7 Steps to Choosing an IT Vendor for Your Law Firm

by Carol Dorothy on April 11, 2014

Choosing an IT vendor for your law firmEvery law firm has the need for a computer network.  The size and type will depend upon how many people you will have using the network and the size of your budget.  To develop and implement your computer network, you will need a good IT vendor.  Choosing the right vendor is highly important to the operations of your law firm. However, making such a decision can be overwhelming due to the large number of options out there.

In continuation of our blog series on law firm technology, we’ve put together a simple process that will help you choose an IT vendor.

1.  Put Together a Team

Before researching vendors, single out your top employees and create a committee to work the process.  Will specific team members select the pool of vendors from which to choose?  Which team members will be communicating with the vendor on a regular basis? Answering these questions now will save you time in the long run.

2.  Know Your Goals

What is the issue that brought you to this point in the first place?  Is your existing network showing signs of overload and you’re not sure how to handle it?  Are you unable to maintain the system internally within your law firm? Are you unhappy with a current vendor?  Write down everything you don’t like about your current situation.  This will allow you to more easily see what features you are most in need of in an IT vendor.

3.  Create a Timeline

The process of choosing a new vendor begins from the moment you decide to investigate options and ends at the point you choose a company and begin working with them.  There are several steps in between.  Create a timeline that includes each step in the process.  This will give you a good overview and will allow you to avoid dragging the process out weeks and months longer than it should take. Get specific with your timeline. When would you like to have research of options completed?  When would you like to have the entire process completed?  Share the timeline with your employees so they are not surprised when the change finally occurs.

4. Finding Vendor Options

Finding vendors can easily be accomplished by talking to trusted people in other law firms and in your community.  When choosing an IT vendor, there are some preliminary steps you can take to evaluate vendors in a broad sense before adding them to your short list.   One such test is calling the potential vendors to see who picks up the phone, how long you have to wait for a reply and how easy or difficult is it to reach a real person.

A vendor’s website can give you clues as to whether you should consider them for your list.  Is the information on their website helpful and easy to access?  A website that is difficult to read and understand may be indicative of the overall communication style of the company.

Submit a Request For Proposal to several vendors to help you better understand the differences in services among the different vendors.

5. Interview the Vendors

Ask to meet with a representative to ask questions about the services each vendor can provide.  While you are speaking with the representative, be mindful of the language they use to explain processes to you.  Some IT vendors tend to speak in technical language. If you are not familiar with the terms they use in their industry, you will have a hard time gathering information to make decisions.  You want to find a vendor who explains things in plain non-technical language.

6. Check References

Once you have a short list of vendors, now it is time to ask for references. Ask for references from other law firms of similar size to yours.  Because they will often be advising you in areas you are less familiar, you want your IT vendor to be able to anticipate your needs. If you find vendors who have experience with law firms, you are ahead of the game. They will be familiar with the particular needs a law firm has in its technology.

7.   Decision Time

After completing these steps, you should have a pretty good idea of the company you wish to engage. Taking the time to lay out the steps of the process, the timeline, and choosing a team will allow you to feel confident, knowing you’ve chosen the vendor that is the best fit for your law firm.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like “3 Reasons Your Law Firm Will Benefit From a Document Management Software.”

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