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Cloud-Based Case Management Increasing; Will Costs Come Back To Earth?

One of the most expensive categories of law office software is known as “case management software,” which may or may not include client management, marketing or billing components.  Regardless, the two “established” companies that provide these services to law firms are AbacusLaw and Amicus Attorney.

If you are just starting out, and are looking at these two companies’ products, then you have already figured out that you will be expected to dole out thousands of dollars in the first year to get them.  You may also be worried that, if you do not purchase one or the other, you will suffer a costly malpractice claim.  This is, in fact, a message that companies like these often use in their marketing to attorneys, using fear of malpractice claims to justify this significant capital outlay.

At this point, I should disclose that I have nothing against either Abacus or Amicus, in particular.  I also am not suggesting that one practice without case management software.  However, I do want my readers here to be aware that, with the advent concepts like “software as a service” (SaaS) and “cloud computing,” you now have choices in the case management software marketplace that were unheard of 5 or 10 years ago.

Order Through ‘Chaos

Recently, I discussed one such company here, Chaos Software, which offers a case management suite that includes calendaring and contacts management, legal billing, and more.  Chaos is affordable and very user-friendly.

Chaos’ one major drawback – right now – is that it operates on the old download model.  In other words, you must download it to your system rather than accessing it virtually or “in the cloud.”  I believe the company is working on this limitation, and if there are new developments along those lines, I invite a Chaos spokesperson to comment here so that we have an accurate picture of what the company can provide.

Cloud Control With Clio

Another provider that has me very excited is Clio Software.  Unlike Chaos, Clio is entirely an online product – in other words, it is “cloud-based case management.”

The company’s website notes that they are specifically targeting solos and small firms with their services, and their services are great.  I personally tested Clio on a temporary trial basis very recently.  It is definitely worth considering.

Another fear that is often cited in support of sticking with Abacus or Amicus is that they are established and “aren’t going anywhere.”  Whenever I discuss cloud services, particularly legal services, I hear this argument (and not just with case management software).  Certainly, the stability of your case management software provider is something to consider.  However, based on its press over the past several months, Clio appears to be growing quite steadily, so I have little concern that the company is going to vanish and leave you in a virtual lurch.

Can It Be?  Did You Say Free?

Just this morning, I came across another company that I had not yet heard of.  I found them via YouTube while doing some research on the subject of legal technology videos.  The company is called HoudiniEsq.  Like Clio, this company operates completely as a cloud-based system.  So far, so good.  However, what caught my eye is HoudiniEsq provides its product free to solos.  In case you missed that, I said free to solos.

At the time of writing this article, I have not tested HoudiniEsq.  I reviewed their video and did a cursory review of their website, and their product appears very promising, full-featured, and very affordable.  I am not yet recommending HoudiniEsq.  I will be taking a closer look at its product over the next several days, and will report back on my conclusions.  Because of its very agreeable price tag, however, I felt compelled to include it in this morning’s article in the event any of you want to look into on your own.

Have any readers used Abacus or Amicus?  Both?  What did you like or not like about either?  Have you stopped using them in the past year or so?  Was cost a factor in that decision?  Please let me know, as this is important information we could all benefit from, including the providers.

Have any of you already used Chaos or Clio?  What do you think of these providers?  Are you aware of others you think are worthwhile?  If so, please list any providers in your comments.

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8 comments on “Cloud-Based Case Management Increasing; Will Costs Come Back To Earth?

  1. Posted to the MacAttorney forum on Google in reply to Amicus promoting its Amicus Cloud and warning that Randy Singer may say something about Amicus’s past. Well, that threw fuel on the fire. Bad call by Amicus CEO. Read on…

    “Randy Singer (MacAttorney)” Jul 09 05:07PM -0700

    On Monday, July 9, 2012 9:36:24 AM UTC-7, Ron Collins wrote:
    > known each other a long time – I have the greatest respect for him, his
    > knowledge and contributions to Mac-using lawyers everywhere. He had some
    > bad experiences with us what was a lifetime ago in “software years”,

    Ron likes to rewrite history and characterize the problems that legions of
    users experienced with Amicus Attorney/Mac and with his company in general,
    as a problem “I” had. I hope that you don’t continue to do that, Ron,
    because if you do it will result in the worst kind of pushback. In fact, I
    was never an Amicus Attorney/Mac user, I was just the person that most
    Mac-using attorneys came to with questions about what was available for
    them.

