What software is the best? Which credit card processor is the best? Which scheduling tool is the best? How are you managing projects? How does THIS software compare to THAT software?
And it's not just the best either. It's “What’s the best for our law firm?”
Today we are joined by MaxLawCon22 speaker - Andrew Legrand - where he shares his process for choosing the “right” software.
From researching the different pricing tiers to tracking all that you are researching, to tracking the expense of time and management from your team. All this and more Andrew teaches in this episode of the Maximum Lawyer Podcast.
01:18 The hidden costs of software, such as training, switching costs, and lost production time
04:22 A simple tool, for objectively evaluating different software options
08:58 The process of evaluating different software options
16:45 The importance of evaluating software features before switching
18:33 Brainstorming and evaluating project management software options to find the right fit for a firm's needs
🎥 Watch the full video on YouTube here.
Speaker 1 (00:00:00) - But in today's episode we're sharing a presentation from Max Khan 2022. Keep listening to hear Andrew Legrand as we share his talk. How to choose the right Software for your law Firm. You can also head to the maximum Lawyer YouTube channel to watch the full video. Now to the episode.
Speaker 2 (00:00:18) - Run your law firm the right way. The right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast podcast. Your hosts, Jim Hacking, and some new tricks. Let's partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show today.
Andrew Legrand (00:00:39) - My talk really stems from probably the most common question that I see asked on the Max Law Forum. It seems like at least once a week somebody on the Facebook group is asking some form of the question what software is the best? And I'm not just talking about Clio or File Vine, but it's a variety of it. So it's which credit card processor is the best? Which scheduling tool is the best? How are you managing projects? And it's not just the best either. It's how does this software compare to that software? And so I really built this talk just based on the idea that that seems like a very common question in all the various forms that that comes in.
Andrew Legrand (00:01:18) - So I want to introduce you all to a tool that I use to evaluate software and pick software that works really well for me as a business lawyer that charges on subscription. A lot of the legal software out there isn't really designed for a lawyer who's trying to do that kind of thing. It's built for contingency or hourly based practices, which isn't really us. So I had to figure out how do I find different software? And as a remote first law firm, we heavily leveraged software to make sure that we can be work from home and hybrid, and we've been doing that since well before that became popular a couple of years ago. So first, why is this important? And there's two main reasons I'll talk about. The first one is hidden costs versus actual costs of software. If we're evaluating software, it's really easy to go to a software pages website and click the pricing page and you see what the actual cost is. I'm going to use the iceberg analogy here to talk about that price of the software.
Andrew Legrand (00:02:16) - The actual cost of the software is just the tip of the iceberg. The hidden costs are everything else. It's much bigger. It's the training, it's the switching costs, it's converting data, it's data that you might lose in that conversion. It's the lost production time. It's the time that you spend demoing all the different software. So my argument essentially is that if you're able to pick the right software, the first time you can avoid this cost is going to be ongoing, the actual cost of the software. But this costs down here, the less you switch software, the lower these costs. These hidden costs of changing are actually going to be. The second reason it's a good idea is you want to find the right tool for the job. I renovated an old 110 year old house and I find that I'm constantly buying new tools for the job. And if anybody works on their car or likes woodworking or just does any sort of handiwork at all, then you know that the difference between having the right tool to do the thing and not having the right tool is an amazing difference, right? If you're trying to make a perfectly cut hole, it's really easy when you have a whole saw to do that if you don't have a whole saw.
Andrew Legrand (00:03:24) - This is really freaking complex to do. So if you have the right software to do what works well for your law firm, then I think it really makes sense to take the time to find the best software for it. The other thing that I want to point out in this slide is that we want to figure out not what the tool is, but what problem we're trying to solve. Right? I think we've all probably heard the saying that you don't buy a drill, you buy the hole. And a lot of times with with any sort of software, they're selling features. And I want to encourage you and I'll show you a little bit later on to not just think about the features of the software, but what problem are we trying to solve? Do I really want a drill or do I really want the hole? And then I work backwards from figuring out what size hole I want and what tools can help me build that hole. So I think a lot of lawyers look for software and what I can kind of consider to be the old way or what I'm calling at least here today, they buy whatever their friends say is good.
