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Battle for the Cloud: Firm Manager vs. Credenza

I took a cursory look at two really good options for small-firm practice management. While the best value is still owning and hosting your own software, these two products are helpful for startups that are tight on cash but still want to do things smarter. Let’s take a look.

Gavel and Gown Credenza

Credenza – Home Screen

Credenza

When you launch Outlook, it’s just like any other day. You have your tabs for Mail, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks. Now, take a closer look.

 

 

Gavel and Gown Credenza - Matter

Credenza – Mark Dyson Matter

Credenza adds Matters, Time Sheets and Phone Calls (to name a few features). Since I don’t want to keep you here all day I’m going to open up a Matter, since it’s usually the most important feature of these systems. Let’s look at Mark Dyson’s case:

 

As you can see, Credenza is a practice management system by definition; it’s matter-centric rather than contact-centric. Credenza is quick, intuitive and easy to learn because of its simple integration into something we already know and use – MS Outlook. With this centralized console you control everything in a single window.

Firm Manager

LexisNexis Firm Manager

Firm Manager – Home Screen

A similar concept but different. Instead of an Outlook integration, LexisNexis hosts this program via a web browser. Take a look at the home screen.

 

As you can see, the home screen is cut into four equal sections, Calendar, Tasks, Matters and Memos, and tabs run along the top. This is a cool way to give loads of information without the need to look around.

 

LexisNexis Firm Manager Matter Screenshot

Firm Manager – Roger Snyder

Let’s take a look at Roger Snyder’s case. Okay, so we see the same matter-centric content: details, billing, notes, time, documents, etc. Notice, to the right we also have upcoming appointments and tasks, as well as overdue tasks associated with this matter. All of this information is available by just double clicking one matter. Lexis has deployed a solid product here gives you a few, key deliverables: lots of space for information, full functionality of major practice management features, and a digestible format to get that information back out quicker. Remember, you can have volumes of information stored in these systems but it does you no good if you can’t get to it quicker than you would have with a paper file.

 

So who wins?

It’s not an easy one to call. Both have a lot of unique features that are just slam-dunks. I’ll call a few of those winners by category:

Ease of Use

  • Winner: Credenza
  • Why: With it integrating into Outlook, there is less of a learning curve. It is set up in a very logical, utilitarian kind of way. From the first second, you just get how it works. Firm Manager, while not difficult, takes a little more time to learn. Also, due to it being hosted on the web and there being a slight time-delay between your command and the subsequent response, sometimes you’re left guessing if the command you entered was allowed or not. It can leave you scratching your head for a few seconds.

Clean Interface

  • Winner: Firm Manager
  • Why: You might wonder how I can award Ease of Use to Credenza and Clean Interface to Firm Manager. It’s simple: Credenza, while easy to use, has your Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Matters, etc., tabs all running down the left column as is common in Outlook. Accordingly, when you have even just one of the tabs open (i.e., Mail), because there’s not much room when the tab expands, you’re forced to do a quite a bit of scrolling in a bunch of tiny windows. With Firm Manager being broken into four sections and having tabs run the length of the screen on top, everything is more clean-cut and there’s less scrolling.

Accessibility

  • Winner: Firm Manager
  • Why: The primary reason Firm Manager wins is because it’s a more mobile platform. Firm Manager, which is accessed via a web browser, can be accessed by any mobile phone, iPod, iPad, laptop, desktop or television. In essence, if you have access to a decent browser, you have access to Firm Manager. It is truly a ‘cloud’ system. Furthermore, I think this platform will be the new industry standard on a moving forward basis. Manufacturers are finally beginning to realize that they don’t have to create four applications each time they want to sell one product (i.e., RIM, Android, iOS and Windows). By making it browser-based, they can focus their time and resources in product development, rather than creating multiple platforms. This results in better products that cost less.

