The evolution of cloud-based legal technology software – practice management software in particular – continues.
One of the common frustrations faced by a lot of lawyers as they embrace practice management software is how to integrate matter-related emails into their digital case files. Email gets trapped within the silo of Gmail, Outlook or some other email program until the lawyer finds a way to bridge between that email program and her practice management software. Let’s call this the “email silo” problem.
This problem has been, in general, handled more easily by local practice management software than it has by their cloud-based brethren. Part of the reason for that is the solution often incorporates an additional software component into the mix – typically a document management software like Worldox. Through the well planned use of practice management, document management and email software – each offering strong interoperability – a lawyer could receive an email in Outlook, save it and its attachment separately in Worldox and connect those documents to the related matter in, say, Practice Master.
Cloud-based software has generally offered less interoperability than local software. This relative lack of interoperability
is improving rapidly, but still has a way to go. I wrote about this topic in Linking the Clouds for Law Practice Magazine a little time back.
This has made it harder for cloud-based practice management software to solve the email silo problem in the same way. Different software solutions have made various attempts at solving the problem (with varying amounts of success), but the solution offered recently by Rocket Matter is more tightly integrated – particularly for a firm using Google Apps.
Rather than forwarding or importing emails into the practice management software itself where it will be stored with the rest of the matter database, Rocket Matter introduced a sort of sync feature. Once the sync is set up between the lawyer’s email program and Rocket Matter, emails are viewable in Rocket Matter but actually still live in the email program.
Evan Koblentz, in an article for Law Technology News on the same subject, noted that another cloud-based practice management software, HoudiniESQ, has offered this feature since 2009.
You can view a short video about Rocket Matter’s email integration here.
My favorite features of this approach are first, that there is no forwarding required. Once you sync your email account and associate label/folder names with matters, the emails automatically populate in Rocket Matter. Second, since the emails appear in Rocket Matter via this label/folder association with the given matter, multiple users can associate their individual mail folders with the matter. This way the matter will show related emails from users across the firm.
One possible problem for a lawyer who uses Outlook: if you eventually want to clean out your closed client matter emails from Outlook, they will also (presumably) be removed from Rocket Matter. The lawyer is left with the same old email silo problem of having to export the emails and store them apart from the rest of the client file.
Where the Rocket Matter approach to email may really shine is for Google Apps users. Google Apps email (and its predecessor Gmail) have from the beginning taken the approach of giving users lots of space and encouraging them to save every email. Since you can easily locate an email via a Google search of your mail archive, it makes a compelling case for never deleting an email again. While gigabytes of old emails might eventually turn your Outlook and Exchange Server into sludge, Google Apps users can save emails forever with no similar degrade in function.
All in all, this is a fresh look at an old problem and Rocket Matter deserves credit for advancing the ball for cloud-based practice management software.