Andrew Legrand (00:04:22) - They buy something they saw at a trade show. They said their friend solved the problem. Or some young lawyer at Max Lakhan recommended it. But the point is, is, you know, we see these questions of which software is best, but it's missing the context of of best is relative what's best for a lawyer charging flat monthly fees and subscription and value pricing is not going to be the same thing for a lawyer who's doing contingency in trying to track their costs and how they're building that up over time and building settlement statements. So when people say which one is the best, I really feel like we need to dig into the context of best for what? What are we actually trying to solve. So. The new way is what I want to talk about today. And honestly, it's a really simple tool called a spreadsheet. And so I find that when I use a spreadsheet in this way, I have a really easy time of objectively figuring out what software works for me. So the way I do it is on the far left column.
Andrew Legrand (00:05:18) - I just list the name of the software, maybe make it a hyperlink to let me get to that website really easy, but I start to look for all the different software that claims to do whatever it is I'm trying to do. I think this is an example of I used Clio for a long time and I got annoyed that a lot of my clients have more than one company, believe it or not. And Clio had this just set thing that one person had to be with one company, and I was kept getting annoyed at the fact that I couldn't tag that client. A actually owns company A, B, C, and D, and it was a really weird situation. So I was like, I've got to find the new solution. And so spend a long time looking at this and these are all the different software products that I looked at to do it. And the first column is usable price. So not just the copy, this is the actual cost that I talked about earlier, but what is it going to cost us to run this software? So different software charges per users.
Andrew Legrand (00:06:12) - Sometimes it's, you know, X price up to ten users, sometimes it's one user. You know, there's a lot of different pricing schemes out there. So the first thing that's useful to do is just kind of equalize that and get it into some sort of annual or monthly or quarterly, but get the prices to where you're actually comparing apples to oranges on prices and what it's going to cost. And the next thing I want to do across the top and this is really kind of my quick and dirty notes, I didn't doctor this up for this talk, but across the top you want to write the features that you're looking for. And again, go back to that whole saw. What are the actual problems you're trying to solve? Some of you might want text messaging integration because your clients use text messaging a lot. Some of you are contingency and might want it to automatically generate a settlement statement. Some of you might have a really high volume and you want it to integrate with your CRM or you want the CRM inside of that.
Andrew Legrand (00:07:08) - Some people might want document automation, other people might use something like wealth counsel or the form tool or hot docs, or they already have their document automation in another system and a really robust format. So maybe that's not a feature you need. So across the top of the spreadsheet, just start writing down What are the different features you're looking for? In this particular case, for instance, I needed to be able to charge this is when we're still doing more hourly work, but we need a rates per user paralegals versus attorney rates for clients, rates for different projects. We were using Asana heavily for project management at the time and we wound up choosing this piece of software called Excel. So that doesn't have a lot of checkmarks, but I'll kind of explain why. And so we were using Asana. We wanted something that had an Asana integration. If you haven't used it, it's a lot like Monday.com. It's a it's a project management tool. Does it integrate with zero for accounting? Can we track expenses? We do a lot of filing our clients annual reports and just different kind of registration filings.
Andrew Legrand (00:08:05) - So we needed a way to do that. I wanted to track estimates versus actual. So because we're doing subscription and flat and value based pricing, I won in a way to build a project plan that said this is how much time it's going to take to do it and this is how much time we actually spent. So I could update our projections over time on how much effort it would take for us to do that. We needed time versus retainers, so our clients pay us a flat monthly fee and they might have multiple issues going on. So I needed to say, Hey, here's your billing arrangement with us, and then here's the multiple projects or issues we're tracking for you. We're helping you resolve some employment issue. We're helping you and your partners write an operating agreement. We're applying for your trademark. But it's all getting connected to that retainer over here. So I needed software that could do that. I wanted something that could do trust deposits and retainers, and then I wanted a really robust open API so that I could get my data out of there and really expand on it.
Andrew Legrand (00:08:58) - So you can see down here, it's I think typically what happens when I do this is I start going through things and sometimes you get to the spot where you just see, okay, something's too expensive. Other times you'll find out that the open API, I think in this case and the estimates were actual became two really key features as I was evaluating all these different pieces of software. And so, I mean, this took 2 or 3 months to build out. And what's nice about using this simple spreadsheet is that I'm not just kind of sitting there trialing software one week to another, and I don't spend a lot of time, Oh, should I switch or should I not switch? It creates an incredibly effective way to say, okay, I've evaluated all the software out there and these are the features that I'm looking for. And this has this, this doesn't have this. And it really helps me cut down on that time of evaluating software. This is a another one I did for a proposal software even further like previously older.
