The first implementation issue to consider is the adequacy and relationship of the host or central processing hardware (server), workstations, switches and other devices, to your network or information management environment.
You may choose to run Perfect Practice on the “Cloud”, purchase or lease a new server, dedicate an existing server for Perfect Practice® operations. Some clients choose to host Perfect Practice® on off-site or remote servers. You may elect to have end-users connect to Perfect Practice® by direct connection, via terminal server or other remote connection option, such as VNC.
Perfect Practice® is totally compatible with virtual servers, such as VMWare®. We use virtual servers internally and on the “Cloud”. Performance will vary depending on your specific configuration.
Software performance is affected by processor speed and memory. Technical specifications provide the minimum recommended hardware configuration required to successfully operate your Perfect Practice® software. Minimum recommended specifications are just that, minimum. You may not be happy with the performance of a minimally configured system since optimal performance criteria are only a part of the operating environment. The number of users, shared applications or processes, security (to include anti-virus and anti-malware software), encryption and back-up routines all must be considered.
Our system experts will be happy to discuss your specific environment with you.
Adkins’ 10 Tips for Successfully Implementing Case Management Systems
Finally, a case management system is only as good as the people that use it, the data it contains, and the software’s ability to use that data. Because I have been in this industry for twenty years, and because this is the end of the book, I offer my experience in working with case and matter management systems:
- Commitment from the top. The head honcho in the law firm or law department (or the managing partner) must maintain positive control and push the project to a successful conclusion. This commitment includes providing downtime to lawyers and staff to come up to speed on the system. Management and associates are the team leaders; if they do not participate and lead the effort by example, do you think the staff will get the job done?
- Assign a dedicated decision maker to the project. Decisions for a case management system for the entire organization should not be left up to a single person. However, not everyone can take the time to learn everything about the process. Assign a dedicated partner to the project; there is enough of an investment in financial value and productivity value to warrant a decision maker on the team.
- Know your manual system first. Law firms and law departments with an existing organized manual system for case management that uses checklists and ticklers will find the automated system easier to implement than those who do not have a good manual system in place. Remember, you cannot automate CHAOS.
- Do your homework. It pays to know what your organization’s needs are and how a case management system can help improve the work environment. Armed with knowledge about your needs, you will know the difference between a case management system sales person who wants to sell you a system versus one who thinks you need one.
- Develop an implementation plan and stick with it. The implementation plan provides you with a road map of what gets done, when it gets done, and who does the work. It helps with not only planning the case management system implementation, but also plans the lawyers and staff time during the transition.
- Work with the developers before, during and after. The developers know how the software works and have implemented their system in many different types and sizes of law firm and law department environments. Their experience is invaluable, so listen to their suggestions and take their advice.
- Training, training, and more training. Training is essential in any new software application, especially case management systems. Users should not only have initial training, but continuous training. Use the ideas and information gathered from the internal user groups. Plan for one day of training for lawyers and one to two days of training for legal assistants and paralegals.
- Know the paradigm shift is coming. There is no doubt that using a case management system will change the way your lawyers and staff practice law. Know that there will be a transition, there will be a paradigm shift, and know how to recognize it, and what to do.
- User groups—before, during and after. User groups help to bring internal support to the organization. These sessions are not only helpful to the user group, but information and ideas developed in one group can be used to help spawn other ideas in other groups.
- Everyone uses the system. If only a few folks use the system, someone is not a team player and you cannot take advantage of the shared information environment. There will always be information missing in the system if some people are exempt from using it. Case management systems are most effective when used by both lawyers and support staff.
The preceding article was written by Andrew Z. Adkins, III, and appeared in his book THE LAWYER’S GUIDE TO PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS SOFTWARE, published by the American Bar Association in 2009. It appears here with the permission of the author. Mr. Adkins is the former publisher of The Internet Lawyer, former Director of the Legal Technology Institute at the University of Florida, and President of Legal Technology Institute since July 2010.
Perfect Practice Case Management integrated with Time and Billing provides your firm a solid foundation for your entire practice or business management needs. You can customize our solution as you evolve, giving your firm one solution to handle all your case management needs.
Our flagship solution Total Access is a fully integrated case management, time and billing, document management and document generation solution offering a total approach to practice or business automation including:
- Full featured case management
- Comprehensive billing and accounting
- Document Management & Document Assembly
- Scheduler (a firm wide fully integrated calendaring solution)
- Perfect Practice® Notify another Perfect Practice innovation
The basic Perfect Practice® program and database are typically downloaded to the client’s designated server by a support technician at Perfect Practice®, after the client registers for such downloads. The installation process takes about one hour and includes post-installation testing. The database is loaded onto your designated server. Program files are installed to the workstations. Once the first workstation installation is accomplished, subsequent workstations are accomplished by simply browsing to the installation file on the server. If you are going to utilize Docutrac® document merging, installation of an appropriate macro is also required on the workstations.
Once your Perfect Practice® system is installed, it will be fully operational and you are ready to enter data, however we recommend a planning session with your project manager before you start.
Subsequent Perfect Practice® program updates will be run on the server and the workstations will automatically be updated.
The ideal project team is a mix of leaders and users drawn from your workforce, all aware of your objectives and – to a lesser degree – aware of your current situation and why or how change is desired/required. When you purchases a block of time for implementation or support, Perfect Practice® provides a qualified project manager who is supported by other Perfect Practice® personnel in the training, support and programming departments. The role of the project manager is to facilitate the implementation and make recommendations to your team regarding options or alternative approaches to meet your requirements and preferences.
Your representatives on the project team should include at least one decision-maker with the authority to bind or commit the practice or business, to a course of action. This may be a partner/shareholder with personal knowledge either of a related functional area, or one already charged with responsibility for a practice area directly impacted by the implementation of Perfect Practice®, or someone with IT or practice management responsibilities.
