I called Deepa Patel of Halak Consulting looking for a LexisNexis Certified Independent Consultant in the Bay Area who could help whip a client’s Time Matters installation into shape. The conversation quickly turned to the new product that she is also trained to handle, the one to which she has committed her own office and is clearly excited about.
Within a week I was looking at a demo of AdvologixPM and feeling my own sense of excitement about what the future might hold for law offices.
If you’re interested in law office case management – and especially if you work in a law firm and might consider a new practice management platform – I want you to sign up for an Advologix demo (Tuesday afternoons at 1pm PST).
Let me give you some background.
You may not know the name Salesforce.com if you don’t work for a big company. Salesforce.com provides a platform used mostly for CRM, “customer relationship management,” a big deal in the Fortune 500 world. The company has revenues in the billions of dollars, thousands of employees, 2 million users, operates worldwide, and makes news in the blogosphere when it goes down – as it did once in the last year, for 21 minutes.
The platform presented by Salesforce operates entirely in a web browser. With a good Internet connection, performance is just as fast as any local program installed on your desktop, running from a server down the hall. At the enterprise level, speed and security are taken very seriously.
The “Force.com” platform is designed to be used by outside developers for customized applications run on the Salesforce.com servers. The Advologix developers took the first version of their program and rewrote it for Force.com in 2009.
Advologix is a full-featured law office platform for case management (contacts, calendars, matters, conflict checking), with robust support for time, billing and expenses. It integrates with Outlook or Google Apps in a number of different ways, as well as having various ways to present information on mobile devices. It integrates deeply with NetDocuments, a full-powered document manager also
running on integrated into the SalesForce platform, which means all firm documents could be moved into the cloud along with the case management data. It’s deeply customizable. At the moment the company is still relatively small and reportedly very responsive to feature requests and bug reports. Here’s a lengthy overview, in addition to the information on the Advologix web site.
Steve Stockstill was one of the original developers of the Enterprise edition of Time Matters and stayed with LexisNexis to become its Director Of Software Engineering. He left in 2007 to start Data Equity, a well-known source of TM support and add-on products. In what might be considered a sign of the times, Steve recently resigned as a TM CIC and become the Chief Technology Officer for Advologix.
Here’s the heart of a complimentary review of Advologix:
Let me tell you what it doesn’t have that we used to get from Time Matters. It doesn’t freeze. It doesn’t lose its connection to the server and suddenly go blank. Its email integration is with a variety of external programs so it’s not your choice of Microsoft or the-worst-email-software-ever (Time Matters’ native email interface). It doesn’t force you to use PCs (we’re switching to Macs). Its customization doesn’t require you to guess whether what you want to change is at the “user” “workstation” or “program” level. We don’t have to call an expensive technician or pay the developer a support fee when we have a problem, question or want to customize something. We don’t have to drop thousands of dollars on maintaining a server and occasional updates that are never much better than what we had before.
Is Advologix the perfect answer for small law firms looking for case management? My goodness, I don’t know. I’ve seen a one-hour demo. I can point to a few things that temper my enthusiasm at the outset, and a couple that can only be learned by living with it for a while.
- It’s expensive – monthly per user charges that will add up fast. A fair comparison with a traditional client/server program would make the difference much less dramatic when the cost of licenses, hardware, support, upgrades, backups and security are taken into account (the TCO, “Total Cost of Ownership,” in the jargon), but there’s still a bit of sticker shock.
- The term “customizable” tends to be a code word for “complicated.” Advologix screens are neat and tidy and uncomplicated but that might mask a thousand quirks and a steep learning curve. You’ll likely need help from a qualified consultant to get set up and trained. That’s not a distinguishing feature, though, since the same thing is true of the old-school products.
- This is a relatively new company with unknown finances. The Salesforce platform will live forever but Advologix might not – there are already competitors and more are likely to emerge. (Personally, though, I wouldn’t bet on the future of any of the old-school players in the field, no matter how long they’ve lasted so far.)
- The details matter. I have little information about how Advologix integrates with Outlook or Exchange, or what it means to integrate document management (with or without NetDocuments), or what the reporting and billing features are like. There is no good way to learn those things without jumping in and hoping for the best.
- There is relatively little feedback online – not much criticism, which is good, but frankly not many comments at all.
I’ll tell you what I did feel strongly during that Advologix demo as compared to Time Matters/Abacus/Amicus and the rest: I felt like I was looking at the future instead of the past. A law firm’s commitment to a case management system is a marriage in which the firm invests the entire practice. The firm’s productivity, the relationship with clients, the bills, the work product of the firm will be shaped by the choice of case management software. This platform looks forward. The others look back.
If you look into Advologix, you will see two competitors mentioned, Clio and Rocket Matter, designed around the same concept of case management delivered in a browser from cloud-based servers. They are slightly cheaper. I’ve seen anecdotal reports that they are not as full-featured as Advologix, for better or for worse. I have no information about Clio or Rocket Matter. I’ve barely looked at the web sites. They might be swell. (I have to say the obvious – “Rocket Matter” is not a good name for a product marketed to law firms. But that’s not conclusive.)
For what it’s worth, my gut tells me that the Salesforce.com platform is a compelling advantage for Advologix. It is a dead serious platform for serious work.
Looking at the Advologix demo made me feel optimistic. Working with old-school products makes me tired, and the money I earn is tinged with frustration and regret that I haven’t had anything better to suggest. This might be better.
Take a look. Call Ms. Patel and talk about it. Let me know. See anything you like?