Andrew Legrand (00:09:53) - You could see I kind of I added conditional logic for coloring just if there was a why, it would be green if there was an. And for now it would be red. So in this version I was looking for software that would help me generate our proposals, something that would allow me to reuse scopes of work and say, this is included, this is not included. And I looked for, I think, 20 different pieces of software out there that claim to do engagement letters or proposals or scopes of work. And you can see it kind of evaluated some. And, you know, the usable price for some was $700 compared to under 100. I don't even think I figured out what Tinderbox was, but it was super expensive and I just wrote that. And so again, I wanted to figure out what was really key here in all this. And I think the Zapier integration became really important here. And then price kind of became a good one and then listing some of the cons. So again, this took a while to kind of investigate the softwares that are out there and figure out what was useful.
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Andrew Legrand (00:11:41) - The other thing I like about this technique does anyone else get the shiny object syndrome? Yeah, me too. So I use acuity scheduling for our scheduling tool and right now I'm kind of having there are some features that I want and there's a lot of other, you know, Calendly seems to be a lot faster.
Andrew Legrand (00:11:59) - There's a lot of other software is out there that have been what I would consider to be shiny objects. The other thing that this tool kind of does is really helps you objectify what you're looking for and what it solves. So I find that when I'm looking at another piece of software in the shiny object way, I can kind of evaluate that software and scratch that shiny object itch without actually committing to it. And then rather than spending a ton of time wondering, Oh, is that new piece of software going to work really well for me, I'm already evaluating it in this way and I'm able to shut it down. So for instance, I did it for scheduling recently and I was looking to change and it really came down to acuity meets most of my needs but didn't solve 1 or 2 problems I wanted it to solve. Well, when I looked at the other pieces of software I was just trading off. It was solving the problems that Acuity didn't solve, but it introduced new problems. That acuity did solve that.
Andrew Legrand (00:12:48) - The new software didn't. And then I've got a really great price on it, so I kind of just shut that down and have not looked at changing scheduling software in a long time. I think the other thing that this does is frankly, I love the fact that there's software marketed for lawyers, and I think that can be a good thing in some circumstances. But at the same time, these are three websites that have a plethora of software on them. You go back to the proposal software, and these are all things that none of them are marketed to lawyers, but they can all help us put together our engagement letters. And if you have complex engagement letters that you need to send out quickly and you need to regenerate and use templates, these are a lot of options, but none of these are specifically marketed for lawyers. So by using some of these different websites where you can find different pieces of software, you can actually try to find software that's not geared necessarily for lawyers. And it might be older, it might be better developed, it might be more mature, it might have a bigger user base, which means they have more revenue, which means they can develop it a little bit better.
Andrew Legrand (00:13:49) - So these are different websites I use to say, okay, I'm looking for a project management tool, let me go on Copter or G2 or get app and look for a project management tool. And then using these websites I'll start to build out this column A right here of what are the different softwares that do it and then start evaluating them over time. And maybe as complex as this looks, once you start doing it, it becomes really simple and really clear on, okay, that's a good piece of software that we want to use, and then you get that benefit of reducing your switching costs, reducing your training time, of having the tool to do a really good job. You know, people have talked about delivering great client expectations and using this and that sort of thing this week. Right. Well, if you have a better tool to do that, that's great. So finding the tools to do that really works. So where do I download this awesome tool? You know, people are like, Are you going to send us a spreadsheet? And I've decided that I don't really think that there's a tool to even download, right? It's just set up a new spreadsheet and figure out what piece of software you're evaluating.
Andrew Legrand (00:14:55) - Maybe you're evaluating tools for for payment processing. You're evaluating tools for scheduling, you're evaluating phone systems, right? Like people are always, oh, I'm upset at RingCentral. We'll look at next I'll look at eight by eight, look at dial pad look at this, that and the other. It becomes really overwhelming when people ask a question about what software? And there's 50 different responses with with 30 different answers out there. And so using a spreadsheet I have right now, I kind of keep about eight different spreadsheets. You know, this isn't something I delete and it's not something I revisit all the time, but when I feel like the software I'm using is lagging behind, or maybe I get that shiny object syndrome, it's really easy to kind of open this back up and look at my notes and start to evaluate, Hey, maybe now is it time to switch? So right now, for instance, our software stack is I mentioned Excel. It's a professional service automation tool requires a ton of customization that we do in-house, but it's not marketed to lawyers at all.
Andrew Legrand (00:15:49) - But it solved a lot of the problems that I wanted it to solve. We're using Zapier to connect a lot of stuff. We're using Xero for our accounting. We use RingCentral, we use acuity for scheduling, I think in all of our our entire software stack. And we have a lot of software, you know, we're remote first. We are heavily dependent on that. The only tool we use that's actually marketed specifically to lawyers is law. So by getting out of the mindset of let me use tools that are just marketed to me and marketed to me because I'm a lawyer and let me focus on the problems that I'm trying to solve in my business. I'm able to expand to the pieces of software that are out there and look to options that do what I need them to do, even though they might not be marketed to me. So that's it. It's a really simple tool. I've got actually four minutes left. Happy to answer any questions.
