The Ultimate Guide to
Cloud Software for Law Firms
There are many inflection points where a law firm begins pondering and exploring the cloud for their firm. Maybe you’re breaking away from BigLaw and starting up your brand new practice. Or maybe your long-time law firm is ready to ditch its onsite servers and say hello to cloud bliss.
Whatever brought you to look deeper into cloud solutions for your firm, look no further than this, ultimate guide to cloud software for law firms.
There are so many different ways to leverage the cloud: cloud apps, cloud-based storage, cloud-based email and more… where to begin?
It’s helpful to break down the different categories of cloud software for law firms. Generally speaking, a law firm seek out and implement software from the following categories:
- Productivity and Word Processing
- Basic Cloud Storage
- Legal Practice Management
- Document Management
- CRM & Intake
- Payment Processing
In this guide to cloud software for law firms, we’ll explore the top cloud-based solution for each category.
Let’s get started.
Google Docs (or the artist formerly known as) is a suite of lightweight, simple, web-based apps for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. While Google Apps (now part of the overall G Suite) is okay for the most basic of needs (simple docs or spreadsheets), and it is cool that you can do everything within a web browser--Google Docs still lacks the robust features and functions found in modern business productivity software, like the Microsoft Office Suite.
Office 365 is Microsoft's new packaging of its long-lived Office Suite. With Office 365, Microsoft has packaged its traditional Office software (along with other services like hosted Exchange) into a subscription-based service. With Office 365, you no longer have to buy (then buy upgrades for) Microsoft Office: With an Office 365 subscription, you'll always have the latest version of Office for your entire firm.
While you can get Office 365 from Microsoft directly (or possibly from your local IT guy), for a better overall cloud experience including end-to-end integration of all of your cloud software and services--we recommend getting the Office 365 suite (including the Microsoft Office software and Exchange email) as part of a broader technology bundle, such as a private cloud platform or bundled with an overall cloud document management suite. This not only helps ensure that all of your technology will work together, but that you can get the help you need from a single cloud provider. Its best to source all cloud software for law firms from as few (capable) providers as possible.
Related: Piecemeal the Cloud at Your Own Risk.
Dropbox is the most well-known cloud storage service. Its low-cost and easy to get started with. It doesn't do much more than simply store your files and give you the ability to share files with outside parties: But if that is all your firm needs, Dropbox has you covered.
Related: Dropbox for Lawyers.
Google Drive is another popular cloud-based storage service. It ties in and works with the aforementioned Google Docs. Google Drive will not only store your files in the cloud (and allow you to share them) but can automatically back up your PC and photos to the cloud.
Related: Google Drive for Lawyers.
Citrix ShareFile is the self-described business-class alternative of Dropbox and Google Drive. And to its credit: ShareFile does have more business and enterprise-focused functionality, including enhanced security and two-factor authentication. While not the cheapest of the basic cloud storage family, ShareFile caters to the business and professional crowd.
Rocket Matter is a popular cloud-based Legal Practice Management solution. Rocket Matter will handle your firms clients, matters, calendars, time billing and more. Being web-based, it doesn't require a server or installation of any software. Rocket Matter integrates with payment processing such as LexCharge and LawPay, and law firm website service JurisPage.
Related: Rocket Matter Review.
CosmoLex is a newer, but fast-growing cloud-based Legal Practice Management solution. Unlike many of its web-based counterparts, CosmoLex includes full, integrated accounting. This means that not only will your firm not need to manage accounting in another application (such as QuickBooks), but that you'll be able to see all relevant info for a client: from open matters, to outstanding balances. Cool stuff.
Related: CosmoLex Review.
Clio is probably the most well-known web-based Legal Practice Management solution. Clio is known as a flexible yet easy-to-use system to manage your firm's clients and cases. Ideal for solo and small firms, Clio integrates with many third-party apps and services, including LawPay, Zapier, Fastcase, Logikull and JurisPage. Clio recently announced the New Clio Experience, which promises a streamlined interface and faster performance.
Related: Clio Review.
