What was once a relatively short list of law practice management software is now a crowded space full of many different applications and vendors, all vying for your firm’s attention. In 2021, you have more options than ever when it comes to finding the right software to help you manage your law practice.
It can be overwhelming for many firms that are just beginning their search for case management software. Fortunately: we’ve got you covered.
We work closely with hundreds of law firms across North America, and in doing so have had hundreds of conversations about law practice management software. What do firms like? What do they not like? What systems are they moving to?
From cloud-based, to server/desktop-based, from case management to billing and accounting: This list outlines the most used, best law practice management software for law firms in 2021.
Types of Legal Software
First, a quick sidebar:
Law firm software comes with lots of labels, classifications, some of which can be broad, overlapping and outright vague. In general, law firm software comes in three distinct categories:
Practice Management – Time, Billing, Client/Contact Management, Calendaring, Docketing, Form Generation.
Accounting – Business Accounting, Trust Accounting, GL / AR / AP, Financial Reporting.
Again: In general. There are certainly software products that focus primarily on one of these three classifications, but dabble in another. For instance, Time Matters is generally thought of as a Practice Management application, but it has many trappings of a Document Management platform. Similarly, PCLaw and CosmoLex are both Practice Management systems with full-fledged, integrated accounting.
We’re often asked: “What is the best law practice management software?” That’s a bit like asking what the best kind of car is. The answer, of course, depends on what your needs are.
For instance, some law practice management solutions focus heavily on accounting; but if your firm already has accounting software its committed to, that focus is meaningless to you. Other case management solutions focus on document and form creation, a must-have for some law firms, but not all.
We recommend that ever law firm searching for law practice management software start by identifying what features and functions are most important to you. This will help you narrow down the (long) list of suitors, and will provide a framework you can hold each option against.
Here is a description of features found in certain law practice management applications.
Law Practice Management Software – A Guide to Features
Law Practice Management software is a platform that, to varying degrees, manages each aspect of your law firm. The scope, features and capabilities of any given Law Practice Management application varies from product to product; though broadly speaking, LPM software performs the following functions.
Client & Contact Management A central database to store information for clients, courts, related parties and other contacts.
Matter Management A central database of matters, cases and projects. Stores the most relevant information pertaining to each matter.
Calendaring Individual calendars for each user, along with an aggregated, firm-wide view/calendar. Synchronization with Outlook calendar.
Task Management Create tasks and to-do items pertaining to specific matters or projects. Assign tasks and set deadlines.
Time & Expense Tracking Track billable hours and related expenses for a particular client or matter.
Billing Invoicing, including for billable hours, contingency work, and fixed-fee matters.
Conflict Checking Search the database for related names, document each conflict check.
Business Accounting Standard business accounting, including a Chart of Accounts, Bank/Operating Accounts, standard accounting reports (P&L, Balance Sheet).
Trust Accounting Trust/IOLTA accounting for management of trust funds, including trust account reporting.
Document Assembly/Automation Automatic preparation and population of specific court documents and forms.
Document Storage Built-in cloud storage for related documents and files.
Document Management Advanced document management including full-text search, document tagging & profiling, and version management.
Email Management The ability to save emails to specific matters, via Outlook integration.
Mobile App An Android or iPhone application for time entry and some subset of software functionality.
Client Portal A client-facing online portal to share documents and updates with clients and other third-parties.
Open API An open API (Application Program Interface), allowing you or third-parties to develop integrations with the software.
We recommend saving this list and checking the box next to each feature that you know your law firm needs.
Next, we’ll provide an overview of the top law practice management software used by law firms today. For each application you can read the full profile and review to dive deeper into those applications that catch your eye.
The Top Law Practice Management Software - Our List
The Top 15 Law Practice Management Applications
In our extensive experience working with hundreds of law firms, here is our list of the best law practice management software (in no particular order).
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Related: Private Cloud for Law Firms
Best Law Practice Management Software
We’ve organized the list of Law Practice Management software into two broad categories:
Private Cloud / On-Premise: Can be hosted in a private cloud or run on-premise.
Web-based: Natively web-based (SaaS) and runs in a web browser.
Private Cloud / On-Premise
Private Cloud / Server-Based
PCLaw is a popular, long-standing practice management, billing and accounting solution for small and midsize law firms. It includes lightweight practice management (clients, cases and calendars), coupled with robust time tracking, billing and accounting (including robust financial reporting). PCLaw is one of the few all-in-one solutions that doesn’t require separate software for bookkeeping and accounting.
Rapid Setup: Easy to Implement Without a Consultant
Tabs3 and its counterpart, PracticeMaster, are a suite of robust case management, billing and accounting solutions for law firms. Tabs3 provides essential “back-office” functionality including time, billing and accounting; PracticeMaster provides powerful “front-office” capabilities including client and matter management.
ProLaw is robust practice management, document management and accounting software for law firms. It’s the only legal software platform that includes all three of these main pillars to running a law practice.
Time Matters is a long-standing, popular Practice Management and Document Management solution. Time Matters is unique in it’s mix of LPM and DMS capabilities, a well as being one of the most customizable practice management products on the market.
Deep Customization (Reports, Workflows, Dashboards)
Aderant provides a suite of time, billing and law practice management software for law firms. Aderant Total Office and Aderant Expert are premise-based time, billing and accounting platforms for law firms that can be hosted in a private cloud.
LEAP is possibly the most robust of the web-based law practice management applications. It provides time, billing, client and matter management and calendaring. Where LEAP really shines is its comprehensive library of state and federal forms (document automation).
Clio Manage is among the most popular cloud-based legal practice management solutions. Clio is best suited for solo and small law firms, and law firms that are looking for a more lightweight law practice management solution. Clio is well known for its streamlined interface, simple navigation and overall ease of use.
CosmoLex is a cloud-based law practice management and accounting solution. It includes client and matter management, time, billing, business accounting and trust/IOLTA accounting, thereby eliminating the need for QuickBooks or other accounting software.
Integrated, full-fledged Business and Trust Accounting
Rocket Matter was among the first, and is a popular cloud-based law practice management solution. Rocket Matter allows your firm to manage cases, time, billing and calendars. Rocket Matter takes a project management-esque approach to matter management.
What started as a stand-alone time and billing application, Bill4Time is now a full-fledged law practice management solution. It provides robust time and billing, matter management, ABA and LEDES billing codes and trust/IOLTA accounting.
Centerbase is a cloud-based Law Practice Management system. It boasts time and billing, case and client management, and full-fledged accounting. Centerbase is arguably one of the most customizable LPM applications, though that customization may require an outside consultant.
Firm Central is a law practice management application made by Thomson Reuters, the makers of WestLaw legal research. The application has been around for some time, and naturally integrates with the WestLaw web site.
In this article, we’ve covered the best law practice management software. In addition, your firm may also need specialized Document Management or Legal Accounting software. If so, you’re encouraged to review our other lists of the best software for law firms.
Looking for other legal software? Read our other top software lists:
About the Author: Dennis Dimka Dennis Dimka is the CEO and founder of Uptime Legal Systems, North America's leading provider of technology, cloud and marketing services to law firms. Under Dennis’ leadership, Uptime Legal has grown organically and through acquisitions to become the nationally-recognized legal technology company it is today. Uptime Legal continues to innovate and disrupt the legal technology space, and has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private for the past six consecutive years. Dennis was also an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.
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