By: Gary Allen
This is part 4 of a series – read more here
The Approach: Full Menu or A La Carte?
When you initiate a new law firm, one of your first decisions will be about legal timekeeping and billing software. Which is better for me: All-in-one practice management solutions (e.g., Clio) vs. modular tools built for specific functions (eg, LeanLaw, Box.com, QuickBooks, GApps for work)? Picking the foundational tools is a critical first step. Every day you will send and receive emails, create documents and bill for your time.
Wait and see: Especially if you are a new firm, it may make sense to practice law with core tools before committing to a practice management software. Allow your practice to create workflows based on how you service your clients. Once you have a sense of what the tasks and data points are of most value, you can choose tools that would integrate with platforms like Clio or integrate with each other, without the need for a PM tool.
Priorities: Make sure you prioritize those features that best match your core needs – whether a la carte or the full menu.
Necessities: Ask yourself, will I really use all the features in an all-in-one tool? Do I need a full practice management suite or am I better off using tools for specific functions? You should know that most tools have built in capabilities to integrate with one another – you won’t need (and should avoid) any manual workaround.
Flexibility: Can the all-in-one tool integrate for a smooth workflow with my other tools?
The Right Fit: Is the platform or tool built with my size practice in mind?
Exit Strategy: If I invest into a platform or tool, how difficult will it be to move to another platform if the tool isn’t working to my liking.
Core Workflow Assessments
Top Vendors: Google Apps for Work vs. Microsoft Exchange (Office 365) The industry experts suggest:
|Gmail, if you like it has slightly better support and a more robust app store||Office 365 has more features|
- The more you leverage a browser as a primary interface with email, the easier the IT management will be.
- What access is needed for your assistants and colleagues? Think calendar, contact, email delegation and sharing.
- Availability of fully encrypted email for secure communication between you and your clients.
#2: Legal Document Management
Top Vendors: Box.com and NetDocuments. Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive are popular but raise concerns in a legal practice.
- Number of users, including collaborators outside your organization.
- Security. Best tool according to the bar association?
- What will the data look like when accessing from your tablet or phone?
- Total storage size and the maximum size of a single file.
- Desktop sync vs. data exclusively in the cloud.
- How much data will be in sync and can your machines handle it? What alternatives do the vendors offer for accessing data from your local machine.
- How data will be organized, tagged and managed.
- Integration with other key tools. (Office 2016, Practice Management, G Suite)
- Can the data be backed up to a secondary storage location? Cloud to cloud.
- Can my tool provide user “rights” to ensure the right users have access and others do not?
- Does the tool allow for the migration of data from one user to another? Think: staff member leaving? Where does that data go?
- Can I migrate my data easily to another tool?
- Does the platform offer workflows relative to how documents are produced and managed.
#3: Legal Timekeeping and Invoicing
Top Vendors: LeanLaw. Others will get bills out, but are unlikely to support a lean practice.
- Think through your billing workflow. Assess in terms of timekeeping, time sheets, invoice draft, invoice approval, invoice delivery and invoice tracking – all the steps involved.
- Prioritize timekeeping. If you can’t track time, you can’t bill time.
- How automated can the process be?
- Don’t enter data twice. Yellow pads waste time.
- Legal Timekeeping and billing creates a lot of administrative overhead. You can save a lot of time and money if you do it yourself in an automated way.
- Integration of the invoice process into accounting package. Goal is to have a full snapshot of the fiscal activity of your practice.
- Legal Timekeeping tools should be accessible wherever you are.
- Do the timekeeping tools help you track your data?
- Do the tools support full automation of invoicing?
- Legal Invoice delivery tools: can they integrate credit card or ACH payments? Does the tool allow you to see if the email sending the invoice was opened?
Practice Management Centered Tools
Timekeeping and Billing Centered Tools
Estimated Budget For Implementation
|Telephone/Virtual Fax Services (hardware and dial tone)||Nextiva|
|Email Management: The Essentials package for email management or the premium plan for email and the Office apps||Office 365 for Business||$5-$12 per month/per user|
|Document Management||Box.com Business package||$15 per month/per user, three user minimum|
|Website Development (if you choose to do it yourself)||Wix.com or Squarespace|
|Online Accounting Software||QuickBooks Online or Xero (QuickBooks Online Seems to be the favorite)||$15-$30 per month|
|Timekeeping/Invoicing Software||LeanLaw (our preference), EBility or Bill4Time|