2018 Update: PracticePanther has updated its Accounting Features since this post was first published. See the new Accounting section for more.
PracticePanther Legal Software is a web-based software program that caters to small and medium-sized law firms. It’s one of the “Big Four” in legal software along with Clio, RocketMatter, and MyCase. It is the newest of the four (est. 2012), but the program has quickly risen to prominence over older, more established practice management software. It’s the new kid on the block, but I was surprised by how well it stacks up to its competitors.
Practice Panther, along with the others in the Big Four, offer very similar features: contact lists, deadline tracking, task management, automatic calendaring, and cloud-syncing. It’s certainly in the top tier of practice management software, but how does it shape up to the competition? This review will take a look at PracticePanther’s most distinguishing features, and we’ll see how it stacks up to the competition.
At first glance, you can tell that PracticePanther took its time with the aesthetics. It looks as intuitive as Apple’s operating system. The colors and icons are all adjustable; the Red/Ferrari design was created by the PracticePanther representative who showed me the full demo.
The program’s dashboard highlights your firm’s financial status of the past month (or whatever time period you prefer). It shows you how much you were paid, and how much is due. This is a great way to follow one of Small Firm Legal Marketing’s most essential tips: track the data.
The dashboard also shows your upcoming tasks and schedule for the week (or whatever time period you set). You can also set up a daily reminder for your schedule for that day, or you can receive a text message that outlines your day.
The search function is conveniently available from any screen for you to quickly pull up a client or matter.
One of PracticePanther’s perks is that it integrates with just about every other program (LawPay, Paypal, Quickbooks, Gmail, Outlook, etc.), and it’s always adding new integrations.
If you’re a techy kind of lawyer, and you’re always looking to use the latest apps and programs to maximize your practice’s efficiency, PracticePanther is very responsive to their clients’ demands for integration. The program has it’s own Google Chrome Extension, and it even has an API that you can use with other apps to automate data transfers.
If you’re not that tech-savvy, PracticePanther has video tutorial for every one of their features, and even if you require some serious hand-holding, they have an on-call help center that will personally guide you through anything you’re trying to understand.
PracticePanther has grown significantly in integration since it’s entrance to the legal software market. In previous years, consumers were pleased with PracticePanther’s ease of use and features, but were disappointed with the lack of integration into the other apps they use. Since 2016, Practice panther has accelerated its development team and now supports nearly every other program a lawyer might use for his practice. Their Help Center encourages customers to submit Feature Requests to help improve the service, and the company’s development team updates the program multiple times per month with improvements.
The only integration complaint I found is that it does not fully integrate with the accounting application Xero, but according to a PracticePanther representative in November 2016, Xero is “coming soon.” However, both PracticePanther and Xero connect to Zapier (a web platform for integrating programs together), so you could still use the two together, albeit with an extra step.
There are some features that I thought were particularly useful, and I wanted to highlight them as I think they are a step up from the average legal management program.
Custom Client Intake Form
Every firm has to ask different questions in the client intake process depending on what kind of law they practice. PracticePanther allows you to create as many custom intake fields as you want, but the best part about their Client Intake is that it can integrate with the contact form you put on your website. As we recommended in a previous post, a law firm’s website should have a contact form readily available for prospective clients. PracticePanther will automatically transfer that information to your contact list, eliminating an extra step for most firms.
Client Communication and the Secure Client Portal
If you’re a personal injury attorney like me, you know that clients are very eager to know how their case is going, and what you’re doing to work on it. PracticePanther allows you to automatically forward any details about their case (you filed a motion, answered discovery, communicated with the opposing counsel, etc.) straight to the client. Of course, you get to choose how much or how little you want to send to the client, but this feature keeps the client informed of their status, so they spend less time calling you to ask about their case.
Speaking of client communication, PracticePanther’s Secure Client Portal allows you to bill or pay clients easily, keeping an electronic record of the transaction for your firm. You can also tell when the client has read your message, so the common excuse of “I didn’t see your invoice” will not suffice. All transactions are secured under 256-bit encryption, so your financial information is kept secure.
This isn’t a major feature, but I liked that each firm has an internal chat box similar to Google’s Gchat. Often times, I don’t want to send a full email if I have a quick question, so the chat function would come in handy.
PracticePanther is taking a tip from Rocket Matter and focusing more on their accounting. With its new integration with Quickbooks, you can check on, sync, or reconcile your operating and trust accounts from within the PracticePanther program. You can also print checks directly.
Since many lawyers use Quickbooks already, it will be a relief to be able to stay within one program instead of jumping back and forth between two. No more copy-pasting number from Quickbooks to PracticePanther to keep everything up to date. Good accounting integration has become a main feature for many case management platforms, so this upgrade was very much needed.
Pricing is one of the reasons many lawyers recommend PracticePanther. Many legal software companies offer a tiered pricing system based on the amount of features you want; billing, accounting, email, and other third party integration will only be included in the premium version. PracticePanther gives you access to every feature for $49 per user. This is about half the price of Clio for the same features, but competitively priced compared to RocketMatter and MyCase.
(Update: PracticePanther has offered 10% off the first year for readers of Small Firm Legal Marketing. Sign up through any of the links in this post to receive your discount)
Moving From Your Current Software
I’ve never moved from one legal software company to another, but it’s rather easy. Nearly all the software have an export function that creates an .csv file containing your contacts/events/notes, etc. You create a .csv file from your old software and import it onto your new software on a page like this:
And fortunately, PracticePanther has a team dedicated to moving you from your previous software to them.
There are two Legal Software programs with the more features than the rest: Clio and PracticePanther. Practice Panther is more affordable and has a slicker look to it. Clio, however, is more established as the top-tier legal management software.
I have read more negative reviews about Clio than about PracticePanther, but then again, Clio has more overall users.
However, despite it’s youth, PracticePanther is the best investment for firms going forward. They update their service so frequently that they are always on top of tech, and they are very responsive to customer feedback. I wouldn’t recommend a product that I don’t trust or wouldn’t use myself, and after using the product, reading hundreds of reviews, and talking with representatives from the company, I can confidently say that this is a product worth buying for law firms.
For me, customer service cannot be overstated. Most lawyers are not super tech-savvy, and the on-call help center, as well as the hundred of videos dedicated to showing you the tips and tricks of the program, is an indispensable resource that not all legal management programs have.
If you are in the market to buy a legal software provider for your firm, I don’t think you can go wrong by choosing PracticePanther. (side note: their website’s homepage is slightly annoying because they are aggressive about getting your email address, but you don’t want to give it to them, you can click “tell me more” to get around it). Get started here.
What’s your experience with PracticePanther, Clio, or any of their competitors? What do you look for most in legal software for your firm? Do you think PracticePanther is missing anything? Please leave your feedback in the comment section below.