MyCase is another popular web-based Legal Practice Management application. MyCase was one of the first in the category, and it will manage your firm's clients, cases, calendars and more. MyCase's (deserved) claim to fame is its powerful client portal: where you can share case updates, messages, documents and more with your clients via a slick online portal that your clients can access from a web browser.
Related: MyCase Review.
Time Matters is a long-running, powerful Legal Practice Management system. Time Matters, by LexisNexis, provides a comprehensive set of tools to manage your firm's clients, matters, calendars, documents and more. Most notable about TIme Matters is how cusotmizable it is. More than any other application we've seen, TIme Matters can be customized to fit your firm's cases and workflow.
Related: Time Matters Review.
ProLaw is a robust, all-in-one Legal Practice Management Solution. ProLaw is one of the few legal platforms that includes front-office/practice management functionality, back-office/billing and accounting tools as well as (more-or-less) full-featured document management functionality. If your firm needs all three of these components in one system: ProLaw should definitely be on your shortlist. ProLaw is often a good fit for law firms of 10 or more staff.
Related: ProLaw Review.
PCLaw, by LexisNexis is a popular practice management and billing/accounting solution for law firms. It includes simple, lightweight practice management functionality (including client, case and calendar management) along with robust billing, accounting and financial reporting tools. For the law firm that needs heavy-duty accounting and an all-in-one platform, PCLaw is a great fit.
Related: PCLaw Review.
Tabs3 is a powerful legal billing and accounting platform. Coupled with its practice management counterpart, PracticeMaster, the two apps together provide a nearly-complete, all-in-one platform for managing your cases, billing and your practice. The company behind Tabs3, STI, is evangelical about customer support. Tabs3 also has a network of consultants ready to help your firm implement the software into your practice.
Related: Tabs3 Review.
Needles is a long-time player in the legal case management space. With an emphasis on Personal Injury practice, many law firms swear by Needles workflow tools and customization. If your firm practices in personal injury, plaintiff or insurance-side, Needles should definitely be on your legal practice management shortlist.
Related: Needles Review.
Bill4Time is a popular, web-based time and billing solution. While not made exclusively for law firms, many law firms find it a great stand-alone time and billing app, and Bill4Time even has a Legal Edition, with billing preferences made just for law firms (ABA billing codes and fee splitting, just to name a few.) If you need a simple, web-based time tracking app--Bill4Time is definitely worth your attention.
Related: Bill4Time Review.
TimeSolv is another popular cloud-based application for time and billing. While made for a variety of industries, TimeSolv is used heavily by lawyers. It includes time tracking, billing, invoicing, expense tracking and reporting. If your firm needs a web-based, easy-to-use time and billing application that doesn't have heavy practice management functionality: give TimeSolv a look.
Timeslips, by Sage, is a long time stand-alone time and billing application. Law firms have been using Timeslips for over a decade when they need software that simply tracks their billable time. Timeslips is often used in tandem with QuickBooks for law firms that need an overall billing and accounting solution, but not necessarily practice or case management. Timeslips is server-based, which means you'll either need to manage your own in-house server or run Timeslips in a private cloud.
QuickBooks Online is probably the most well-known cloud-based accounting platform. While not quite as robust as its desktop/server based counterpart (QuickBooks Professional), QuickBooks Online has come a long way since its launch. QuickBooks Online will handle your chart of accounts, payable, receivables, invoices, inventory, payroll and more. And--many of the cloud-based legal practice management apps integrate with QuickBooks online.
FreshBooks is another popular web-based accounting package. Built to be an alternative to QuickBooks Online, Freshbooks is praised by many lawyers as a great, easy-to-use yet full-fledged accounting system. Freshbooks includes invoicing, expenses, time tracking, projects, payment processing an more.
Xero (pronounced "zero") is another popular, web-based accounting platform. It includes the standard accounting trapping (invoicing, chart of accounts, operating accounts, payables, receivables) as well as great tools for account reconciliation, online invoicing, inventory and more.
Related: Xero Review.
