Improving your calendaring process is a great way to manage risk, and the good news is, there are plenty of software tools that can help you do just that – apps that are specific to the legal profession, and that help you to stay on top of your game. They ensure that there are no missed deadlines, and they can also help your firm streamline their workflow, resulting in improved productivity, happier clients, and will ultimately improve your cash flow.
If you are thinking about deploying a deadline calculator, do a deep dive into the provider, and make sure you understand the key features, as well as what support resources are available before you decide on who you’re going to go with. Here are some things you might want to consider:
Find out more about the team who is updating the rules
The biggest benefit of having a trustworthy rules-based calendaring solution is the access you gain to the official court rules, as well as the people who keep them up to date. Find out who owns the database, as this is a critical issue in terms of accuracy and timeliness. You want to make sure that the provider owns the source, and does not access it from a third party, as too many re-directs always slows the process down, and leaves room for error and confusion. Find out also whether the provider employs attorneys and other legal professionals on a full-time basis, individuals who have a background in rule amendments and understand the potential consequences that they have on deadline calculations.
Find out about their update process and how often it is done
in order to ensure that deadlines are never missed, it is critical that you receive notifications that have an impact on cases you are working on. Your provider should be able to tell you how frequently rules are updated, and how you and your colleagues will be notified, and how much information on the changes will be delivered, so you can assess whether there is a need to recalculate your deadline.
Find out whether your team can customize sets of rules
The system you consider should have the ability to customize your rules sets. This will allow you to hide, remove or modify certain events or sequences of events, such as if they are normally not observed, or obsolete, or if your firm has events in their normal workflow that need to be added, such as a client meeting prior to the court date.
How is the system managed? Is it collaborative?
Since most law firm these days are team-based environments, your calendaring system should reflect that. All key stakeholders should have access to the system, and it should provide for multiple levels of permissions, allowing you to control visibility for sensitive or confidential material. Being able to display events across teams, clients and matters is important. You should be able to access a birds-eye view for your whole department within a specified period, and have the ability to dive deeper to get details on a specific attorney or matter.
Take the system for a test run to make sure it’s easy to use
Though rules-based calendaring this is not a simple task, your solution should deliver an interface that is reasonably easy to use. Since many people will be contributing to it, it should be something that is won’t require a lot of training to get rolling with it.
Is it accessible enough for your needs?
Your calendar solution should integrate with the calendars your team uses every day, such as Microsoft Outlook, and also online calendars. As mobile is a necessity, it should be compatible with all mobile devices. Find out whether the system is cloud-based, and how the backup process works. To that end, find out where your data center is, whether it resides with the provider, or if it is hosted with a third party.
Find out what training and support are available to you
This is always imperative in choosing any third-party supplier for calendaring systems. Ask what your support options are, and find out if they are available 24/7, or if you have to wait until their offices open the next day. You should also find out whether they have a good caches of support articles that you can access anytime, and whether the support package is included in the price, or if it is an extra charge.
What are the reporting and tracking options?
You should be able to track changes, and find out who made them. This should be standard, as it is an absolutely imperative feature. You should also be able to export events in an adequate enough level of detail – you ought to be able to customize many variables, such as timeframes, teams, clients, and more.
What’s it going to cost, and how is it packaged?
Before you invest, you need to find out if it delivers the value that you need. You may have options as to the type of package, and sometimes you may need to pay for additional functionality, or to add a user. Some are priced by the case, some by the court, and some will have all-in subscriptions that give you access to every tool in their arsenal. Ask yourself how long you will need this tool for? how much are you or your organization going to use it? and finally, is it compliant with your professional liability insurance? Choosing an annual subscription is generally the safest way to go if this is an issue.
How stable is the company? What kind of a reputation do they have?
Companies that have been in the market longer should figure high in your selection criteria, as should the experience they have doing what they do. Having a bullet proof reputation for responsiveness, a good customer service record, and an extensive customer base are indicative of a company’s commitment to serve you better. Determine whether the provider has staying power, and if they have a customer base strong enough to support their longevity. Will it still be around in another decade or two?
Investing in technology is never cut-and-dried. If you are ready invest in a calendaring system that will help you streamline your workflow, become more productive, mitigate risk and help you comply with court deadlines, there are plenty of things to consider before you decide on the best provider for your needs. These are just a few – good luck!