Case Management software is to lawyers as a point of sale system is to a retailer: it is the most integral part of their business. Since it is perhaps the most important piece of software used to manage a law practice, surprisingly I’ve often seen that once an attorney decides which software to use, he or she hardly ever re-evaluates the decision and looks at a replacement or upgrade. Attorneys rely on practice management software so completely — and it represents the very essence of their practice — that they cannot even fathom anything different.
ADVERSE TO CHANGE
One reason many are reluctant to change is because of the immense investment of time and resources already spent in installing the current software and the large amount of information entered into the current system. An attorney’s case management software is his or her lifeline; every case, every client and every transaction is stored in the current program. That being said, it is perplexing that such little effort is spent keeping up with advances in technology. All of these factors result in the usage of out-dated software, often times woefully inadequate to the firm’s needs, but nonetheless a required part of daily operations. Unfortunately new programs, such as Rocket Matter, are not seen as viable replacements when the real reason for not upgrading is the fear of something “new,” and the idea of transitioning data instills a fear of missing information and years of work lost.
What attorneys are missing is a brand new class of case management programs which, while they seek to replace older programs, also seek to solve many of the concerns law firms face when dealing with digital client data: security, mobile access and backup. As one of the newcomers to this market, Rocket Matter has embraced the new software-as-a-service model of delivering software from the Internet.
What this means is the application itself is not stored on an office computer (called client-side applications), but instead on servers hosted by Rocket Matter. This offloads the responsibility of having to maintain and upgrade a server, because the software is accessed on Rocket Matter’s servers from any computer with an Internet connection. All data between a user’s computer and Rocket Matter is encrypted with 128-bit secure SSL, the same encryption used by many major banks and financial institutions for online transactions. Another advantage of SaaS is that any upgrades to the software are handled by the software provider directly on its servers, thus negating the necessity for users to perform software updates and installations on each of the firm’s computers or servers.
As a SaaS application, Rocket Matter handles another major issue for law firms which store confidential and sensitive client data: security. Rocket Matter stores confidential client data not only at their physically and electronically secure offices, but in multiple offsite, secure and geographically diverse locations. As a result, Rocket Matter solves one of the inherent problems with client side case management programs: client data is only as secure as the law firm has made its office. Rocket Matter is also beginning to work with independent security specialist firms to conduct periodic audits of its system, something most law firms are incapable of doing on their own internal systems.
My legal practice focuses on personal injury and workers’ compensation claims. Handling approximately 50 cases, mine is a small plaintiff’s firm that has been using Rocket Matter exclusively since December 2008. Prior to this, we used Daylite for our case management needs. The transition between Daylite and Rocket Matter was a fairly painless one. We simply exported our Daylite data into a comma-separated file, and Rocket Matter had our data imported within 24 hours of the initiation of our service. Just as data can be imported into Rocket Matter, all of a firm’s data can easily be exported to an Excel Spreadsheet anytime, thus providing those with a desire to have a physical copy of their data at all times with a means of “holding” their information on their own systems.
The graphical interface of Rocket Matter is very reminiscent of the majority of modern Macintosh programs. It is readily apparent that a great deal of time was spent deciding which information will be on the “Dashboard,” the first screen one sees when logging into Rocket Matter. Only information most likely to be used is displayed on any given screen within Rocket Matter. This reduces the information overload that plagues many case management software programs. As my friend, colleague and fellow Rocket Matter user says: “One of the best things about RM is that it is so easy to learn and easy to use. There is virtually no learning curve, because it works the way you do. My staff was up to speed on RM almost immediately.”
Just like other modern client-side programs, search boxes are auto completing, a feature which is normally only provided in client-side applications. Part of the beauty of using Rocket Matter is that despite being dependent upon the Internet for access, the amount of actual broadband use is quite small. Even those users with a slow cable or data connection are capable of utilizing all of Rocket Matter’s features just as easily as those with high-speed DSL or T1 connections. As a result, accessing Rocket Matter from a mobile computer connected via cellular 3G access is still quite acceptable.
In Rocket Matter, cases are referred to as “matters.” As with most case management programs, Rocket Matter allows each matter to be relationally connected to other attorneys working on the matter, as well as opposing counsel and user customized relationships. In a typical personal-injury case, we will have a matter that has relationships with a liability insurance adjuster, a medical insurance adjuster, opposing counsel, the judge presiding over the case, and any other attorneys or paralegals assigned to work on the matter. The calendaring system in Rocket Matter allows attorneys to delegate tasks to any of the staff working on a particular matter, as well as verify whether a particular staff member is available for an event during scheduling.
Though the feature is not used by my firm, Rocket Matter includes an extensive billing and expense tracking suite, with the usual compliments such as time capture for matters and profit reporting.
One of the most intriguing additions for Rocket Matter is document management. Released in the past few months, Rocket Matter now allows users to upload documents to a matter and add “tags” to each document for indexing purposes. These tags work much the same way Facebook tags work for pictures — users simply input a tag they want for a particular document and the document is then searchable by that tag.
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of having a Web-based contact management program is the ability to access data from any computer, phone or device with Internet access. Unlike most client-side applications which require VPN setup, Web site setup and/or limited access to calendaring and/or contact information, Rocket Matter provides full access to the entire program no matter from where a user logs in with no further customization.
Due to its 128-bit SSL encryption, there is no worry about the security of the transmission of a firm’s data. Rocket Matter also offers a mobile portal to access only contact information if a user is on a particularly slow connection or he or she just needs contact information.
My entire firm has iPhones and we’ve never had a problem accessing Rocket Matter from out of the office, even at AT&T’s slower EDGE speeds when 3G was not available. Additionally, when our firm’s attorneys are traveling, they use Macbook Pro’s with AT&T Express Cards to access the Internet through AT&T’s 3G network and there is no perceptible difference when accessing Rocket Matter between the 3G network than when we are back in our offices accessing the Internet.
Rocket Matter costs $59.99 per month for the first user, $49.99 for the second through sixth, and $39.99 for the seventh through 20th. A fully functioning case management and billing solution is available for a small firm of six attorneys and paralegals for a little over $300 per month, or $4,000 per year. While this may seem like a large sum, to properly compare Rocket Matter’s cost to comparable client-side software, one must factor in the cost of software updates (included in Rocket Matter’s price), server and desktop setup, configuration of Web-based access to servers, IT maintenance and training. Factoring in all of these hidden costs of standard client-side software results in Rocket Matter fitting much more nicely in today’s budget conscious balance sheet for law firms.
Regardless of whether your firm embraces it or not, Internet-based SaaS applications such as Rocket Matter are likely to replace standard client-side applications. Both Google and Microsoft are focusing the majority of their research and development monies to SaaS, and Microsoft has been experimenting with actually having Windows run in this manner in future versions. Rocket Matter is simply one of the first of these applications to make it into the legal software market, although it most certainly does not feel like a 1.0 version. If you have a small to medium-sized firm and are looking for reliable, secure, mobile and easily implemented case management software, you cannot do better than Rocket Matter. You can purchase Rocket Matter or get a free personal tour by Rocket Matter staff at www.RocketMatter.com.
Finis R. Price III is a practicing trial attorney in Louisville, KY, and Co-Founder of TechnoEsq Presentations, where he works with other attorneys in creating trial and other litigation presentations. He is a member of the Kentucky Justice Association’s Board of Governor’s and is a faculty member with Solo Practice University, a virtual university assisting attorneys in their practice.