Worldox is a popular document management system for law firms. It’s server-based, which means you’ll need to own and maintain an on-premise server to run it. Worldox is a mature product: it’s been around and used by law firms for over a decade. Worldox is powerful and capable, and integrates with Tabs3, a popular legal practice management and accounting application for law firms. Worldox can be run on-premise or in a private cloud.
Related: Worldox Review.
iManage is a long-running DMS. It is powerful and robust and provides as many, or more functions to manage documents and email as other Document Management Systems in the industry. It has a powerful index and search engine which works across document and email. It does require significant server resources, and requires an IT expert to implement and administer. iManage can be run on your own in-house server or in a private cloud.
Related: iManage Review.
NetDocuments was among the first cloud-based document management applications. NetDocuments is used by a variety of industries including legal, accounting and financial services, and is well-regarded in each industry. NetDocuments includes ndOffice, its Microsoft Office integration. Being web-based, NetDocuments does not require an on-premise server, nor does it require software installation apart from ndOffice.
Related: NetDocuments Review.
LegalWorks is a cloud-based, matter-centric document & email management system. LegalWorks will keep your documents, email and notes organized by matter, indexed and searchable. LegalWorks includes document versioning, powerful search, integrated OCR, scan and fax integration, Microsoft Office and Outlook integration and document tagging/profiling. LegalWorks is available stand-alone or bundled with Microsoft Office and Exchange email.
SalesForce is the most well-known cloud-based CRM system. Used by virtually every industry, Sales Force is a highly customizable solution to manage prospects, sales workflows, closed "deals" and a whole lot more. SalesForce, to their credit, was a pioneer in cloud computing, and one of the first major Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies. While their pricepoint may put them out of reach for solo and very small firms, SalesForce is a powerful CRM platform.
Pipedrive is a more entry-level CRM tool (compared to SalesForce). Its lightweight, easy to use and comes with a more manageable pricepoint, especially for a law firm that's just getting started. Its industry-neutral, which means its a lightweight sales and CRM tool for any industry, not just law firms.
Lexicata is a CRM and client intake app built just for law firms. Unlike the other apps in this list, Lexicata is a CRM and sales tool made to accommodate the way law firms work. Lexicata has the standard sales pipeline management tools that anything calling itself a CRM has--but it extends this functionality into the intake process that is unique to law firms. Lexicata allows you to create and define your own intake forms, build email templates, track sales conversions, create intake checklists and create notes and reminders when bringing in new clients. Lexicata also integrates with Clio legal practice management software.
Related: Lexicata Review.
LexCharge is law firm payment processing in the cloud. It not only allows your clients to pay their bill online, it includes requisite functions such as IOLTA trust accounting, payment plans and recurring billing. LexCharge integrates with popular legal practice management solutions such as Rocket Matter.
LawPay is a well-known, long-standing online payment service for law firms. LawPay boasts competitive rates and a full suite of law-firm-required functions such as trust accounting, a mobile app and integration with popular legal practice management applications. LawPay also has a number of useful reporting tools to better understand your firm's payments.
Evernote is a pioneer in cloud-based note-taking, and a favorite among law firms. Evernote allows you to take, organize and manage notes in a web browser or in a mobile app. Evernote has a beautifully clean interface and is easy to learn and to use. Evernote allows you to create notes, checklists, save web pages for later and more. And bonus: They even used to make Evernote-branded moleskin notebooks that "integrated" with the Evernote app, which was pretty nifty.
OneNote is Microsoft note-taking app and part of the broader Microsoft Office family. OneNote allows you to write, organize and manage notes in the familiar interface style as the rest of Microsoft Office. OneNote also integrates with the Office suite including Outlook for powerful meeting integration. OneNote also works wonderfully with a stylus such as the Surface Pen if you're a user of the Surface Pro, Surface Book or Surface Studio. While Evernote may win the award for simplicity and ease-of-use, OneNote is arguably a more robust note-taking tool.
Related: 5 Reasons Every Lawyer Needs OneNote.