    The truth is that way back when, when Mac-using attorneys would ask me what
    integrated law office management software was available, I would often tell
    them about Amicus Attorney/Mac. Unfortunately that product had some nasty
    problems, and some features that were advertised yet which simply didn’t
    work, and on top of all of that Gavel and Gown’s tech support personnel and
    management (other than Ron) were extremely anti-Mac and unpleasant to deal
    with. As a result back then I was inundated with complaints from a lot of
    very unhappy attorneys. (And we all know how unhappy attorneys can get.)
    Many of these attorneys were mad at *me* for ever having suggested the
    product and/or for not warning them ahead of time. (I was not an Amicus
    Attorney/Mac user, so I wasn’t, at first, acquainted with the product’s
    performance.) I once maintained a huge folder full of complaints about
    Amicus Attorney/Mac and Gavel and Gown.

    > and I have apologized to him for those.

    I’m not the one that needs apologizing to. You need to apologize to all of
    the Mac-using attorneys that you disappointed. It may have been a bunch of
    years ago, but apparently your firm is unchanged from back then, with you
    at the head. I’ve yet to hear that you have cleaned house of the anti-Mac
    folks working for you and/or that you have trained a number of folks to
    cater especially to Mac users who need support, or that you have taken
    steps to make sure that the same fiasco will not be repeated.

    Way back when your company had a habit of releasing buggy, feature-shy
    software to Mac users with promises that if folks just waited “a few
    months” that everything will be fixed. Those few months slipped to a few
    more months many times. The last that I heard from someone on your staff
    was that “Mac users expect too much.” (How dare we expect software that
    works as advertised?) Then you pulled the product from the market, leaving
    all of your users in the lurch.

    You know the old saying? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice,
    shame on me.” I subscribe to that. So, let me reiterate my advice for all
    Mac-using attorneys. Believe it when you see it with regard to Amicus
    Cloud. When you see it, test it throughly before you decide to become
    invested. If you need something *now*, I recommend that you go with a
    product that exists *now* and which has a good track record. Don’t wait
    for an indeterminate amount of time for a product from a company with a
    history of late or absent releases and updates, and broken promises.

    ___________________________________________

    Randy B. Singer • Attorney at Law
    ___________________________________________

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  2. Much food for thought here. However, I am not clear on why having a non-cloud based program on my desk top computer, at my office, using say Time Matters or Amicus (or you chose the program), which I can access from anywhere in the world using gotomypc, and which has the “advantage” of me knowing it will “be there” long term, is not just as good as a purely cloud based system? Obviously, I am not addressing the issue of the expense of buying (and constant upgrades) of buying/staying with the non-cloud based program, which was an important part of your article.

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    • I think the cost of the desktop programs is one of the primary considerations for the solo and small firm. In the beginning of my “virtualizing” my office, I made use of GoToMyPC, but there was added expense associated with that application. Nevertheless, serious security considerations are raised by lawyers engaging in cloud computing and we are just scratching the surface of where this is going both in terms of the technology and the professional responsibility. Case in point – this past weekend the ABA held its 4th public meeting on ethics issues in Atlanta and cloud computing was a hot button issue. “Cloud Computing Among Issues of Ethics 20/20 Hearing in Atlanta”

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  3. Readers may also want to check out these other cloud based options:

    Rocket Matter
    http://www.RocketMatter.com
    Online law office software combining legal practice management, trust accounting, time tracking, invoicing, calendaring & more.

    Direct Law
    http://www.directlaw.com
    DirectLaw is the first virtual law firm in a box and transforms your law firm’s web site into a revenue-generating online law practice.

    Virtual Law Office Technology
    http://www.totalattorneys.com/our-services/virtual-law-office-technology/
    http://www.vlotech.com
    Founded by elawyering guru Stephanie Kimbro, Esq. Virtual Law Office Technology allows you to operate your law firm from anywhere with adaptable web-based software; set up a full virtual law practice or adapt to facilitate your brick and mortar firm.

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  4. HoudiniESQ is available both as a cloud bases SaaS product and a traditional On-premise install. HoudiniESQ is the only web-accessible legal practice management product that is on par with products such as ProLaw, Time Matters and Amicus. In some areas HoudiniESQ clearly outshines everyone else. HoudiniESQ has been adopted by many successful mid-sized growing law firms because it isn’t a calendar and onlinerolodex but a true LPM. A robust product that will help you grow your practice.

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  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eric G. Young. Eric G. Young said: Cloud-Based Case Management Increasing; Will Costs Come Back To Earth? « Cyber-Esq. http://ping.fm/a4UFW […]

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