Finney: 8 steps to evaluating and selecting your firm’s software

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

FinneyThe words, “This software is horrible,” often echo through the halls of many firms. “We’ve tried all the systems available, and they’re all equally as terrible” is the resounding response. Why does it seem that no software developer can get it right?

The answer may be as simple as shifting the focus from what the software developer needs to change to evaluating what internal processes need to be changed. Oftentimes firms select software based upon performance during a software demonstration rather than evaluating what will provide the best results for specific firm needs. Finding the right software requires identification of job requirements including process workflows prior to selecting the tool. The following steps are useful in both selecting new software and improving satisfaction with current systems.

Step 1: Document current process. When firms skip this step and jump directly to demonstrations, the selection becomes merely about showmanship. Without a true understanding of the current process it is nearly impossible to recognize if the software is the right fit.

At this stage a focus group representative of each role in the current process should be established. By documenting the process as a group, it often becomes apparent that portions of the process are resulting in duplication of efforts or people unknowingly causing conflicts with the workflow of others.

Step 2: Identify current pain points. Without knowing what seems to be broken, it will be difficult to fix. While some pain points will be known prior to Step 1, many others will likely arise during the documentation of the current process. Bottom line, a detailed list of pain points must be identified to recognize the end goal.

Step 3: Categorize needs, wants and deal-breakers. No single software tool can encompass every single task you may desire to perform. Therefore, classifying requirements is necessary to ensure that necessities are not overlooked and that too much time is not spent trying to accommodate wishful thinking.

Step 4: Set a budget. Oftentimes this can be difficult without knowing reasonable ballpark ranges. While most software companies will provide such information upon request, realistic quotes will require information regarding the intent and goals identified by your focus group. By setting a spending limit upfront, time will be saved limiting demonstrations to include only packages and features within budget.

Step 5: Assessment. Receiving feedback about popular software packages can assist in identification of packages to review. Software reviews can be easily collected via various legal technology publications, legal technology networking groups, and of course colleagues in other firms. When requesting a demonstration, it is best to provide the sales representative with key information identified by the focus group to find any deal-breakers within a package and allow the demonstration to be tailored to your firm. Ideally all members of the focus group should be available to view the demonstration and compare each package.

Step 6: Selection of software and workflow. The selection phase may seem daunting, but viable options often become apparent when measuring against comprehensive benchmarks. Once a selection has been made, the focus group should then reevaluate the firm’s process to determine what tweaks will need to be made and standards set to enable the software to work as intended.

Step 7: Implementation. This phase is not merely a matter of installing software and allowing users to sit through a 30-minute webinar to learn the product. Members of the firm should be trained on both the product and firm-specific processes to ensure data integrity and process consistency. This will require extensive planning to ensure reasonable standards are set for things like naming conventions, consistent usage of fields and general best practices. Documentation of these standards is essential to ensure they are adhered to into the future. If data is not entered consistently, anticipated features will not produce the intended results and often leads to a general distrust of the product creating a consensus that the product does not work.

Step 8: Audit. This process should not stop after implementation because it is not uncommon for people to revert back to old habits. Additionally, it is normal for changes in desired reports and similar output to occur over time. Without continual attention to ensuring standards are being followed and underlying processes continue to be practical, the effectiveness of the software can quickly decline.

Though this process may seem tedious and time consuming, remember the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.”•


Deanna Finney ( is a co-owner of the Indianapolis-based legal technology company, Modern Information Solutions LLC. Areas of service include traditional IT services, software training and litigation support including trial presentation services. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  2. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  3. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  4. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

  5. (A)ll (C)riminals (L)ove (U)s is up to their old, "If it's honorable and pro-American, we're against it," nonsense. I'm not a big Pence fan but at least he's showing his patriotism which is something the left won't do.