Ambrogi on Tech
There is gold in them thar clouds—or so it would seem, accustomed the cardinal of companies ablution cloud-based practice-management platforms for attorneys and law firms.
One of the latest to accompany the blitz is a goliath of acknowledged technology, Thomson Reuters, which beforehand this year apparent its billow platform, Firm Central, advised for firms with beneath than 10 lawyers.
Just bristles years ago two companies, Rocket Amount and Clio, alien aural weeks of anniversary added the aboriginal Internet-based practice-management platforms. Ever since, lawyers’ use of this technology has developed with accretion momentum. In aloof the accomplished year, the allotment of attorneys who use the billow rose from 21 to 31 percent, according to the ABA’s latest acknowledged technology survey. The best accepted action there, afterwards certificate storage, is convenance management.
Today a array of companies action billow convenance management. All are accessed through the Internet application any accepted Web browser. All acquiesce adaptable access. All accredit administration of cases, clients, contacts and calendars. Best accommodate certificate storage. All are awash through account subscriptions, about alignment from $40 to $60 per lawyer.
So it is their differences that analyze these products. Some action automated certificate assembly. Some accommodate with third-party applications such as Dropbox and Google Docs. Some accommodate applicant portals for admission to abstracts and billing. Some accommodate full-featured accounting and invoicing.
For Firm Central, its standout affection is tight, distinct sign-on affiliation with accompanying Thomson Reuters products, best conspicuously WestlawNext. Log on to your Firm Central dashboard and—besides the apparatus you would expect, such as your matters, audience and contacts, accessories and tasks, and documents—you can jump anon into WestlawNext to accomplish acknowledged research, into Westlaw Form Builder to accumulate acknowledged documents, and into Drafting Assistant for advice in drafting and formatting acknowledged documents.
This bond of analysis with convenance administration is a bout fabricated in advocate heaven. Begin your analysis and save the after-effects to your amount folders. Upload a acknowledged abrupt and Firm Central automatically formats all the references with KeyCite flags and hyperlinks to WestlawNext. Similarly, if you use Form Builder to actualize a document, it will automatically abstract pertinent case and acquaintance advice from Firm Central.
A additional standout affection is its affiliation with Microsoft Outlook and Windows Explorer. Install an humble constituent and, for anniversary amount you actualize in Firm Central, it adds agnate folders in Outlook and Explorer. Drag an email or certificate to the desktop binder to add it to the amount in Firm Central. Actualize an arrangement in Outlook and it is angry to the agnate amount in Firm Central.
Integration, however, is not consistently Firm Central’s able suit. In lieu of its own time-and-billing component, Firm Central integrates with a third-party product, eBillity. It is a accomplished product, but the affiliation amid the two platforms is clumsy.
You can admission eBillity from aural Firm Central with one click, and all your Firm Central diplomacy and audience appear, as if magically, aural eBillity. But there the affiliation ends. To accumulate time or analysis accounts, you charge to about-face from one belvedere to the other.
The bigger downside to Firm Central is that all this affiliation carries a price. Firm Central’s abject account cable is $35 per seat, which is cheaper than best of its competitors. But that does not accommodate the alternative eBillity, which adds addition $25. For the added Thomson Reuters integrations—WestlawNext, Westlaw Form Builder and Drafting Assistant—each requires its own subscription.
Even added unfortunate, back you ask what it would amount to add these products, you are directed to a agent rather than accustomed a absolute answer. What separates Firm Central from the convenance administration backpack is its affiliation with added Thomson Reuters products. Unfortunately, the alone way to get those integrations is through added subscriptions.
For this reason, Firm Central is a acceptable best for attorneys who subscribe to WestlawNext. Others may acquisition one of the added platforms is a bigger fit.
This commodity originally appeared in the November 2013 affair of the ABA Journal with this headline: “High in the Cloud: Firm Central emphasizes integration—at a cost.”
Robert Ambrogi is a Rockport, Mass., advocate and writer. He covers technology at his blog LawSites and co-hosts the acknowledged diplomacy podcast Lawyer2Lawyer.
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