Global Search

  • Winner: Firm Manager
  • Why: It’s really close but with Firm Manager there is a global search bar which is visible everywhere. With Credenza, you have to search for the “Search Credenza” icon, click it, then it comes up, then you have to edit the search to look through “All Common Fields”, and then you have to do your search. It’s easier with Firm Manager – just go the global search bar, type and go. It also offers a “Google Instant” like search result so if you just enter “b” you get a drop-down of results.

Cost

  • Winner: Credenza
  • Why: Credenza is only $10 per month for a single user, or $20 per user per month if there are multiple users on the account that all want to share information from a joint database. Firm Manager’s lowest entry point is $60 per month per user (with an intro price of $45).

Each offering has its own unique advantages as well as its own unique nuances. Both do the same thing: contact, calendar and matter management – but they do it in different ways. Accordingly, in deciding which is right for you, a large part of your decision is based on your current IT knowledge, what you have used in the past and how you currently like doing things. I look at both solutions and say each is headed in the right direction.

Next week, I’ll take a closer look at Credenza, and the following week I’ll take a closer look at Firm Manager. Screenshots, features, how-to’s, etc. Until then, if you’ve used one of these systems, what are your thoughts? Is there anything missing? Leave it here or keep on just reading Legal Loudspeaker.

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill
As the Client Development Manager, Michael manages all new and existing business opportunities while ensuring a well-coordinated implementation effort and ensuring client satisfaction for all of Accellis’ products and services. He is highly experienced with Worldox®, Time Matters®, Amicus Attorney® and the N-able® IT network management platform. Michael has an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from Cuyahoga Community College and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Akron.

Showing 8 comments

  • Christopher Cardinal
    Reply

    Hi there,

    Interesting article.

    I’d like to make one small factual correction. As of version 2.1 (released in November/2010), Credenza has a team search function accessible directly from the toolbar/ribbon bar. This tool indexes and searches all content linked to Credenza, including documents and attachments (on emails and even appointments) as well as just about any textual content. It does so across the firm, for all users, relying on a Cloud based engine for indexing and querying.

    Regards,

    Christopher Cardinal
    CTO, Credenza Software

    • Accellis Technology Group
      Reply

      Thanks Christopher! We’ll be doing another post later this week taking a closer look at Credenza!

  • Jack
    Reply

    Could you point me to the follow up in depth reviews that you indicated would be forth coming? I searched your site and can’t locate, the link to Manager of Farm Vs Chest seems to be broken, assuming that was the review. Thanks.

    • Accellis Technology Group
      Reply

      Hi Jack. Unfortunately plans for a follow-up post have been postponed. If you have a specific question, you can email us at solutions@accellis.com. We’ll do what we can to help! Thanks for reading Legal Loudspeaker.

  • Michelle K. Smith
    Reply

    Beware of Credenza – it will hijack your bank account!! I tried Credenza for several months (3 seats for $75/month) and liked it fairly well but ultimately chose a different program with more general ledger support. The problem came when I tried to cancel Credenza. You cannot simply cancel. You select ‘cancel’ which sends an email to Credenza and it states you will receive a call within one day to complete the cancellation. I sent 5 cancel emails over a three week period and NO ONE ever called me back so I could cancel. I also called three times over a two week period and I was never able to speak with anyone with the authority to cancel my account. As of today I still have not been able to cancel my paid subscription and I will probably have to call my bank to stop the automatic draft. Very irritating to say the least.

    • Accellis Technology Group
      Reply

      Michelle,

      Email me directly with your firm contact information and I’ll put a call into Amicus for you to see if I can help out. I know a few good people over there who can probably help us.

      Best,
      Mike
      Accellis

  • Home Office approved work experience
    Reply

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The words in your article seem to be running off the screen in Ie.

    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know.
    The design look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon.
    Cheers

pingbacks / trackbacks

  • [...] Next week, I’ll take looking at more closely credenza and the following week, I will be looking at the business manager. Screenshots, features, how – s, etc. Until then, if you used one of these systems, what are your thoughts? Are there any missing? Leave it here or keep proper interpretation legal loudspeaker. This article is a revised edition, original one is at here. [...]

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