Migrating to a New Legal Practice Management System

Making the time upfront to do a data migration the right way will save you from the stress of the unexpected as you go through a transition.

It can be daunting to even think about migrating to legal practice management systems. While you may know the move is needed, transitioning from the outdated software applications your firm uses now to a new modern system for the future – the process of data migration – can be stressful. The key is being prepared and planning ahead! Here are a few things to consider to ensure a successful migration.

Know the Location of Your Data

The data you’ll move to the new system may currently be in multiple locations, including the current practice management system, a CRM system, accounting applications, data stores, or time and billing systems. Make a list of all your data sources so you can consider them as part of the transition process.

Got paper? This is a great time to go digital – transfer your paper files to electronic storage during migration. Learn how here: The Ultimate Law Firm Practice Management Checklist for Making Your Move from Paper to Digital.

Assess Your Current Data

It’s important to ensure that all of your data will be accessible in the new legal practice management system. For a successful data migration, work with the new system provider to assess your list of data sources and understand where each type of data – clients, cases, billing data, calendars, etc. – will reside in the new system.

Decide Which Data to Migrate

Now that you know where your data resides and the type of data you have, determine how much history you need. This may be influenced by compliance or regulatory guidelines, archiving standards or the nature of particular clients and their cases. Consider contacts data, calendars and financial data. Categorize the “must-have” data versus the “nice to have” data. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Migrate three years of calendar/event data.
  • Import all matters – even those closed – for conflict checks.
  • For contacts, the primary client contact information must be imported. All other contacts should be cleaned up prior to migration.
  • Any WIP (unbilled time and unbilled expenses) more than two to five years old that will not be billed should not be migrated.
  • Address any longer-term outstanding invoices prior to migration.

To build your data checklist, check out our example in the CARET Legal blog post: Migrating to a New LPM: How Much Data Should You Move?

Conduct a Data Cleanse

moving your data over to a new practice management software through a data migration

A data migration is your opportunity to get a fresh start on your data. The last thing you want to do is transfer bad data into a new system.To ensure a successful migration, get your house in order before the move. Take the time to plan and conduct a data cleansing effort prior to the migration to fix or remove incorrect, corrupt, incorrectly formatted, duplicate or incomplete data within the source applications. There are tools to help with this, but some human interaction is necessary.

Set a Migration Timeline

Make sure you are working with a team of experts that you can trust to help prepare and move data from a legacy system to your new legal practice management platform within a time frame that works for your business needs. Take your billing schedule into consideration when choosing the actual live date to do the transition. It is best to conduct the migration at a slow period or over a weekend. The migration team should give the billers ample time to get adjusted to the new platform to ensure billing goes smoothly. If planned correctly, the migration to the new system should only take about a week.

Plan for Access to Non-Migrating Data

If there are some things that will not be migrating such as historical data, financials or other reports, make sure you can access them later if needed. Despite all quality control measures, there may be times when you must access a piece of old data. While you may retain the ability to access data or run reports on old on-premises systems, licenses may expire, so consider ways to export reports or information into PDFs or another accessible format. A copy of the prior platform should be kept for up to 60 days.

Security Should Be a Priority

It’s important to work with a software vendor that has strict security measures in place for your data to ensure it stays secure during the transition. Security audits should be part of the ongoing process to identify potential vulnerabilities.


Making the time upfront to do a data migration the right way will save you from the stress of the unexpected as you go through a transition. Taking all of these steps into consideration will give you a stronger sense of direction and allow you to make better decisions, and as a result, you will enjoy a more successful and streamlined data migration to your new legal practice management software.

Learn more about how a cloud-based practice management software can help your law firm improve efficiency and what to expect during the data migration process in our whitepaper.

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