Other project team members should include both leaders or centers of influence as well as key end-users from staff sections or groups likely to be critical to a successful implementation.
Beginning with the initial planning session, your project manager will work with your representatives to develop a strategy for implementation that meets your needs and objectives. Your priorities and preferences must be identified, and estimates of the sequence of tasks as well as the investment in time and dollars will be critically examined. One of the essential elements to define is the cost of delay. If implementation is expected to save the firm X dollars or Y hours (labor cost) per month, then how does deferring training – or other elements – affect the firm’s overall objectives?
Keep in mind, if you don’t use your time wisely, you may run over budget! We don’t mind helping with whatever requirements you may have, but there may be an impact to the overall project budget and implementation time. Of course you can buy additional hours whenever needed. A substantial pre-paid discount is available and encouraged.
As implementation proceeds with the organization of data and development of efficient processes, you need to determine which users should have rights or restrictions to specific screens, fields or reports. Perfect Practice® can modify rights for any individual or group of users to permit or deny access, change/edits or even visibility to a process, a screen or a specific field of information.
Part of your implementation planning will be to designate groups of users and what their access should be. Rights are cumulative. A specific user has all the rights assigned to any group of which they are a member.
Your security restrictions should be in place BEFORE you start entering data or going live!
Each implementation is essentially unique. This does not mean that every task requires custom services, but it does mean that a multitude of decisions will need to be made during implementation. Each client may take a different approach or express a different opinion as to who may access specific data/information, or how a particular process should be organized in terms of sequential actions and timelines.
You need to think about what will save you and/or your staff time or money. Customization is the gift that keeps on giving! Automating one process may allow you to reassign one or more staff members to more productive tasks. It can also save the headache of incomplete data being used for documents, etc. Many practices and business have full time staff assigned to simply fill out information on their client’s web sites. Why enter the same data again and again. These are perfect customization opportunities for automating a process.
Another example would be using the Perfect Practice® custom desktop to give each category of users the features they need on a daily basis. That way they won’t have to know that any other options even exist. Each function they need during the day can be organized so the appropriate screen is at their fingertips.
Our preferred strategy is to “train the trainer” from among the trusted staff at your practice or business. In that way, the key users are trained during the implementation phase when decisions are made regarding new processes. After implementation is complete, the firm’s investment of time at the outset allows current and future end-users to have ready access to knowledgeable individuals already familiar with both the current and modified processes and goals of the business.
Training takes many forms and exploits the many advantages of technology. A variety of online materials – help articles, videos and examples – are available to all users. Skilled trainers are available for scheduled sessions online, at client sites, or at the offices of Perfect Practice® in Orlando.
Training with representatives of Perfect Practice® requires payment in advance. Online training materials (video or text) are provided at no additional cost. We encourage clients to permit training sessions to be recorded, so that we can provided a copy of any customized training free of charge for re-use by the client.
Training/support hours purchased in advance offer substantial discounts and do not expire at arbitrary dates/intervals.
Standard training syllabus
Over nearly 30 thirty years, Perfect Practice® has developed detail training plans to cover all the features offered in Case Management, Time and Billing (Accounting) and specialized areas such as budgeting, bank reconciliation and trust management. These courses of instruction can be adjusted to meet your priorities and budget. The optimum course of 60 hours can be reduced to 40 or fewer hours where you are willing to invest more time in using the online resources. Clients who purchase – or choose to implement – only some of the applications or features offered by a Perfect Practice® solution often invest fewer hours overall for standard or initial training.
Customized or on-demand training
You may also schedule shorter courses of instruction to cover “hot topics” or specialized procedures, based either on specific areas of practice or functions (e.g., accounting, billing, check-writer or document management). Training on highly customized functions typically must be deferred until the functions (processes) are created and tested to meet your needs or preferences.
Much of the training is conducted by Perfect Practice® using Go To Meeting or other on-line tools, and we offer clients the option of having any and all sessions recorded (video and audio). Recorded sessions are offered free of charge for subsequent review and re-use – a cost-effective tool for training future new hires.
Data entry can begin within a day or two of installation unless a conversion of data from “legacy” systems is needed. Conversions identified prior to purchase are analyzed by our programming department to determine adaptability and write processes for converting existing data to Perfect Practice®. If you identify problems with the data to be converted – as, for example, that reports using the data in the legacy/source system are suspect or accounting data cannot be reconciled, additional work – and delays – may become factors.
The entry of new data only requires setting up needed protocols identified during the initial planning session. When you is prepared to answer questions as to how or why a preference was expressed, a supporting framework or process can be quickly set up. The length or method of client and matter identification and names, for example, or the chart of accounts, are typical “pre-requisites”.
If your practice or business already updates a third party database, such as LPS or Vendorscape for those in the foreclosure world, conversion may not be necessary. Our electronic interfaces can load all the data from those systems automatically!
During the implementation process, you can begin using Perfect Practice® in a limited fashion or for specific functions, according to your preferences. Some clients want a “broad” implementation in which all areas are introduced, organized and trained before end-users are authorized to begin entering new data or imitating processes. Other clients take a sequential approach where either Case Management or Time and Billing (for example) are implemented separately and users begin daily data entry in Perfect Practice® before full implementation is accomplished. Some clients elect to develop customized processes “on their own” or using specialists after only basic training and implementation by Perfect Practice® resources. You can choose!
Our goal is to complete implementation to the customer’s satisfaction within two months of purchase and installation. Of course Perfect Practice® can automate virtually any area of your practice or business. If you are automating several areas at once, implementation time will probably be increased. The actual pace is most often determined by the client’s decisions as to the frequency of training or delays in making critical decisions about methodology (procedural issues).