When it comes to choosing a legal software provider, it can be difficult to know whether you’re getting the best deal—and the best option for your needs. In a guest post for practice management software provider Clio, digital technologist expert Peter Wright weighs in.
As a solicitor, leading expert in data protection, cyber security and its application to digital technology, and Managing Director of Digital Law—as well as a past Chair of the Technology and Law Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales and a past Chair of the Law Society’s GDPR Working Group—Peter is uniquely suited to discuss this matter.
Below he provides five of essential questions to ask of any legal software provider.
5 essential questions to ask any legal software provider
Conference and exhibition season is coming up, when you may be seeing loads of different tech suppliers and legal software providers all trying to sell their wares to the unsuspecting public. This can be a real minefield, particularly for lawyers in management positions, as professional legal training still does not include any defined element that looks at legaltech or technology as a whole. Therefore, it is an area that we are poorly equipped to navigate.
There are certain questions that you should ask of any technology supplier, and we are going to run through a few of those now. Please bear in mind that the following points are by no means exhaustive but should start you off down the path of issues to consider.
What are the contract terms of the legal software?
When you are offered terms by the legal software provider, are they excessively long and filled with legal and technical jargon, e.g. the Apple or Facebook user licence agreements? Long and complex terms of service offered by a supplier are not an indicator of quality. They may also indicate an attempt by the supplier to dissuade the customer from reading and reviewing all of the terms in an attempt to ensnare the customer into an overly restrictive contract.
What is the contract length for the legal software?
Does the supplier’s contract amount to a minimum fixed-term deal? i.e. you are locked into using a supplier for two, three, or four years? You might be sure this supplier is perfect for you now, but if your needs change, what happens then? For example, if you need to downsize or the supplier introduces price increases, you might be stuck paying for a service that no longer fits your needs or budget (especially if you were required to pay the full term upfront or to finance that cost).
On the flip side of that, if you grow your firm, will there be hidden fees, such as a price increase for adding or removing licences?
Speaking of your needs changing, is there a break clause on the contract? Are there any conditions on the break clause, for example, force majeure? If there’s not, you may be stuck with a contract that no longer suits your needs without any recourse.
How secure is this legal software?
What security measures are in place, e.g. encryption, multi-factor identification (“MFID”)? The supplier should be able to confirm the encryption standard, e.g. SSL or AES. They should also confirm whether it is up to a level of 128-bit, 256-bit or higher.
Where is your operational and legal data held?
Where is the data held, i.e. where are the servers located, and if located outside the UK/EEA, are the appropriate safeguards in place? You would expect to see safeguards such as Standard Contractual Clauses (“SCCs”) or the supplier may claim to have Binding Corporate Rules (“BCRs”) in place.
Does this legal software ensure regulatory compliance?
Does the platform meet basic regulatory standards as required by the SRA, ICO, and other applicable regulators such as the FCA depending on the activities of your clients? Do not make the assumption that just because a platform is used by other organisations that are highly regulated, it will mean that they comply with the requirements of the SRA or indeed that they display adequate compliance with the ICO. You may be surprised by the lack of compliance demonstrated by many well-known platforms, which often only becomes apparent when you dig a little deeper.
The above five points are just some of the questions to ask any legal software provider you are considering. Peter Wright provides seven more in a guest post for Clio.
You can read all twelve essential questions you should ask of a legal software provider in this Clio blog post.
Or, to see how Clio stacks up as a practice management and client relationship management software provider, schedule a free demonstration of the software.
Article written by Peter Wright, a solicitor and leading expert in data protection, cyber security and its application to digital technology.
This article was submitted to be published by Clio as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Family Lawyer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Family Lawyer.