many drawbacks.
$72 per month per user. $65 per user per month if paid annually.
The most interesting integration is the ability to track your registered mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service to see when it gets delivered.
The number and breadth of integrations (see chart) and free version are probably the most impressive thing about HoudiniEsq. Cabasso found HoudiniEsq fairly user-friendly, an assessment not every reviewer agreed with.
One fairly unique feature is that HoudiniEsq allows users to view multiple workspaces. You can have several screens with different matters opened up, and can toggle between them to work with fewer distractions. It also full-text indexes documents, email, and email attachments. Users can customize their case numbering scheme and automated workflows.
Mobile apps available.
Getting started isn’t the most user-friendly. Taking advantage of the free trial requires a large, somewhat complicated download. Plus you need a product key.
Free for individual users. Desktop version: $1,280 per 10 users for the one-time license fee. $7,992 for the license fee for up to 50 users. Plus $192 per year per user ($16 per month). Cloud-based version: $64 per user per month with no license fee.
This is probably only the best choice for sole proprietors, with no employees, who really want to not spend money and/or are very interested in a particular integration.
Side note: They appear to be experimenting with an interesting monetization scheme.
While it integrates with Google Calendar, MyCase won’t integrate with existing calendars on that platform. You must instead create a new one and transfer over all the information.
One great feature is the ability to link MyCase to your trust account and accept online payments from clients. The MyCase client portal allows clients to check on their cases and make payments from their iPhones and Androids through mobile apps. “While most law practice management apps are just for lawyers, the MyCase apps are also for clients,” writes one reviewer at Lawyerist, “Clients obviously don’t get to see all the information you do. They only get to see what you have shared with them, which mostly means documents and communications, but can include appointments, tasks, invoices, and anything else you can share in MyCase (i.e., most things).” I spoke with Sarah Bottorff, MyCase’s Director of Marketing. “The big thing is the ease of use,” Bottorff said. “The average solo practitioner or small law firm isn’t necessarily a techie.” With MyCase, “You don’t have to be a techie to have a great legal software that will help you with your practice.”
A report showing what you’ve earned from your client’s retainer/deposit makes it easier to comply with ethics rules.
MyCase’s workflow is particularly flexible: it allows you to create predefined lists of tasks and calendar events that you can apply to a matter.
One reviewer described MyCase’s document automation as “rudimentary.” Custom fields are similarly limited, with no ability to specify which fields should appear for particular matter types. This means every custom field appears every time for every contacts and matter.
Outlook integration requires you to have a separate folder for MyCase clients. And MyCase creates a separate MyCase calendar. “When you are starting with several thousand contacts, this is annoying as you must move the contacts into the MyCase folder before they will sync,” wrote a Lawyerist reviewer, “The Outlook Plugin will also forward emails automatically to your MyCase account, but the emails must then be manually linked to matters, limiting the value of this functionality. Syncing with Outlook was also quite slow.”
$49 per user per month (billed annually) or $59 per user per month (billed monthly). Sales tax may apply.
MyCase is less expensive than Clio, allows online payments, even through mobile, and offers the best workflow. The timer and document automation aren’t as robust as some, but for the non-tech savvy solo or small firm, it’s a solid choice.
Rocket Matter has all the standard integrations (see chart), but also plays well with LawPay.
Rocket Matter offers free user training 10x per week. Cabasso sat in on one, “The overview of Rocket Matter was great. They answered all my questions and showed me all of the main features of their case management software.”
Rocket matter allows you to prioritize tasks and assign them to other attorneys in your practice. You can capture time on the web, smartphone, or iPad. Clients can pay invoices in the brandable client portal. Batch billing saves time.
Trust accounting is easy with instant access to the status of your client funds and what is available for withdrawal. Cabasso describes Rocket Matter’s sync with Quickbooks as “seamless.”
Document merging saves you the time of re-creating documents you use often. Upload a form or template document and create empty fields in the documents. Rocket Matter will automatically fill these empty fields with your new clients’ saved information.
Lawsitesblog.com reported that Rocket Matter’s new iPad app is also quite impressive.
Rocket Matter can’t sync with your Outlook calendar. There is no “measure of categorization,” according to Naked Technologist.
$65 per user per month for the first user. Discounts are available for longer term-based payments. For instance, if you choose to pay quarterly, you get a 10% discount, and if you want to pay annually, you get a 15% discount.
Rocket Matter is easy to learn and easy to use. It’s main benefit is easy billing, so if that’s something you find yourself or your firm getting bogged down in, and not, say, finding documents and organizing matters, Rocket Matter is probably a good choice for you.
What doesn’t Time Matters integrate with? Quickbooks, NetDocuments, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook, Juris… and that’s just a start. Time Matters has a solid list options for whatever your preferences are. If you want to see more, check out their full list of integration options.
The comprehensive integrations are a great plus. Time Matters is cloud based and fully mobile optimized for both Android and iOS, which lets you access all of your work from anywhere. Multiple staff can access the same system to update the entire team on changes. The software also offers training tutorials so you aren’t left to figure out the system all by yourself. If that’s not quite enough for you, support is 24/7 and there’s a convenient site for how-tos and FAQs.
One reviewer suffered through a significant number of tech problems, including system crashes and PDFs not printing. No PDFs means no bills for many attorneys, so that’s no small matter. It also does not come in a Mac-friendly version, which is a deal breaker for many.
TimeMatters offers specific quotes by request.
With more than 250,000 users, it’s the most popular law practice management software out there, and there’s a reason for that. It’s comprehensive software that’s robust enough for large firms and offers a decent level of pick-and-choose customization so you can access all the features you need.
If you’ve used Time Matters, you can review it here.
Some of the fairly modern and unique integrations PracticePanther has include Gmail, Google Calendar, DropBox, and PayPal. They also feature the more traditional Outlook, Microsoft Office, and Quickbooks.
PracticePanther has an autosave function for your documents and read receipts on all invoices. Mobile-optimized, PracticePanther allows more functionality than the average mobile LPM app, since it allows you to search for specific documents on mobile. If you have multiple lawyers or paralegals who work at different rates, you can track them all to those different price points.
The software is lighter than some other LPMs, so it may not be comprehensive enough for a larger firm. If you’re not charging hourly, you don’t have much reason to use PracticePanther, as their flat-fee billing is much less user-friendly.
Starts at $39 per user per month, billed annually. If you want to pay month to month, price goes up to $49.
Excellent for a small firm, solo, or freelance lawyer who needs to track time and manage their billing without breaking the bank. Reviewers are seriously enamoured with PracticePanther.
If you’ve used PracticePanther, you can review it here.
What features are most important to you in a law practice management software product? How do you think these solutions stack up to one another? Add your thoughts in the comments!
Looking for Law Practice Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Law Practice Management software solutions.