Legal Accounting Software Deep Dive
Legal Accounting Software does not run itself. That’s why LeanLaw does a deep dive on a specific feature each month with people from the company who are in charge of Product, Customer Success, and the engineering of the software itself.
Below is a video recap of the webinar that took a deep dive into:
Nic Baughman, VP of Product and Chase Sullivan, Customer Success Manager discussed:
- How firms customize what information is on their clients / matters
- How custom fields provide improved personalization on the invoice
- How custom fields will group and sort to enhance reporting
Having a direct line to the LeanLaw team who design the user-interface of your law firm software can be a huge perk. Many of our most successful updates have come from client suggestions.
Nick, I know this is your first time, so I will go ahead and introduce you to everyone. This is Nick, he goes by Nick and just Nick. He’s VP of products. I am Chase, in charge of the customer success team here at LeanLaw.
Today’s topic is custom fields. We think this is a powerful add-on that people can take advantage of. Chase, any other ground rules before I get going?
Just for context, LeanLaw does already have custom fields. What Nick is going to be talking about is in addition to improvement and overhaul on the way, we currently do custom fields to improve the flexibility and usability. You can think of it as an entirely new product at the moment. They exist simultaneously, but the goal is that eventually what we talk about today will end up taking over the custom fields that you currently are familiar with.
A quick agenda of what we were thinking about today: Cover for those who hear custom fields and say “you know, what is that, what are we talking about?” We’ll do a quick overview of what fields are, why we decided to take a look at this and how it could help firms. We’ll look at a quick demo and then talk about how custom fields are going to be incorporated into other things within the LeanLaw product.
What are custom fields?
If you’ve never heard of custom fields before, the closest analogy that I could think of is: Everybody has an address book or a contact book. Some of you even remember the paper form and probably still use the paper form. Others maybe just use their cell phone to add income, that good old rolodex. Everybody has some of the same information that they put in about a contact’s name and an email address, but in some cases you might want to know somebody’s date of birth. Chase might actually want to know how he met this contact.
In his address book he’ll have this piece of information about where he met somebody, and in my address book I’ll have a field that tells me what their birthday is. We’re using kind of the same thing but we get to personalize our address book a little bit, and that’s what these custom fields allow you to do, personalize your own information.
How does that apply to LeanLaw? We have these two pages of clients and matters that we give you, some basic fields within the info tab that you can use to tell us who these people are. You get context but there are some cases where other firms want to add more personalized information about them.
One of the biggest practice areas that we’ve heard this request from is for intellectual property. As you’re filing for patents, you might want to add in a field for the patent name. You might have some contract numbers. Other things in real estate; you might want to track the MLS number on a given matter. This idea of custom fields is a way that we can give firms the ability to personalize their clients and matter pages within LeanLaw. Basically we’re taking the rolodex that you’ve had since the year 1982 and putting it into LeanLaw is the surprise integration that you never saw coming.
Some other problems that we uncovered as we’re going through this: Currently in QuickBooks Online you have these things called custom fields, but if you’re on a plus subscription you only get three, that’s a hindrance. The other thing is that they only limit you to 30 characters of a value to be on the invoice.
Thinking through those problems we created this way to not only in LeanLaw you can add more context clues, but you can actually select that these fields be present in the memo field of the invoice. It’s a way for us to give you the personalization and use these values that are presented on a given client or matter. When you go to bill and still make sure that the full length of those values are in the memo itself.
A couple things that I wanted to mention is we are still wrapping up the development of this feature. What you see is an alpha version. We’re going to be releasing it in the next couple weeks, so we’ll have some information at the end of this of how you guys can say: Yeah, this is exciting. I want to take a look at it, you can sign up and we can enable it in your accounts. The other thing too is there are some things in the future that we’re going to be doing that I’ll talk about as well. One of those is mapping the QuickBooks custom fields to our custom fields.
I wanted to first start with what custom fields currently look like in LeanLaw. Pretty easy, pretty basic. Interestingly enough, this has actually gone through three different versions. Some of you that have been around for a while might remember the original custom fields which were set up using the custom form styles in QuickBooks.
