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April 02, 2008

All-in-One SaaS Solution for Solos - Rocket Matter

( Periodically I post about products or have guest posts about products or services  or books I believe are intriguing and worth exploring by solos.  I derive no financial benefit for doing so.  Nor do I do paid advertising on Build A Solo Practice for an important reason (although I am solicited constantly).  I only want to discuss the concept of these products or services I think would be really beneficial to new solos, different, exciting, cost-effective and forward thinking so readers can explore on their own and make the best decision for themselves.)

What I find intriguing about Rocket Matter is its time and cost-efficiency for the solo.  Instead of patching together different products, accounting software, time management software, file management software, the training on each, the different customer support departments for each, etc...this is one service and product which does it all, one training, one customer service department.  This saves time and money and endless frustration for an overwhelmed attorney and this is a concept worth exploring.

Guest Blogger:  Larry Port, a software developer specializing in web applications and a Founding Partner of Rocket Matter, LLC. 

A little over a year ago, my business partner and I began noticing the trials (no pun intended) and tribulations a number of our attorney friends were encountering with automating their firms.  They were in small and solo practices, and required some way to keep their practices in order, track time, bill clients, maintain their calendars, manage to-do’s, and organize clients and matters.

At the time, there were a couple of options.  The first was to string together a hodgepodge of software the firm already owned, such as Address Book and iCal for the Mac, or Outlook for the PC. Then, a time and billing package would have to be added to the mix.  And then one would have to try and wedge their matters into a project manager like Basecamp. But having to switch between these multiple applications seemed like a sure-fire way to lose time—in a business where time is a commodity.

The second option would be to invest in a practice management solution that ties these functions together in a legal software package.  But the problem was that none of these programs available at the time had the clarity or simplicity we like to see in user-interfaces.  They all had more buttons, screens, and tabs than any software we had ever seen.

Worse yet, both options presented the following expensive challenges:  How and where would data be backed up? How would security be managed?  What would the disaster recovery plan be if the office were destroyed or unusable? How should the office be configured so data can be accessed from anywhere?  What about applying security patches and paying for and installing product upgrades?

So, after studying the software options available to lawyers, my partner and I then researched and examined the activities of local small and solo law firms. We learned what they would really want in their dream system.  Our answer for them was to design and engineer Rocket Matter, a hosted, web-based practice management solution. It’s an all-in-one application designed to manage a small law practice, soup to nuts, built from the ground up with the sole purpose of optimizing our client’s time, money, and productivity.

Initially, we integrated contact management, matter and client management, calendaring, and to-do’s.  Then we realized most firms desperately needed a total solution, so we rolled in time and billing as well.   We like working on Macs, so we wanted firms to be able to have a choice of which hardware to use.  Web-based access makes Rocket Matter usable from a Mac, PC, or Linux machine.  And it also allows for access from mobile devices, fully functional from an iPhone or Pocket PC with SkyFire.

We came to understand the singular importance of time, and witnessed how too many lawyers were losing their billable minutes and hours due to inefficient systems.  The math is alarming: If a lawyer earning $250 an hour loses even .1 hours of time a day, over the course of the year that comes out to $6,250.  So we built a technology that actually traps time as you go about your day, to prevent you from losing this precious commodity.  We call this “Bill-as-you-Work”.

Our design emphasizes simplicity, so that the learning curve is minimal and usage intuitive, reducing training expenses and encouraging staff to actually want to use the product.  The web-based access eliminates up-front and continuing IT expenses, providing expert security, intraday backups, and an instant disaster recovery plan. 

Question: “If I have my data locally, its security is my problem. If you have it, to whom do I complain if it is compromised? Are you saying that online banking is completely safe? What about the customers of online access services whose information has been compromised?“

Security is a very serious issue in the practice of law. Confidentiality is key. The security measures we included in Rocket Matter are comprehensive. Every request is encrypted with 128-bit secure SSL, the same encryption used by many major banks and financial institutions. Passwords are hashed (stored in an encrypted format) and known only by you. Threat Modeling, which is the practice of identifying and countering attacks, is a fundamental part of our development process. There are a host of other security measures we have taken to lock down and isolate a firm’s data, and will be conducting ongoing audits with independent security specialist firms.

You should be aware that there is risk to any system and should base your business decisions accordingly. The odds of your data being compromised from a well-designed web-based application are lower than less sophisticated security breaches, such as data being physically stolen from your premises. Consider that if you do not take appropriate security precautions, whether on a server in a remote location or in your office, a computer can be vulnerable to attack. Another thing to think about, especially when running Windows machines, is maintaining up-to-date security patches.

Not all web applications are created equal, unfortunately. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to ask questions to find out how seriously the software firm considers security. A responsible SaaS firm will incorporate security design as a fundamental part of their design process. They should be able to answer your questions about security, and specifically, have answers about data isolation, encryption, and threat modeling.

So if you’re ready to finally find that one system that works, take a look at Rocket Matter

A few things I would like to point out, as law firms move to paperless offices which imply a significant amount of their files and work product will be digitized as well as hosted off-site, it is becoming increasingly obvious one will have to purchase cyber-insurance.  As you construct your business plan and determine how you will build your solo practice include this insurance in your insurance package.  And for those who remain skeptical remember, even if you have files on your premises and own a fireproof safe, one still gets insurance for loss, right?   In my opinion, hosting off-site through a trusted provider with the added security of cyberinsurance is no different.

What I would suggest is discussing with your clients the way your office functions if it is or is going to go paperless, the security protections in place and have them initial their approval within the body of your retainer agreement.

If you would like to read more about Rocket Matter from legal tech gurus across the blogosphere you can do so here.


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