Saturday, March 08, 2008

SaaS and the Virtual Law Office

There has been an interesting dicussion on the ABA's SOLOSEZ listserv lately about web-based legal software. Some of it has been a tad hostile with a couple members completely opposed to web-based software and others hailing it as the future of legal software. There have been two fairly recent web-based legal software releases: Rocket Matters and TrialManager. Ken Obel of Nextpoint wrote a guest post on The Inspired Solo this week addressing some of the objections to SaaS. I'm guessing it's the release of these applications that have started the discussions about SaaS, how it works, and all the pros and cons of a web-based application.

I'll have to take the middle road on this discussion. I believe SaaS can be a cost-effective tool that attorneys can use to manage their legal cases (TrialManager) and even operate their law practices online (VLOTech). However, I'm not sure that SaaS is the end-all-be-all for the management of every solo or small firm practice. It doesn't have to be the sole legal software product used by an attorney. It can be effective as a complementary software as well. The web-based product(s) an attorney choses depends on what he or she needs for the individual law practice and on his or her comfort level with SaaS and the company providing the service.

My advice: Before you chose to go with a web-based application, check into the company that will be providing the service and handling your valuable data. If they won't be upfront about all the "what if" situations and if they don't have policies in place to protect their customers, then I wouldn't go with them.

My mind is on this a lot lately because I've been working with Ben Norman, co-founder of VLOTech, to create the content for the company's website which is being professionally re-done. We are drafting a Faqs page that goes into all of the questions we think the customers might have about the Virtual Law Office Technology, SaaS and web-based applications in general. VLOTech really wants the customers to be educated on the topic and to feel like the company is being upfront from the beginning. I think that's the best approach to take with a web-based legal software application because attorneys are in general very skeptical of new products. It will be interesting to get feedback and see if I'm right about this.

1 comment:

Sheryl Sisk Schelin said...

Thanks for the link, Stephanie. I'm fascinated by this as a solo myself -- SaaS certainly seems to lower the barriers to entry to solo-dom, as it were, at least for some.

But I'm also fascinated by the heated tenor of the debate, as you are. I tend to take a "laissez faire"-ish attitude towards all things tech: whatever floats the office boat, is my feeling. Obviously, others have some pretty strong feelings.

The VLOTech website has some interesting content currently; it'll be interesting to see the final product.