What was left was a lot of room for improvement. That was version one, version two is the custom fields that we currently have. Many of you will be familiar with this when we integrated with QuickBooks Online Advanced or when we added support for that, we also changed the custom field mapping to allow the fields that you create in QuickBooks to also be available in LeanLaw and vice versa. There was syncing there, much better interface, much better UI, it wasn’t just a text field at the bottom of the invoice, it actually started to begin to feel like the custom field mapping you’ve probably seen in your other online SaaS tools.
Why did we feel the need to make a v3?
Well if you’ve used custom fields in either iteration in LeanLaw you know there’s quite a bit that’s left that leaves you wanting for more. You currently can’t add much in the way of custom fields for clients and matters. There are limitations on the characters when you try to put it on invoices. Your client’s not seeing as much information as you’d want.
You might be running into limitations on the custom fields LeanLaw currently offers here that we give you for matters. For a lot of firms that’s not enough having two firms or, excuse me, having two matters. Having those two additional fields is not enough, especially like Nick was saying for intellectual property or real estate. It’s not enough to just be able to track the client’s birthday and how you met them, you need all kinds of information about the case or the work that you’re doing for them. That’s one of the main focuses of this custom field: let’s not only give more options but also make it available in more places. Make it more functional and more flexible.
That’s what it looks like today. It’s a good attempt, but we’re ready for some improvement. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got going forward or what you can look forward to. We are currently in a development version of LeanLaw, so you might see some things that look a little bit out of place, but the main thing is currently you won’t have access to this set of options for the custom fields. If you would like to get access to it once it comes out I’ll go ahead and let Nick post that link in the chat for everyone. First time we’ve done it this way, but you’re able to sign up with that form. When this feature does go live or when we do an early beta with it, we’ll reach out to the folks that have signed up, not only to get your feedback, but also to give you an early insight or early taste into what that looks like or how it’s used.
What does it look like now?
Well you’ll notice now at the bottom we’ve got field mapping. Great, totally different look. We’ve got some improvements here. Understand that it will be available but it’s not currently and it’s going to look really similar or familiar to other things in LeanLaw. While you’ve got the column headers describing what the name of the field is, what it appears on or available on the type. Now, if you’ve used custom fields before in QuickBooks you’ll be familiar with the different types. Currently, LeanLaw only has the text option, but we’ll be adding things like dropdown numbers. I think Nick, correct me if I’m wrong, most of the options that the QuickBooks allows for.
What are we doing here is we want to add custom fields to lots of different places. At the moment, they’re only available on the invoice memo or on the client slash matter. In the future these will be available on things like your expenses, your fixed fees and other places on the invoice. Everywhere you thought it’d be really helpful if LeanLaw gave me the option to add x here or if I could show this piece of information. The docket numbers that so many IP attorneys use and have to track and keep account of. That’s what this is doing.
Currently we’ve just got the available text option field visibility. This one’s important, this selects whether it is at the client or the matter level. If you’re familiar with the client versus a matter of accounting, same idea, do you want this field to be tracked at the client level and apply to all matters, or just at the matter level? It’s going to depend on the type of work that you do and if you do client or matter accounting or billing, keep that in mind. The last option here is invoice memo.
QuickBooks has this character limit on their custom fields but we hear from plenty of firms that there’s still this important information that they want to make sure is somewhere in the invoice when they send it to a client. It gives that client more context around what is the particular matter, what are the particular items that they’re being invoiced for and so on. One of the great opportunities we have is to add this in the memo, because the memo is kind of a freeform. We do have a character limit there but it’s a lot more than the 30. We can add just a little bit more context clues on a given invoice in that memo. What this means is anytime you add a value to the next special field on a given client and you go to bill them, you push that invoice into QuickBooks. We’re going to take whatever value you put on that client and add it as a memo item there. Let’s take a look at what that looks like.
We’ve opened up the edit window and we want to make changes. First, we want to turn it on. This will toggle the other way once it’s released. Got the options here and we’ll go ahead and save that. You’ll notice there was a delete button here. This is a super sweet feature that’s been added, and we’ll be adding it in other places. When you click delete it says it’s no longer going to be available, but if it is currently used on something it’ll say: Hey, by the way this is being used in x number of places. You don’t have to take a guess at where this is being used or if it’s used at all, LeanLaw just tells you. Just trying to help you guys get a little bit more context before the leads fully go through the system, we don’t want to accidentally delete things.
