Options and Strategies for the best PCLaw Support.
PCLaw, by LexisNexis, is a legal practice management and accounting software application. PCLaw has robust billing and accounting (or “back-office”) functionality, and great, lightweight case, client and calendar management (or “front-office”) functionality. Its very popular in both the US and Canada, both because of its maturity and market share–and because of its ease of use and get-up-and-running-quickly nature of the software. Beyond that, it has a broad community of third-party consultants and technology providers that can implement the software, train your team on its use and even: do your bookkeeping for you. But between LexisNexis, the community of PCLaw consultants, IT consultants: it can be confusing to determine how to best get PCLaw support. Who should you call when you need PCLaw support? What about training? What about hosting?
In this post, we’ll cover your options and offer strategies to get the best PCLaw Support.
Related: PCLaw – an Uptime Review
The LexisNexis Software Ecosystem
First, a quick review of where PCLaw lives in the world of legal software. LexisNexis has a portfolio of legal software products designed to meet the needs of a variety of sizes and types of law firms. Not every law practice needs every feature of every application–and to that end LexisNexis offers a variety of products that meet different needs and work together. For example, many law firms like the heavy-duty accounting coupled with lightweight, simple Practice Management of PCLaw… but not all law firms. Some law firms need more in-depth features for managing their cases: Things like rules-based calendaring (docketing), document/form assembly and custom matter screens. Time Matters is another popular LexisNexis product that doesn’t do any accounting–but it does have more granularity and rich functionality within case management. And so: PCLaw can also work with Time Matters, as a pair, in a front-office/back-office configuration.
For all of PCLaw’s deep functionality within time tracking, billing, business accounting, trust accounting: Its still very easy to setup and begin using. PCLaw doesn’t allow for much in the way of customization: And that’s what a lot of law firms like about it. You can install it and begin using it within minutes: It does what it does well, and doesn’t try to do more. And if you’re familiar with basic bookkeeping and accounting: You can setup your own chart of accounts, billing tiers (and so forth) without the need for any outside help. This makes PCLaw attractive to many small and midsize law firms.
But Then What?
Despite this ease-of-entry, LexisNexis does understand that you still may need or want support at some point in your firm’s lifecycle. Maybe you need just a little hand-holding as you first implement PCLaw. Or maybe you need to convert to PCLaw from a different case management system. Or–maybe you’d like an outsourced person to handle of of your billing and bookkeeping for you. For that, and to address the broader challenge of providing a broad scope of support options to consumers of LexisNexis software products, LexisNexis developed their Certified Independent Consultant (CIC) program. Within this program, software and IT experts can become trained and certified on LexisNexis products, such as PCLaw.
PCLaw is owned and sold by LexisNexis. You can buy it directly from LexisNexis, or from a Certified Independent Consultant, as described above. Once you have it, you’ll need to (a) if you’ll need any outside help setting it up and/or on an ongoing basis, then (b) determine who is best suited to help you, and finally (c) where to host it (on your law firm’s servers or in a private cloud).
You’ll also want to subscribe to the PCLaw Annual Maintenance Plan (AMP), an annual subscription that gives you access to the latest version and updates for PCLaw, as well as support and training resources.
PCLaw Support Options
As a user of PCLaw , you have three distinct avenues for obtaining PCLaw support. You can use one or any combination of the three, depending on how your firm uses PCLaw and the level of support your firm needs.
When you purchase PCLaw and keep up your Annual Maintenance Plan (AMP), you are entitled to product support directly from LexisNexis. This support includes help desk support and access to the PCLaw online knowledge base and training materials. This PCLaw support option is a good fit when your firm’s support needs are occasional, and are usually limited to “how do I” questions or quick fixes. Especially considering its included int he cost of your AMP–I always recommend a firm take advantage of this method, in addition to others as necessary.
2. Certified Independent Consultants (CIC’s)
As I described earlier, there are also many third-party consulting and professional service groups out there: LexisNexis’s network of Certified Independent Consultants. These are legal software and technology professionals that have obtained the training and certification necessary to implement, support and (in some cases) provide accounting work for and in PCLaw. CIC’s are sometimes consulting firms, sometimes independent/solo consultants. CIC’s often excel at more of the in-depth, hands-on PCLaw support services, especially implementing PCLaw into your firm’s processes and workflow. While day-to-day support for PCLaw is provided by LexisNexis as part of an AMP–many law firms still retain their CIC to provide PCLaw support exclusively, even though they’re entitled to support from LexisNexis directly.
CIC’s do charge for their service (and its worth it), so be sure to budget accordingly.
3. Private Cloud
Finally, there’s a private cloud. A private cloud is the (often better) alternative to owning and managing onsite servers and IT. A private cloud will host your PCLaw, other legal apps, documents and email on a single system that your firm can access anywhere… all without the headaches of managing onsite IT. The right legal-centric private cloud platform will be engineered specifically to host PCLaw , and all necessary PCLaw support, updates and maintenance will be included in the service.
A legal-centric Private Cloud is a good fit if your firm needs to be mobile, needs the enhanced security of the Cloud, wants to get out of the business of managing server and It, and: wants their IT, hosting and PCLaw support rolled into a single package, delivered by a single provider. The right private cloud platform will include:
- PCLaw hosting, maintenance (including software updates) and support
- Hosting for your other legal and business software
- Microsoft Office – built-in, for each user
- Exchange email – for each user
- Unlimited IT and software support
- Local antivirus and network support
- Storage for your PCLaw database, documents and other data
- SQL Server – required by the latest version of PCLaw
Related: PCLaw is Moving to SQL
A legal-centric private cloud solution is a great fit for many law firms. A word of advice, should you go down this path: Make sure your chosen private cloud vendor is authorized to host PCLaw and has experience hosting, supporting and maintaining the software.
Closing the Loop
Again, I’m not necessarily saying that any one of these options are better than the others–in fact your PCLaw support strategy may contain a combination of two or all three of these options. It really does come down the specific needs of your law firm. I encourage you to explore your options. Talk to one or more LexisNexis Certified Independent Consultants. Talk to one or more Private Cloud providers. Do more research online, or talk to colleagues of yours that also use PCLaw .
Good luck–whatever strategy you develop for PCLaw support.