If you were an early adopter of a practice management solution for your firm, chances are it was before cloud computing had taken off. If your firm is one of many still using a legacy practice management application, you may be forced to move to a new platform when your existing provider discontinues support. A better option? Proactively choose to move to a modern legal practice management system (LPMS) on your own timeline.
We have helped countless firms make the move, and we’ve learned some things along the way. The following are a few tips for minimizing disruption and maintaining data quality in the transition to a more modern legal practice management platform.
Know Your Data
Assume that you have multiple sources of data that will need to be moved to the new system.
- Create a full inventory of all your data assets and associated applications.
- Study data stores and flows to understand what upstream and downstream applications might be affected by the new system.
- Consider client contacts, engagement letters, tax returns, supporting documents, bank statements, email folders, calendars, workflow elements, tasks, and events. Financial data may include billable time records, invoices, and payment records.
Most legal software providers have resources that can help firms accomplish these tasks.
Create a Timeline with Milestones
Once the selection of a new LPMS has been made, present the results of the evaluation and make the selection recommendation to managing partners or the board to win approval.
- Work with the SaaS provider to understand the details of their deliverables for onboarding, migration, and training.
- Create a project timeline with deliverables and owners to keep the project moving smoothly and on time.
Involve Stakeholders / Train Early and Often
Once a final selection has been made, arrange a demonstration of the system to a broader group of users across the firm. Communicate project timelines and progress frequently – at least weekly – with those internal stakeholders.
- Plan formal product training on the new system within 2-3 weeks prior to the planned go-live date.
- Get a trial work area set up, including test data, and encourage users to do ad-hoc testing in the software. It’s best to get their questions identified prior to the cutover, so they’ll be better prepared to work in the new system the moment it is operational.
Understand the Goal of Data Migration
In the end, your law firm’s data migration is about retaining data quality.
- Work with the new system provider and the legacy application provider to address data migration efforts.
- Forge agreements between the old and new providers. Will the legacy provider export your data, and if so, in what format? Or will they provide access to the new provider to pull data from the legacy system?
Scope the Migration Dataset
- Which data will be required on the day the firm goes live on the new practice management system?
- Active matters, clients, and cases will likely migrate; archived history or inactive clients may not need to migrate immediately or at all.
- Templates, outlines or reference material that is infrequently used could be slated for a second phase migration.
Clean Up the Migration Dataset
You’ve heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out”? Moving to a new practice management system is not unlike the move to a fresh new home – you don’t want to take along all the junk in the attic or garage. In this step, work with key users to identify and scrub existing data to prepare for a clean move.
- Review lists of customer contacts, employees, and vendors
- Eliminate duplicate records and unused or inactive accounts.
Ensure Your Data Is Secure at Every Step
Be sure the migration team has measures in place to secure the data from loss or errors from the moment it leaves the legacy platform and that it’s protected throughout the process.
A smooth workday with no complaints about the new practice management system is a major accomplishment! Celebrate with your team.