The next special field we see here is set for clients and will appear on our invoice memo, let’s use that. In order to access the client here we’ll click that matter name again. Now we’re looking at the client’s information. Look at that special field down here at the bottom. If we want to fill it in we can click edit, give that a value and then click update. Now when we go and create an invoice for this MCHX client, Nick’s special field with the value ‘hello’ will appear.
Do the fields have to be on the invoice or can they just be set up and used to perhaps search or categorize?
This is gonna be in the bucket of what are we gonna use these fields for in the future. One of the things that we want to use these for is in reporting. This is a great way that you should be able to group by or look at different things by a given field. There’s other things that we want to use: adding them into time entries, adding them into expenses, just so you can categorize them more. Yes, they don’t have to be our vision for this isn’t that they have to be on a given invoice, but we want to use them throughout the rest of the product. I think if you open up the sample client here, we’ve got our wonderful payment link from gravity, some information about the trust account and then at the bottom this client is only set up with one of those fields. Because of this, that’s the only one that appears here in the memo.
It is still very early. The search that you brought up is actually a great comment, like search and filtering within clients and matters or reports, or even on the billing tab here. Like Nick was talking about, this is a pretty significant improvement on a lot of the workflows in LeanLaw and it’s really up to you to decide how you want to take advantage of this if at all. Do you want to be able to track different values on your time entries, do you need to communicate different things? It allows for a lot more personalization and customization in LeanLaw, which is fantastic to see.
Will the option be on the matter or on the custom field for whether it shows up on the invoice?
On that settings page within the field mapping section where you create them, edit them, activate, deactivate, delete, whatever, we put it on the field itself. Whether it’s going to show up or not. You would have to select each individual field that you want to be on the memo at the field view, not the matter or client.
I’m really curious how other people are going to use this, because we’ve heard this a lot from intellectual property practices, real estate practices and a few others that you know from the info tab that we give you. Those default items that you can fill out sometimes aren’t enough on a given client or matter to give you context of what you’re dealing with or who you’re dealing with. You always have to search around all over the place. I’m just really excited to see how firms use these, what type of fields people create and what the feedback comes in. Being able to search by these different fields across things like, that’s great. I’m excited to see how people are going to use this going forward.
What determines the order that they appear on the invoice?
That is actually in the plans for the next iteration. Right now we don’t allow for ordering, so what we want to do is add this custom fields section. How you order them in the invoice presentation. Again, that invoice presentation has everything you want about setting up an invoice. We’re going to add in a new section where if you have enabled these fields to be in the invoice memo you can reorder them, drag them, drop them and put them in whatever order you want. Right now we’re kind of pre-determining how those go into the invoice.
This is a great opportunity to kind of plug why we show a lot of these things. It’s to get user feedback and to be asked questions. The earlier we get asked those, the sooner we’re able to bring that back to the team and acknowledge that we’re getting a lot of feedback about this.
I think that’s it for the way that it currently sits and what the previous version looks like. Nick if you actually want to talk about and maybe showcase what the growth and development of this is going to look like, as in where else are we going to see this used.
We’ve touched on a couple as we’ve gone here from some good questions. One of the big things is that we have custom fields all over the place. They are in four different areas on four different settings pages within the app. One of the main goals is consolidating all those into this one page, making sure we cover all our bases for what those field mappings did. It’s consolidating and making things as simple as possible when it comes to field mapping and creating fields.
Two is we do realize that we need to attach these to a QuickBooks custom field as well, and so making sure that integration where we can push values into a QuickBooks custom field is ready to go. Then there’s things that I mentioned before adding these fields on time entries or expenses fixed fees. It might be just kind of using these as a way that you can customize and personalize the various items that you’re creating and billing for within LeanLaw. I want to kind of come back to that again so that it’s not just: Here’s the blocks you can play with. It’s really more of a sandbox. Each firm is going to be able to create and use these fields in whatever way they see fit.
Lee actually asked if it’d be great to see this and receivables reports. That’s another excellent example of a firm that sees a use. You don’t have to come to LeanLaw to ask how it’s going to work. Can we set it up so it’s possible for you to pop right in and do it?
