After several months of beta testing, Gavel & Gown officially announced the release of Amicus Attorney Cloud Edition today. We were present at the original demonstration by Ron Collins at the ABA TECHSHOW in March, and have been waiting ever since to compose a full review for our readers.
Compared to other cloud-based practice management solutions for lawyers, Amicus Cloud offers a range of features at a price that will challenge current market leaders. In this article, we’ll review the features, conversion considerations and offer a full price comparison based on similar products on the market today.
Accessibility – Amicus Cloud can be accessed anywhere, on any device, including Macs and touchscreens. It is touch-optimized. All you need is a modern web browser. Additionally, if you lose internet access, you can still work via offline access.
Client, Matter, Task & Contact Management – While these features are standard across most practice management systems (PMS), Amicus Cloud replicates a full on-premise PMS experience while delivering it all on the web.
Microsoft Exchange – Amicus requires the firm to use Microsoft Exchange as the email platform. This is preferred because Exchange has over 70% penetration of all corporate email accounts – they are clearly, by a wide margin, the most preferred email platform in the world. The reason you need to use Exchange is because Amicus is interwoven with it in order to offer the best, most efficient and most dynamic email management experience. You will be able to use your own locally-operated Exchange server; if you outsource Exchange hosting to a third-party provider that will also work. Finally, they can sell you hosted Exchange directly as well. Any of the three methods will work – awesome from a flexibility standpoint.
Email Integration -Email integration is the best-selling point of Amicus Cloud. Most practice management systems, be they on-premise or cloud, require you to go to each email, click a “connect” button of sorts and/or forward each email to a specific email address so they are stored in the software suite. Not Amicus. In Amicus Cloud, email lives and operates in Amicus. It doesn’t link with Exchange; it doesn’t sync with Exchange; the two (Amicus and Exchange) are fully interwoven – a first in the market.
Since all emails live natively in the Amicus application, there is no redundancy of having to manually link them to files. Simply assign an email address to a file and they attach to the file as soon as they are received in your inbox. All emails, including sent emails, will be caught by the time-entry assistant, which is like a safety net, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks. So much more can be said on this topic. The takeaway is that no program will handle emails better or more efficiently.
Calendars – Just as in the Small Firm Edition, Amicus Cloud gives everyone the ability to have & share calendars. Because Amicus Cloud is fully interwoven with Microsoft Exchange, that information is accessible on any device from just about anywhere, giving you the calendaring functionality you have today, a trademark of an on-premise software suite, while also giving you the mobility you need from a 21st Century solution. This means that your calendar is available not just on your mobile phone but on any device, like your tablet, and, more importantly, also lives in your Microsoft Outlook, meaning you have an offline copy of the data in case you lose internet.
Security Considerations – Amicus has really taken every step necessary to alleviate your security concerns, assuming there are no unknown Bar restraints preventing a migration to the cloud. Your data is hosted on Microsoft Azure, which means your data center has been built and is managed by Microsoft. This should drive tremendous confidence. Additionally, Azure is ICO/IEC 27001:2005 certified, SSAE 16/ISAE 3402 audited, and meets the standards of HIPAA and the HITECH Act. Companies like Boeing use these same facilities.
Every piece of information is stored on three servers and is replicated to other data centers in case of extreme catastrophe – meaning your data is on SIX unique servers at all times. You just can’t beat that. Your data is 256-bit encrypted and there is no “back-door” on your local machines, meaning no one can go to your facility and get your data (they would have to break into the Microsoft data center). So, all things considered, this may actually be a safer solution then running software on your own server.
Documents – Amicus also allows you to store your firm documents in the cloud. They have said that each user can upload about 10GB and that, if more space was needed, they would be very flexible. For firms with hundreds and hundreds of GB’s of documents, there may be an incremental charge but, for the average small firm, the 10GB of document space should prove to be more than adequate. So no additional storage costs for most.
Time Entry – Amicus Cloud incorporates the use of the Time Entry Assistant, which is like a safety net, ensuring that each and every thing you do in the system is recognized, accounted for and billed for. This feature alone can make you tons of money just by capturing all the work that you already do and allowing you to bill for it, instead of forgetting about it.
Time & Billing – Amicus Cloud offers professional time capture and billing capabilities so there is no need to purchase an additional system. It is included with the PMS suite at the same price. For those of you that already have a billing system you like, time entries from Amicus Cloud can be sent to almost any desktop billing or accounting system including QuickBooks, Timeslips and PCLaw.
Accounting Integration – There is a fully dynamic link with QuickBooks, the preferred accounting software for small firms everywhere. You capture all time in Amicus Cloud, bill for that time, and then that information dynamically uploads into QuickBooks, no “push” needed. The combination of Amicus Cloud with QuickBooks provides a firm with almost everything they could need – right out of the box.
