I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. Some of you out there reading this may take offense to what I am about to say, and for that, I apologize in advance. But…
Your legal software application’s integrations are not up to snuff.
Let me preface this article with one thing: I am not a lawyer (I don’t even play one on TV). What I am, is an integration strategist. I don’t pretend to understand the deep underlying meaning of terms like Eminent Domain or Habeas Corpus. I do, however, know the difference between an application that will succeed thanks to a well-thought-out integration strategy, and one that will fail to generate enough of a market footprint to stay alive until funding inevitably runs out.
A bit harsh, yeah? Well, that’s because I care.
I genuinely care about the well being of your product, because it’s my job to do so. Your job may not be prosecuting dangerous felons for their crimes against humanity, but it very well may be building and maintaining integrations for an application that helps law firms do just that. Just like you want your software to ensure that legal professionals can adequately do their job, I want to make sure that you can do your job too.
(Cue Law and Order noise.)
No Defending Poor Integration Strategy
Cloud integrations are fast becoming necessary in a host of different software applications designed for specific industries, few more so than legal software. The sheer amount of documents created during a legal case is often hard to grasp for those of us outside of the industry. It is entirely normal for even the most benign of legal cases to generate hundreds of thousands of documents for a single legal proceeding. Prior to the digitization of files and documents, this meant reams upon reams of paper would have to be physically stored and accounted for. Now, thanks to cloud services, legal software can offer the ability to house all documents for legal proceedings online. Time and expenses can be synced to CRM providers to take the legwork out of manually entering data, saving thousands of hours of busy-work a year. Cloud calendar service APIs can allow for the syncing of schedules across multiple providers which, in an industry that schedules more meetings than most, ensures that lawyers and paralegals no longer need to manually keep track of their busy schedules.
However, there is a distinct lack of software that leverages these API integrations well.
Legal software applications have become commonplace at most legal firms. Gone are the antiquated ways of physical document storage and transferral, replaced by applications aimed at offering a “one-stop-shop” of online services that law firms need to operate. Some of these applications, such as Clio, offer services for case management. Billing, contact management, and expenses can all be tracked in one place and then synced to a CRM provider.
These applications generally go with the “one is enough” approach. They offer their own proprietary file storage or syncing with one of the larger CRM providers, instead of offering their users a veritable smorgasbord of integrations.
This ends up being detrimental for a handful of reasons.
First, users with their files and documents stored in a cloud storage provider that is not supported will forgo that application entirely in search of a competitor that offers connections with the provider of their preference. By offering your lawyer-users a single integration, like Dropbox or Google Drive, you are chiseling your application’s name on its metaphorical tombstone. Law offices with their files and documents stored in any of the dozens of other file storage services other than what your application offers will stay away, and for good reason. The time it would take to migrate all of their files to another service is enough work to employ a team of paralegals working around the clock for a year.
Another major piece of functionality necessary for any legal software is scheduling. Lawyers have meetings. Lots of them. So, why only offer them the ability to sync their meetings with a single cloud calendar service?
If your user’s clients don’t manage their schedule with the calendar integration that your app offers, then they run the risk of missing important meetings. I can say with no level of uncertainty that someone will eventually end up in prison as a result of your application’s inadequate calendar integrations. (Ok, maybe not. But it definitely could happen…)
Think about it. Beyond the humorous take on the situation, real consequences can befall an application that doesn’t offer what lawyers and legal firms need to properly handle their documents and scheduling. Embedded integrations are “nice-to-haves” for many industries. They are absolutely necessary for any legal software.
Unified APIs are a relatively unknown concept for people outside of the API integration industry. Essentially, a Unified API is an abstraction layer that sits between an application and the APIs it accesses. By integrating with a single Unified API, you can not only provide your legal application with dozens of cloud services in the same amount of development time it would take to connect with a single service, but you can take advantage of a host of functionality that comes packaged into the Unified API right out of the box.
File syncing and calendar syncing are the most important pieces of functionality that a Unified API offers for legal software. In the case of files and documents, legal applications can ensure that files are synced across any file storage providers through the means of extensive activity monitoring. This means that the minute a document is signed and uploaded to a single service, an application can make sure that it is also sent to any other connected cloud storage services that are owned and operated by another lawyer in the proceedings. There is no need to physically send documents between parties when the entire process can be automated. In the case of calendar integrations, once a meeting has been set up, it can be synced across any supported and connected cloud calendar providers immediately, taking away the pain of at least one party having to manually add it to their personal schedule.
At the end of the day, it comes down to one simple question: Do you want the people fighting for your personal freedom to be stuck with subpar integrations? All it takes is one document to not show up or one meeting to be missed and BAM, you’re doing 25-to-life. (A bit dramatic, I know, but I’m just trying to make Dick Wolf proud.)