Reporting is another big area in the future, these fields can give us a lot of power in our reporting to get granular into subsets of your clients or matters. That’s also on the future road map; how do we include these? Whether it’s grouping as a piece of data when you build out a report or by expanding to other types. We’re just handling text today but QuickBooks gave us a great roadmap of other types that we should also cover. Those are drop downs dates and numbers. Those first three there are going to be the big ones, but there’s other things like email URLs and a whole bunch of different types we can add into this thing. We’ve kind of set the foundation here where we can iterate through and add more flexibility and functionality into these fields.
Are these fields going to sync to fields in QuickBooks? If I add a custom field to a client in LeanLaw and add a value, will that value sync into QuickBooks?
Once we make that connection or give you that option in the editing field of the custom field itself, there’ll be a new section around which field within QuickBooks. Within this screen there’ll be another option that’ll allow you to select the QuickBooks custom field.
What is the reason for field mapping?
The two sentence elevator pitch is essentially to give more flexibility to every firm where they can add customized fields on the client matter to give a little more context and give a little bit more personalization on those records.
One of the things I led off with was intellectual property firms and real estate. We got a lot of feedback saying your info tab on the client matter is great, but there’s some unique fields that we need to get context on what we’re doing, and we need those to also be present on the invoice so fields are presented in a way that you can customize your info tab and and bring those values into the invoice.
If you need it and it’s not just for external use. It also allows for firms to track things and make information known internally, say for example, we needed to track responsible originating. They have the point of contact attorney, the person the firm goes to. I was going to say their preferred order at McDonald’s, it’s up to the firm to determine how they want to use this both for the client to see but also for internal use. Currently your best version of that in LeanLaw is going to be your internal notes or billing instructions, but that’s often not enough depending on how much information the firm is tracking. Maybe they need additional contact information or additional references. Sky’s the limit for what you’re able to do here.
We’ve also heard whenever you do work on behalf of big corporations they demand that these things must be on the invoice, otherwise we can’t process them. Again, this is another way where you can set up those fields, add the value for that specific client or matter, and then make sure that they get onto the invoice so that you guys have all those unique pieces that the client needs to pay off that invoice.
If you’re interested in getting early access to this or keeping up to date on what we’re doing here, you can add your email to the list and we’ll reach out with updates and opportunities to try this out earlier. I do want to mention too, this is only available on the pro version of LeanLaw. If you’re currently on core make sure that you either check with the firm manager, or if you are the firm manager check with our support team if you’d like to try this out. The other thing is an unlimited number of fields so people can go wild. We’re not capping that and it’s just included in that pro subscription. No additional add-on or anything like that, it’s just kind of a nice add-on to your guys’ tool set that you can use within LeanLaw.
When we were doing some final touches on what we were going to discuss here. He described it as an expansion or a dlc, extra content for games. Something I’ve spent probably too much time on, but it was kind of an interesting way of thinking about it. LeanLaw is always changing and looking for ways to improve, and we want to make sure that what we’re adding is interesting and exciting to the people actually using LeanLaw. We hope it is the beginning, not the beginning but a continuation of those exciting features that aren’t just: oh cool i’m going to put it on my shelf, but are things that you’re able to get excited about the software that you’re using at work.
All right so the last bit for the master class today, definitely a much shorter one than when we’ve had Fred on is upcoming features and products. Nick, what kind of secrets do you have for us?
One of the big things we’re taking a look at is how the invoice gets delivered to clients. A lot of firms are using the default email builder, but there’s a lot of time, and a lot of information, that’s missing that we can help with things like an account balance. Helping to do automatic recharges of Evergreen accounts and a whole bunch of other things, even giving summaries of the invoice itself before the client clicks in and sometimes gets sticker shock with how many pages there are. One of the big things we’re tackling is that we’re gonna do our own version of the invoice email delivery system, where you can have a settings page where you can pull in these different modules to give a custom feel to it. You will have payment links that not only pay for the invoice, but pay for the entire balance. Like I mentioned, we’re gonna be fleshing out a lot of the Evergreen recharge as well so that they can pay the invoice and bring their Evergreen balance back up to whatever the minimum threshold is. That’s going to be the next big thing that’ll be released in the next couple months.
It does take a little bit of time. Just like the title, it’s just a couple of lines of code. It can’t be that hard.