Speaker 1 (00:16:39) - Come on. Should you allow the screen when you saw before you realize, you know what, the software is not coming out, We need something else.
Andrew Legrand (00:16:45) - So I would kind of go back to that implementation costs. And if you're able to really dial down on that feature set that you're looking for, if you do this really well, you won't have to switch after a training period. So in my firm, we're only four people, so it's a little bit easier than maybe a 20 person firm. But I would say that if you're a bigger firm, maybe you have 1 or 2 people evaluating the software and they're figuring it out. So by figuring out what features you want and whether or not the software actually delivers those features, your switch should be much smoother because you shouldn't be figuring it out on the fly. And I think a lot of problems come because people switch without doing a really good job of evaluating software. And so instead of figuring it out on the front end and just again using the spreadsheet and what problems are we trying to solve, you're figuring that out on the fly, and then you wind up in a situation where you're doing training and people are, you know, it's not doing it right and you've got to switch back.
Andrew Legrand (00:17:40) - And that's where you get back to the iceberg and the hidden costs and how much it costs to train and adopt and then move back. And there's data loss in the middle and then clients are kind of in the lurch there. So part of the argument is don't do that, right? It's do a lot of good due diligence on the front end and then switch and it'll be much smoother. This software that we get, you'll get your Wow, okay. I need a product management software, right? So of course I got one of those sites I mentioned. So what I would what I would say is, so the Facebook group is not a bad place to ask that. Right. And so I guess the order of operations here is, hey, I want project management software. You can ask the Max Lau forum what are people using? And then go to the spreadsheet and just write down everything that everyone says, right? And then you can go down to these websites. They all have like similar features.
Andrew Legrand (00:18:33) - So if you're looking for project management and you use Monday.com, you know, you can go to Monday.com page on one of these sites and it'll show competitors and similar features. And then from there it's just a matter of making your list, right? So the first step of this process is really just brainstorming what are all the project management software is out there and then what features do I want? And then starting to evaluate them. So it does add a lot of time on the front end to the evaluation stage, but it eliminates the problem of switching and then figuring out it doesn't work in an implementation phase. Is there? Question Sure. So the question was, is there a rule of thumb about when you would start using a piece of software, the side right, by employees or revenue? I guess I have two. No, I don't really have a rule of thumb, but I have a couple of thoughts on that. Am I'm nerdy and techie and like this stuff, like building, like finding the right software and building it out is kind of a hobby to me.
Andrew Legrand (00:19:26) - I personally enjoy it, so I might do it a little bit earlier than I would. But my second thought is that I'm always trying to be the law firm that I want to be, and I'm building that road of where I want to go, not where I am today. Right? So if I know, I know that I need some sort of project management software, not necessarily a we need it, but I know that as our firm scales and gets bigger, we're going to be able to use that. So I guess my real answer here is I think if your vision is to get bigger and you think you'll need that software in the future, the best time to start using. It is now because it kind of goes back to the right tool for the job. If you find the right tool, if you find the whole saw to make the right tool, the software is going to help you get there rather than waiting until you're there and buying it. You can buy the tool earlier on, help it get you there.
Andrew Legrand (00:20:14) - And that way you're also learning how to use it in a smaller team. And rather than trying to adopt something with with more people and there's more training tool itself, that company is too small. Oh, okay. Gotcha. Not necessarily. I do worry about the I think AppSumo sells like $60 lifetime deals. I personally worry about that. Right. We're all business owners. I don't know how I could possibly expect you to continue developing an app for me when I'm paying you $60 one time. Like, that's just not going to happen. So not too much. I mean, at this point, I think there's a lot of if a company is new, I probably wouldn't use it for a mission critical function. But I would say that's kind of subjective. It kind of depends on what it is. You know, if it's text messaging on our website or website, chat is kind of new, right? So if there's a small company that's doing that, that might not be a mission critical function to me.
Andrew Legrand (00:21:03) - I might be okay with using a smaller company, whereas my main CRM practice management, my main like hub of information, I'm not going to switch to a new person right off the block. Thank you so much. Appreciate the time today.
Speaker 2 (00:21:15) - Thanks for listening to the Maximum Lawyer podcast. Stay in contact with your host and to access more content. Go to maximum lawyer.com. Have a great week and catch you next time.
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