WHY PERSONAL INJURY SOFTWARE IS THE NEW PUNK ROCK IN PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
By Warren Christopher Freiberg
Last year in SmallLaw, I reported on the practice management bubble. Given the number of practice management apps flooding the market, you would expect software companies to differentiate. And in fact you would be correct.
One of the most fascinating developments is the relatively recent explosion of practice management software specifically for personal injury/mass tort law firms.
It makes sense since one of the principal complaints about traditional practice management software is its one-size-fits-all approach. For example, these products focus on time-keeping and hourly billing so they're less than ideal for the contingency business model. Also, personal injury firms have specialized needs such as working with insurance companies, health providers, etc.
For this issue of LitigationWorld, I spoke with the senior management of four of these companies to get their take on this growing segment of the practice management market. (As an aside, I quickly gleaned that these companies prefer the term "case management" rather than "practice management.")
Originally created for use by the national personal injury firm Parker Waichman LLP, SmartAdvocate has been in development since 1999, which has given the browser-based program a leg up over many competitors.
Jerrold S. Parker, the company's CEO and president is quick to point out that SmartAdvocate was first designed with the needs of his firm in mind, so it's been carefully tailored to the demands of personal injury litigation.
The software tracks litigation both by firm and individual employee, features templates that can include data from any field in the case file, and has the ability to add barcodes to documents so they can be scanned and filed without human intervention.
"Most of the cloud-based systems are generic legal case management applications," Parker says. "Because they are generic, they never get to the granular level of detail that personal injury law firms require. Cloud-based applications, because of limitations in their underlying architecture, cannot come close to matching the granular functions of SmartAdvocate."
Parker says that most practice management software on the market today is based on decades-old designs, and that programmers refuse to listen to their law firm customers, the exact opposite of the philosophy that drives SmartAdvocate.
He also touted the app's ability to regularly generate reports that can be delivered via email, send mass texts from the program and have those texts saved in the file, and automatically import medical records from medical record retrieval companies.
"The driving factor that has made SmartAdvocate the leader in case management is the fact that with all other case management software firms the case management software is their businesses - it is from the software they make their money," Parker says. "With SmartAdvocate, the sole reason for its existence was to manage the cases in our law firm. Making the software a business was not part of the plan until 15 years later. We need to make SmartAdvocate better so our own firm runs better."
The major feature coming to SmartAdvocate is a client portal enabling firms to automatically update clients on their cases and share documents.
"Clients will automatically receive email alerts whenever anything significant happens in their case, whether a status change, a court appearance, receipt of medical records, date for their physical examination, a court order, deposition transcript, or other noteworthy information," Parker says. "When one of the programmed events the law firm designates occurs, the client will receive an email with a hyperlink to log into their own client portal where they can review the update without burdening the office staff with time-consuming telephone calls and/or the need to send letters."
(For a more in-depth look at SmartAdvocate, read our TL NewsWire articles from 2017 and 2015 respectively - SmartAdvocate Seeks to Take Document Automation to a New Level in Practice Management Software and A Practice Management Pain Reliever for PI Firms.)