Converting to Amicus Cloud
Amicus Cloud was built from the Small Firm Edition (SFE), on-premise software suite. It is designed for small firms that either use Amicus SFE, another small-firm practice management suite, or for firms with no practice management suite in use.
Converting from Amicus Small Firm Edition (SFE) – If you are currently on SFE it will be easy and inexpensive transition to the cloud. One hundred percent – so ALL – of your data will convert and be available in the cloud. This conversion process will only take a few hours. While specifics aren’t yet known for customers on the Annual Maintenance Plan, we assume they will receive entitlements for this upgrade at no cost. Other than the data conversion, your firm might want an hour of end-user training to familiarize firm members with the new layout. There will be almost no learning curve since it was designed to work just like SFE works today.
Amicus Cloud offers the exact same functionality currently offered by Amicus SFE, with four exceptions (limited time only). These exceptions include: 1) linked events, 2) precedents, 3) document merges, and 4) custom fields. These four features will be released as soon as they are ready; Amicus has pledged to make releases every 3-6 weeks so that they can roll out these changes smoothly and effectively. If you use these features, just wait a few weeks before upgrading; it’ll be worth the wait and you shouldn’t have to wait long. This ensures you really do get 100% of your data converted into the new system.
Converting from Amicus Premium Edition (PE) – If you are currently on PE, there is not a direct upgrade path available just yet. Amicus is telling us that they are releasing the SFE-based Cloud edition first, since it is simpler than PE, and then building on what they learn to deliver the more robust features of PE sometime in 2013. We think this is a good move since it allows them to work out any kinks in the platform, which are less complex in small firm environments, before releasing to the more enterprise-sized clientele. For now, think that PE in the Cloud might be available by this time next year.
Firms with no practice management software – For small firms not using any software, or perhaps just using Outlook or a combination of office productivity software tools, this will be the perfect solution. Lowest total cost, easiest to use, easiest to learn, fully integrated case and time & billing management – all in one place – and it’s made to link right up with your existing accounting package (so QuickBooks for most firms).
Amicus Small Firm Edition costs $499 for the first license, $399 per additional license, respectively. Support for SFE costs $295 /$95, respectively. The Annual Maintenance Plan costs $280 / $180, respectively. Amicus Cloud costs just $35 per user per month. This equates to $420 per user per year, which includes unlimited support. Let’s compare options for a sample 5-member firm. To maintain apples-to-apples, let’s compare a firm that uses SFE, with AMP, that upgrades every year (thus, it’s apples-to-apples with Cloud); we will run a 5-year estimate.
5-Year Cost Comparison for a 5-Person Firm
Amicus Small Firm Edition
Amicus Cloud Edition
|5 Years of AMP|
|Annual Upgrade (4 hrs)|
|Cost / User / Month|
The above example goes to show that, generally, Amicus Cloud will be comparable to the existing SFE with AMP solution. As firms scale back their commitments to support and upgrades, they can economize. It’s important to understand that these savings do come at a cost though. Upgrades are needed to expand the feature set so users can get more and more out of the system and continue to grow; if you scale back AMP to just a Tech Support plan you save money but then have to pay for upgrade licenses; if you don’t upgrade often you can cause crashing issues that cost more money than you saved; so on and so forth. All things considered, I would say that running Amicus locally will be less expensive, assuming a lax upgrade cycle, but, again, it’s cheaper because of shrinkage in scope and deliverables, not because it’s “cheaper”. When you spec on-premise out to what the Cloud offering delivers, they are generally the same.
It’s also important to understand that Amicus Cloud provides unique advantages over the on-premise SFE solution. While offering just about the same feature set as on-premise, cloud leaps forward in real-time access to the entire database, better email integration, and fully integrated billing (which costs extra for on-premise SFE since you must purchase Amicus Accounting) . Additionally, there will be fewer headaches at your firm because you won’t have to deal with a server and uptime issues; you will also spend less on your Managed Services Provider, who will have less to maintain; additionally, your equipment can be scaled back from a cost & performance standpoint.
Price Comparison (Cost / User / mo)
LexisNexis Firm Manager
Rocket Matter (decreases with more users)
As it sits, Amicus Attorney is already one of the best small firm software packages available, boasting powerful practice management capabilities in one of the friendliest user interfaces available. The new Amicus Attorney Cloud Edition replicates this experience extremely well, while also delivering on some of the mobility promises that we frequently hear about, but seldom get.
For some, this solution won’t be right. For others, it’ll be a no-brainer. Reach out to Gavel & Gown, makers of Amicus Cloud, or your local Amicus consultant, and have them evaluate your office as it sits today. Compare the various costs, analyze your needs, compare those to your wants, and then make an informed decision based on which will be best for your firm. If you jump directly into the cloud without first fully contemplating all of the various ramifications of doing so, you could end up spending more money than you needed to.
Learn more about the industry breakthrough product of the year. Watch an on-demand demo of Amicus Cloud here.