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How to gracefully handle the transition to a CMS at your law firm

Congratulations on your decision to adopt a case management system! Your matter management strategy is about to get a whole lot better.

That said, the transition to a new, centralized system is a big one.

You don’t have to dread the migration process. The software vendor you chose will be there to help you make the move, and the time you’ll save by working in this new system will more than make up for the work you put in now.

Ready to lead your law firm in a better direction? Here are some top change management tips to help.

Reduce pushback by highlighting the positives

One of the best ways to smooth the CMS transition is to sell your staff on how case management software will make their lives easier.

CMS tools can make your firm more efficient and productive, but if we’re being honest, none of your employees care about those overall productivity levels. As far as they’re concerned, you’re making the money, and they’re doing all the work.

Fortunately, working from a CMS is a lot better for everyone at your firm. They’ll have fewer headaches and work will be more pleasant. Make sure they understand the benefits of CMS for them.

Case management software is generally cloud-based and enables remote and hybrid work. By having a centralized system that can be accessed from anywhere, teams can access information, access documents, and collaborate even if they are not in the same physical location.

CMS tools can also automate many processes and workflows, freeing your staff from time-consuming and repetitive tasks.

Emphasize the specific benefits of the CMS tool you are implementing. Case management software can deal with a wide variety of tasks — automated calendaring, streamlined time tracking and invoicing, file storage, document templates, and more.

Whatever your pain points are as a legal practice, ensure your employees know the new CMS will soothe them.

Implement employee training

It is crucial that you do not simply leave your attorneys and other legal staff to figure out the CMS tool on their own. They won’t.

Instead, implement employee training so that you are getting the most out of your tech investment. In most cases, your software vendor offers this training for free, and they’ll repeat it as often as you need them to.

Once you’ve offered this training, give your employees the space to actually take it. Clear time on their busy calendars to make sure they’re able to get trained and ask questions.

Of course they have too much on their plate to step away. That’s why you’re making this shift in the first place, right? Whatever you have to do, help them free up a few hours for focused training and follow-ups.

Speaking of follow-ups, it’s important to get those scheduled right away. You can’t expect anyone to be an expert after one walkthrough, and follow-up training is a lot more effective than the first look because of the extra context. You’ll have a much better idea of what you want to do and what you need to ask.

Handle data migration

When implementing a new CMS tool, you will need to consider how to transfer data from your existing system to the new system.

This data migration is critical since it will be a major determinant in getting your new CMS up and running. Lean heavily on your software provider to assist you in these efforts — and be sure they offer these services when you go software shopping.

It is important to recognize your various options with data migration.

Transferring all data may not be feasible. Depending on the intended uses of your new CMS, you may be able to transfer only certain types of data such as frequently used documents or data for open cases.

The best options will vary from firm to firm.

Make good use of ongoing training and customer support

The vendor that makes your CMS wants you to get everything out of it that you can. The more valuable you find the software, the more likely you are to keep on using (and paying for) it.

You’ll have access to customer support, ongoing training, and probably a dedicated account manager who can help you learn and utilize all the neat features that are already built in. Take advantage of this.

Schedule a regular check-in with your account manager and ask them to go over your implementation to show you any tools or features that you might be missing. If there’s something you could be doing better, ask for a training session for your team.

Get familiar with the support center for your CMS, too.

Make sure that everyone who uses the system knows how to find support and has the contact information to get help when they need it. You don’t want them to have to go through you to solve any little issues that come up during the workday.

Transition one element at a time

There is no reason you should feel compelled to immediately shift every workflow in your firm to the new case management system. Instead, consider transitioning only one element at a time to make the adjustment easier for everyone.

As an example, your firm may have encountered its biggest problems with calendaring and deadlines. In that case, begin using the CMS for calendar management only.

Alternatively, you could center the initial CMS transition on staff communication, client intake, or document management.

Whatever your firm’s primary pain point, start the CMS transition there so that your entire staff is not biting off more than they can chew. Plus, by fixing your biggest problem first, you’re much more likely to get buy-in for the rest of the transition.

Stay the course

The last tip is simple to say, but harder to do:

Stick with your transition plan, even when it feels hard or inconvenient.

You’re making the move in phases. This can make it feel like you’re dragging along at a snail’s pace, stuck in a technology limbo between your old process and the new system. You’ll be tempted to either push for faster change or drop the idea altogether.

Stay the course.

Moving too quickly will overwhelm your employees, and they will resist the change even harder. They might simply refuse to work in the new CMS, or they might take a much longer time to make the transition. Plus, you’re more likely to make expensive mistakes because you pushed too hard.

At the same time, moving too slowly leaves you in a lurch. The longer it takes you to finish migration, the less likely it is that you’ll ever get your team to make the switch completely.

Your CMS account manager will help you set an appropriate plan and timeline based on where you are now and where you want to be. They’ve been through this before, and they want your transition to go well just as much as you do. Lean on their experience and follow the path they helped you set.


  • Mike Robinson

    After a fifteen-year legal career in business and healthcare finance litigation, Mike Robinson now crafts compelling content that explores topics around technology, litigation, and process improvements in the legal industry.

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