“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”
Throughout our years of supporting and installing software, we’ve been called in to many horrific situations where a firm was either completely dead in the water or faced thousands of dollars in damages due to oversights made during an installation or upgrade. We get it, lawyers like spending money on IT just as much as I like sinking hundreds of dollars every few year for new tires. But you get what you pay for.
The next time you decide to hire the cheapest person to do the job, consider what you have to lose. Working with a Certified Consultant, or someone more qualified than a relative or an internal person, may sound expensive but it’s probably the right decision.
What exactly is a Certified Consultant? A Certified Consultant is a third party partners who work with software vendors for implementation and continued assistance with legal software programs. They are trained directly by the software manufacturer and is typically required to pass an annual exam in order to gain and keep their certification. Consultants in the field of legal technology can offer help desk support, on-site training along with customization options. They are key in performing upgrades or sever migrations because of this specialized product knowledge.
Let’s discuss a few of the reasons why it’s often better work with a Certified Consultant.
1. Preventative Measures
The preventative measures a consultant provides can prevent data loss, confusion and firm down-time. This includes activities such as taking and verifying back-ups, data verifications, correcting existing database issues and other maintenance steps. A consultant working with your firm provides a smoother upgrade as knowledge of the network environment, program settings and data locations is essential.
We have seen many examples of firms assuming their IT support could handle an upgrade only to hit bumps in the road that could have been easily prevented. One recent example was where a firm upgraded successfully with their help desk technician, but never detached the legacy database or uninstalled it from workstations. This led to the firm working in split databases on two separate versions requiring a data conversion, additional downtime, and confusion until the work done in the older version could be transitioned.
Law firms can protect themselves and their data from issues by working with qualified professionals.
2. System Requirements
Check any software vendor’s published hardware and system requirements and you’ll notice they are often just that-minimum requirements in order for the software to run. Picturing a firm running on the bare minimum processing speed or free disk drive space is a recipe for disaster. Users will not be able to access data as quickly creating distrust in the program or may quickly outgrow the server resources. Relying on your local IT support may lead you down a path of minimum system resources since they may just do the bare minimum. A Certified Consultant can better scope and recommend server, network, and workstation resources in order to match your firm’s needs.
There are checks and balances that come along with any program’s compatibility that consultants are used to verifying in a firm’s environment. One example would be email integration – a popular component in today’s legal software systems. Firms may assume that just because they run Microsoft Outlook that they’re safe, but I have often seen firms running multiple versions within the same office, incompatible types such as Home, Student, Office 365 or simply old/out of date versions. When offices invest in legal software, incompatibility can be a main cause in frustration as the entire feature will then not work. With any new release, there are potentially different compatibility requirements. A consultant can better evaluate your firm’s need to upgrade.
Integration points are another area where upgrade plans needs to be evaluated by Certified Consultants. Integration can include if a firm has practice management software that points to their billing or accounting program. When firms assume their IT resources can handle the initial upgrade, a common problem they often face is restoring that link or integration point. This could lead to firm-wide issues as bills cannot be drafted until the ability to post time has been restored. Certified Consultants in legal technology field will often work with or partner with other programs meaning the ability to restore or redesign a custom link is possible. Integration points are an example where a proper upgrade plan can reduce downtime or further issues.
Lastly, the overall upgrade process is one that Certified Consultants have seen time and time again. Informing firms of known issues on a version and problem solving data issues are all part of our role. Certified Consultants are often given access to a technical support channels outside of the firm meaning I can usually reach a second-tier or more advanced technical support team than my clients. We also have a repository of scripts, tips and tricks that we have seen solve other firm’s issues in the past. Working with a Certified Consultant can prevent downtime, troubleshooting of issues and incompatibility-all resulting in more successful software upgrade.
It may sound self-serving to say you should work with a Certified Consultant, but we have seen too many horror stories as a result of law firms taking software installation or upgrades in their own hands. Before your firm decides to install or upgrade your practice management, billing or document management system, run a quick Google search to see if there are any Certified Consultants in your area that can assist. At a minimum, make sure a resource that is intimately familiar with the product (either a consultant or the vendor’s tech support) can be available during the upgrade to assist in a pinch in case something does go awry. It could save your firm lots of headaches down the road.