Every firm and legal department needs some type of software to manage all their deadlines.  And not every docket software is equal in features and functionality.  It can be a daunting task to decide upon which software to purchase and most firms have no idea what to ask the vendors.  This article will provide 10 tips on selecting litigation docketing software in order to keep you and your firm safe from deadline errors and omissions.

  1. Perform due diligence on the vendors.
    Obviously you want a reliable vendor that understands your issues and requirements and provides the support and knowledge you need to make the transition smooth from your current docketing tool to the new one.  Here are a few questions to ask the vendor about their profile.

    • Provide a brief overview of the company including number of years in business, number of years supporting the docketing software, number of employees, the nature of the business, and a description of their clients.
    • Indicate the approximate number of installations in the last 3 years by the year of the installation and the total number of firms using the system.
    • Provide a list of at least three references similar in size and specialty to your firm.  References should be clients who have had their system installed within the past three years.
    • Has the company ever been sued for liability related to the docketing software?
  2. Ask about the technical environment.
    • Describe the minimum and recommended hardware and software configurations
    • What are the system requirements?
    • Is there a cloud based option?
  3. Request information related to the implementation plan.
    • Describe the typical implementation plan.
    • About how long will the project last before completion?
    • What kind of client communication and planning is done prior to the installation?
  4. Ask about their training.
    • Describe the training provided to the firm.
    • How much does that cost?
  5. Find out about their technical support.
    • Where is the support center located?
    • What are the methods for contacting support?
    • What are the hours of operation?
    • Describe the ongoing system support provided after installation.
  6. Ask about the software maintenance.
    • Are software upgrades provided as part of the support contract?
    • Are there hot fixes or updates between new versions?
    • How often are new versions released?
    • How are customer requests for enhancements and customizations handled?
  7. Find out if there is a user group.
    • Is there a user group that meets regularly?
    • Is the group virtual?
    • How often does the group meet, if at all?
  8. Seek information about the features and functionality.
    • For every feature or function have the vendor indicate the following:
      • Is the feature available and installed?
      • Is the feature available but not yet installed?
      • Is the feature currently under development?
      • Is the feature not available?
    • A checklist should be provided to the vendor.  Some of the features should include:
      • Support calendaring of events by individual timekeepers as well as teams.
      • Permit automation by importing of client, matter, and attorney information from time and billing systems.
      • Perform duplicate and error checking.
      • Have sufficient security control over end users.
      • Easily assign and reassign attorneys to matters and events.
      • Ability to schedule reports for certain days, times, attorneys, clients, matters, etc.
      • Ability to distribute reports automatically as a PDF or HTML to email recipients.
      • Integrations with conflict and new business intake systems.
      • Integration with Outlook with global and individual settings for attorneys.
      • Access to legal and non-legal staff as read only.
      • Auditing of user additions, changes, or deletion of records.
      • Import data from courts.
      • Permit scheduling of recurring events.
      • Integrated database of court and agency rules.
      • Generate automatic date calculations and account for court holidays.
      • Integrate with document management system.
  9. Ask about the integrated court and agency rules.
    • Is the rules database owned by the vendor or do they use a third party provider?
    • Does the provider employ full time U.S. licensed attorneys experienced in litigation?
    • How many attorneys are employed?
    • Get the attorneys’ bios.
    • What is the frequency of the rules updates?
    • What is the process involved in notifying the client of changes to the rules?
    • Does the software have the flexibility to create rules customizations?
    • What are all the jurisdictions covered by the rules database?
  10. Get the pricing options.
    • Is the pricing based upon “on demand” or a la carte type of model?
    • Is the pricing based upon a total package model?
    • Is the annual maintenance included in the price?
    • Is it a subscription based model?

In conclusion, the software you ultimately choose must meet your needs and requirements to further mitigate deadline errors.  As with any type of software acquisition, the firm should assign a project manager and a team of stakeholders that will decide upon the software features and functionality needed to support the firm, remain compliant with firm policies, create efficiencies, and increase productivity.  These tips should get you started in selecting new docketing software.  If you have any questions, please contact Chris at cgierymski@docketlife.com.