Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dropping AbacusLaw

Unfortunately my recent misgivings about AbacusLaw seemed to have been warranted. The sales department recently contacted me to advise that my annual service agreement would be expiring and that renewal would be at at roughly a 100% price increase!  Also quite frustratingly the tech support department has taken a rapid turn for the worse. Four of my last five calls to tech support have been answered by brand new techs who know nothing about the program. My calls have resulted in me sitting and watching the remote sessions as the techs clicked around my computer learning the program, and repeatedly putting me on hold so they could (presumably) receive training from a supervisor. Suffice it to say that in the last two months my customer satisfaction quotient has gone way, way down.

That got me looking for other options.  I called colleagues for recommendations. I skowered the internet. I came up with a list. It included MyCase, CosmoLex, HoudiniEsq, Rocket Matter, Clio, Practice Panther, Perfect Practice, and Firm Central.  All of these are cloud based products, as compared to the AbacusLaw that I am currently running from my own server. Given that maintenance on the AbacusLaw that I have installed on my server would soon cost more than any of the above listed cloud products the time finally seems right to move my practice management to the cloud.

Next I started signing up for trial versions and demos (or at least trying to sign up, as I shall explain).

Clio is a program I have been following for years. I love the interface, and it has rules based calendaring which is a HUGE plus. Unfortunately the on line reviews I found were not encouraging: repeated price increases and abysmal customer and technical support. My call to the sales department did nothing to contradict those reviews. I contacted the sales department to do a little brain picking, and to find out if they have hosted demos, or if I could have a conversation with someone about the product.  I was told they don't do either, and that I should just sign up for the free trial and play around with it for a while. Scratch Clio from the list.

Firm Central is the product Thomson Reuters has released. From what I could see on the website it looked awesome. The reviews I found were also very flattering. I called TR sales. I was told that no questions could be answered overe the phone and that my dedicated sales rep would have to call me. I then asked how I could make that call happen. The telephone sales rep asked for my account information and then put me on hold. I am not kidding here, 5 minutes later he got back on the line, told me he could not figure out who my sales rep was and then suggested I call back later when they were less busy.  Wow! Being determined, I did call back. The second time the telephone sales person took down my number and said my sales rep would give me a call. A week later, still no call. Scratch Firm Central from the list.

CosmoLex, HoudiniEsq, and Perfect Practice all looked like great products, Each was a bit more complicated than I would like, and I just didn't comfortable as I was playing with them. Scratch them from the list.

That left me with live, sales department hosted demos of MyCase, Practice Panther, and Rocket Matter. Each of the demos was great. The sales reps working with me were all top notch. They knew their products, they wanted to help me, and they were each very enthusiastic.  I could have easily settled on any of the three products.

MyCase was my leading contender heading into the demos. I have many friends who swear by it. The company is a real moving and shaker in tech circles. I wanted it to be my winner. Two things eliminated MyCase. First it has also (like AbacusLaw) gone through the merger and acquisition cycle recently. The parent company has also gone public. That usually means dollars before customers while it finds and solidifies itself. I don't need that anxiety. Second the email integration components of the product were lacking. Given that probably 90% of my law firms communications are by email, that was the real deal breaker. Scratch MyCase from the list.

Practice Panther was the real surprise! It is an easy to use, graphically pleasing program that I really liked. I scratched it from the list because, unlike MyCase and Rocket Matter, it does not include document storage as part of its program.  Instead you have to integrate with box, and use it as your storage portal. Criticize me if you will, but I just don't like box. It does not play nice with me. I have repeatedly tried to make it work for me (including while testing Practice Panther) and it just has not worked. Plus I did not fancy the idea of paying for a box subscription in addition to the Practice Panther subscription. Scratch Practice Panther from the list. I will say this though, had it not been for the box issue Practice Panther likely would have been my winner.

That leaves us with Rocket Matter, and that is the company I signed up with.  How is it going? That is for future posts. Stayed tuned....

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