PCLaw: Can we be better?

The release of PCLaw 13 is scheduled for July, so a few months ago, I was asked to look at our training offerings for the product, and come up with some fresh ideas.  Being the Senior Curriculum developer for the Business of Law Software Solutions training team, I have worked on most of our solutions packages in the past, Juris, Time and Billing Matters, CounselLink, Mobility, and InterAction to name a few…..but PCLaw is my specialty. I’ve been with the product for a decade and a half.

When a new release is imminent, we in Training always take a look at what is out there. The hope is always to come up with something new and exciting. OK, maybe ‘exciting’ is not the right word, we are talking about accounting here. We want to come up with something needed, something  that takes a step beyond what we currently have.

Talking about new features is always an obvious starting point. We have dialogue windows, entire modules and processes that clients have not seen before. Still….what about our core product. Do we give our meat and potato features the attention that they deserve?

It is tempting to say yes, after all, I am approaching this from a biased perspective. Our instructor led training has PCLaw covered from head to toe, from adding the first timekeeper, to chasing the delinquent client for payment of his final bill. But this is 2013, and in  the 21st century, the key word for consumerism is ‘more’.

The questions that I had to ask were “What is one thing that we are doing that we could do better?”, “What is the most important area in the software that is not being addressed?”, “Can we give something to our prime users?”

Of course, there are dozens of answers to these questions, so the process came down to selecting the best three responses.

What is the one thing we are doing that we could do better?

This was an easy choice. Feedback from our classroom trainers said that their students wanted to know about reports. This becomes a very interesting topic. PCLaw has reports. In fact, PCLaw contains over 80 different reports. Some are very straight forward like journals, or the Time Listing, others are more complex but essential, such as the Client Ledger or Receivables by clients.

Then there are those reports, that internally, are named after one of PCLaw’s original partners, as whenever he would visit a large law firm that was a potential client, he would come back with a request for a new productivity type report. That report was added, and it served the new law firm, it most undoubtedly served a number of law firms, but it didn’t serve all of them, as a law firm’s reporting requirements are as individual as the firm itself.

Up to now, PCLaw report training concentrated on the reports themselves. I consider that similar to being at an auto race and learning about the participants by having someone describe the chassis.  A real racing enthusiast wants to know how the engine works, the aerodynamics, the suspension system. PCLaw has a plethora of reporting options; it has templates and customizable report abilities; it has audit trails, report groups, and custom reports. So the new reporting lesson is to be about how reporting works, and not memorizing what report does what.

What is the most important area in the software that is not being addressed?

Again, the best answer is the quickest one that came to
mind.  PCLaw is about billing, it is the heart of the product, the functionality that it does better than any other legal software. And do we have good instructor led billing training….of course we do.  The Billing process is covered all the way from pre-bills, through the extensive Create Bill module, into receiving payment for a job well done.

However, PCLaw performs different specialized training as well. Contingency Billing, Split Billing, placing automated disbursements, and refreshing retainers. The software handles anticipated disbursements, holds, and minimum floor amounts.  It does Request and Release Billing functions for the larger firms, Matter Bill Settings for standardization between matters, and Task Based Billing when working with Insurance companies, banks, and other large firms.

Can we give something to our prime users?

Admittedly, this was the harder question to answer. In training, you like to think everything you do is for the client. Then I learned that we had people sit through our Certified Independent Consultant (CIC) program, but not to become consultants, but to better qualified themselves for the job market. With PCLaw, we do have a certification program for bookkeepers, that focuses on accounting, financial statements, and month and year end procedures, but we don’t have something covering the wider scope of PCLaw.

What if we had a PCLaw Administrator certification program? A series of classes that approached the complexity of the CIC program, but excluded the reseller and behind the scenes information specific to becoming a consultant. A certification program that makes an employee more valuable to their firm, a candidate more valuable to a potential employer, that sets up a staff member as the go to person in their firm, who sees that the most is attained out of PCLaw.

Of course, this is not everything we are hoping to accomplished. We will have a new CIC Endorsement course for PCLaw 13, there will be 8 new OnDemand classes covering new features, and another 9 that teach the more traditional tasks.  There will be the What’s New in PCLaw 13 that introduces everything, and the Getting Started that aids new PCLaw users in getting their software solution up and running.

All in all, it will be a busy summer for the developers of new training.

Jeff Scott