Best-in-Class or All-in-One?

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The legal technology industry is booming, and law firms are beginning to move past the reputation of being tech-averse. Law firms have a lot of choices in selecting tools to support everything, from workflow management and practice management to contract drafting and e-discovery.

With all of these options, do firms benefit more from embracing a “one-stop-shop” solution or a niche solution? Answers to this have ping-ponged over the years, similar to the debate over whether in-house teams should reduce the number of law firms they work with or spread work across many firms. Ultimately, the answer is different for each firm and situation. Consider the following factors when making the decision.

Cost

Legal technology pricing comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s important to understand the various pricing models and what factors impact initial and ongoing costs. Flat fees are the simplest to understand and plan for, since as the name suggests, you know up-front what the price is and there typically aren’t additional variables that will affect the price. It is important though to know what the flat fee is based on. For instance, is the flat fee based on your firm size (lawyer count), or are all firms charged the same amount? Beyond flat fees, the most common pricing models are based on the number of users, the volume of usage, tiered packages, and per feature/model.

It’s often assumed that an all-in-one technology is cheaper than taking a best-in-class software approach, but is it? The answer is: it depends on the pricing model and what factors will alter the price. If the model is based on usage, it’s unlikely that having one platform will be cheaper than having niche platforms. If it’s flat-fee pricing, it could be cheaper to consolidate the number of platforms.

Alignment with Business Strategy

Technology supports business strategies, which makes it essential to align your selection of technology with the business issue or project at hand. Before evaluating a specific technology solution, break down the business need or project into steps and expected outcomes. For instance, if you are trying to make a workflow more efficient, what steps are involved in the current workflow and how do you envision software supporting more efficient outcomes? This will create your blueprint for determining what type of software would provide the best value.

Niche systems have the benefit of keying in on a specific process, workflow or outcome. All-in-one systems have the benefit of covering a broader range of business needs. So, the question becomes, how do each of these approaches achieve your business goals? Ultimately, this will come down to the relative importance of the business need and potential value that could be derived from technology. The more important and unique the business need, the more likely a niche solution will be the better choice.

Client Support

The support you receive from a technology provider can make the difference between building strong usage and purchasing a tech tool that sits on the shelf. There are many factors to consider when evaluating how well a provider will support your firm. When comparing niche and one-stop options, the biggest differences are the technology company team’s product knowledge and context. Imagine reaching out to a client support team who quickly understands the context of your question and guides you on the best practices for using the system to accomplish your goals. Now compare that to reaching out and having to provide a lot of detail on what you’re trying to accomplish and wait for the client support team to either get you to the person best suited to answer your question or try to navigate the software along with you.

As client success and support teams are tasked with serving more markets and products, they won’t be able to be the expert across all markets and products they are serving. Niche technology tools have a core focus and teams that are more likely to understand your specific needs and the singular tool they are supporting. All-in-one tools that serve multiple markets and have more products likely have larger support teams and systems in place to serve up responses to questions.

The Software

Riddle me this or riddle me that. Is it easier to train many people on one tool or fewer people on many tools? This is a core question to answer when deciding on whether to consolidate systems or use best-in-class technologies. As technology vendors expand to more markets and a broader range of use cases, it becomes inherently more difficult to provide users with an easy-to-navigate interface. It’s important to invite key stakeholders to test drive platforms using their specific use cases. Ask them to compare their experiences with a focus on how long it takes to complete various tasks and how user-friendly they found the systems.

The Answer?

Comparing the cost, business alignment, client support, and the software itself will give you the answer to whether it’s better to select a niche or all-in-one platform. And remember, since each business issue or need is different, the answer will not always be the same. Let your business strategy guide your technology selection.

Stay tuned! Look for part two of this series in the coming weeks, when we will bring you into the world of IP to explore IP docketing systems and things to consider when deciding whether to select best-in-class software for patents and trademarks or whether to select an all-in-one tool.

About the Author

Stacy Zinken brings 20 years of cross-functional marketing, business development, and client success experience to her role as VP of Marketing at Alt Legal. With her in-house law firm experience, as well as her subsequent experience working within legal technology companies, Stacy is uniquely positioned to connect the dots between the strategic value of technology and law firm growth.