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We recently discussed what the future of law firms might look like when previewing Thomson Reuters' (FindLaw's parent company) upcoming product, Firm Central. We hoped it might fill the void in our legal tech-geek souls.
It's not the first of its kind, however. There were others before it, which may or may not be be superior. We aim to find out, beginning with MyCase, a cloud-based practice management platform with a nifty social media-esque interface. If your memory is cloudy as to why these online solutions are a desirable concept, take a quick look at our preview of Firm Central for the gist of the concept.
For each contender, we are going to use a dinosaur of a netbook to put the platform through its paces. We'll then assign an arbitrary score on a scale of 1-10, based solely on our subjective time-limited experiences. Sound fun? Let's get started.
How do I love thee? Let me count the seamless interface, nonexistent learning curve, and shades of blue and grays. The set-up of a fictional firm took a matter of minutes, not hours. After watching an 18 minute training video, found below, the learning curve for a tech geek lawyer was nil. Heck, the interface is so intuitive, anyone familiar with Facebook and basic office software could learn it in less than a day.
It has calendaring, contact and case management, tasks, time sheets, billing, invoices, document sharing; nearly everything you'd need to run a firm. It also has a client portal, where your client can log in and see whatever documents you choose to share, plus invoices and payment choices.
Some technophobe clients, or those with language barriers, might be resistant to using the portal. We wonder if multi-lingualism might be a planned feature down the road.
The built-in document editor is, quite frankly, useless, except for quick online reads and changing a sentence or two. Google Chrome's built-in spell check wouldn't work with it, nor did it have its own.
Speaking of documents - there are none. It has built in document management, but no forms or templates included. While actual legal forms would cost money to distribute, or be labor-intensive to keep updated, even simple form letters for correspondence, such as a "Pay me my money,
fool sir!" letter would be handy. Instead, you have to draft your own, which takes time and is a pain when using the previously lambasted document editor.
The messaging tab is also a bit underwhelming; it looks like email. There is even a MyCase-provided email address associated with it. But what about those of us who want to use our existing firm-specific addresses? Usernameemail@example.com is less appealing than firstname.lastname@example.org.
It shouldn't be that difficult to add POP3 or IMAP access to outside accounts.
Finally, there's no conflict checker. Their site suggests searching for names related to a case, but is the receptionist really going to remember cases from three years ago? It seems too easy to have conflicts slip through the cracks.
There's a lot to love and only a little to loathe. The omissions, however, are glaring. The beauty of this app is its all-in-oneness. If you have to use your own email and Microsoft Word throughout the day, that defeats the purpose a bit, doesn't it? Still, the ridiculously short set-up time and intuitive everything make us really love the platform itself, so we'll give it an 8.