LTRC Roundtable Discussion: Billing and Accounting Technology.
Technology is always changing. This month we asked our panel about the evolving landscape of billing and accounting technology.
William Goren (Flat share), Sofia Lingos (SL), Dave Christensen (DC) and Allison Shields Johs (ASJ).
What advice do you have on choosing the billing and bookkeeping technology for your business? (Software, apps, timing technology, etc.)
Flat share: Know what you need be it time management, trust fund management, billing, document storage, accessibility for people with disabilities, etc.
SL: Look for as many integrations as possible. Whenever you can have numbers that are transmitted, minimize the risk by avoiding incorrect entries. It is also valuable to choose tools that are specifically designed as a legal technology. For example, M & TBank has a new product NOTA that has integrated IOLTA accounting into your account statement.
DC: Choosing the appropriate financial accounting system is a very important process that law firms must undertake for several reasons. The system that is often chosen depends on the size of the IT budget and can also be run in conjunction with other initiatives such as conflict or docketing systems. A few years ago, our company opted for an “all-in-one” system for document recording, time recording as well as billing and bookkeeping. I’m not a huge fan of separate systems that need to be synchronized with each other as additional work is required to make sure the data is synchronized in each system, along with other ongoing troubleshooting issues. I also prefer real-time data for analytical purposes; other add-on systems are usually updated at night outside of business hours. I haven’t found a system that 100% meets the needs of different stakeholders. There are always advantages, disadvantages and pitfalls. The best advice I can give is to find 1. Ease of use, 2. Flexibility and customization of screens and reports, 3. Ability to extract data, 4. Reduced number of clicks to complete tasks, and 5. Timeliness and accessibility from the provider and their ability to solve problems in a timely manner.
ASJ: Before viewing individual programs, make a list of the features and reports you will need so that you can check their features against your needs. For example, can the technology take into account the way you calculate your fees? Can it handle all of the different ways you accept payments from customers? Then check the capabilities of the technology against your list.
Make sure the technology is compatible with any other program or technology that you already use in your company, such as: B. Your practice management software.
See if you can test the technology with real information like you would use it if it was installed in your office. Is it intuitive and easy to use? Think about who will be using the technology in the office and how they will be using it. If possible, have them test the software as well (at least one representative from each role, e.g. your accountant, secretary, attorney, etc.).
What would you like to have known or asked before you implemented your current billing or bookkeeping technology?
SL: I wish I had known from the start that I would integrate them (the option didn’t exist at the time). The attempt to subsequently connect Clio to QuickBooks was certainly more complex than from the start. Luckily I found a great accountant Gale Kirsopp from the 4700Group to set up the integration.
DC: Find out if you can run the reports you need in the software, or if you need third-party software (like Excel) to manipulate the data and give you the answers you need to run your business.
What technology do you use for billing and bookkeeping in your law firm? Would you buy it again? Why or why not?
Flat share: I am currently using Clio myself.
SL: I use Clio Manage for timing and accounting, integrated in Quickbooks. I put all of my bank and credit card statements straight into QuickBooks. Quickbooks also receives billing and payment information from Clio so I can easily run all of my reports. I use LawPay for credit card processing which is also built into Clio. So when I request withholdings or send invoices, these are sent directly via Clio and automatically displayed in your ledger when you pay. I would absolutely recommend this setup for its simplicity, professionalism, and accuracy.
DC: Our company currently uses a European system called Inprotech and it is an all-in-one system. During the demo and selection process, we were assured that the system is ready to handle a business whose books are kept on a cash basis. What we didn’t know was that they actually had to incorporate this as their system was only built for accrual companies. We had a variety of issues related to this, including the need to change tax returns due to incorrect reconciliation data. Our only way to support this was from Australia, so we never had a solution for sometimes critical processes on the same day. After the rebuild, it took about 18 months to iron out all of the kinks. Since then the system has proven to be reliable and we are reasonably happy with it. I say reasonable because again it’s not perfect, there are lots of clicks to process transactions, and the data is stored all over the place so there is a lot of hunting and pecking to get to what you need.
ASJ: I am currently not a lawyer, but I use Freshbooks for my invoicing and land accounting for my consulting practice. This may be an option for solos or small businesses, especially if they’re just starting out. I like it because I never have to touch (or see) a customer’s credit card information and customers can easily pay me via electronic transfer or a credit card. It gives me all the reports I need to see and notifies me when a customer has paid late or hasn’t viewed an invoice. I can set up automatic payment reminders, and the dashboard makes it easy for me to see exactly what is happening with all of my invoices. It also integrates with many other popular apps.
What’s the best feature of the billing or bookkeeping technology you are currently using?
Flat share: Accessibility to voice dictation. Trust fund management is a breeze and the easy electronic payment option for customers.
SL: Clio enables its users to request retainers, send invoices to customers and receive payments directly. The optimized system makes the payment process straightforward for the law firm and the client.
DC: The best thing about our system is the ability to extract data points from it for analysis and reporting purposes. We also have great customer service, even with the time difference between the US and Australia!
ASJ: The best feature of Freshbooks right now is the mobile app, with which I always have an overview of customer bills and payments, no matter where I am.
What feature would you like to add to your billing or bookkeeping technology that is currently unavailable?
SL: Time tracking is my least favorite part of legal practice. I wish Clio had a built-in passive timing option. However, you can purchase Chrometa independently, which has an automatic export to Clio.
DC: A feature that is not present in our current system is the ability to easily (electronically) send preliminary invoices to the bar exam, with the attorney having the ability to make online corrections, notes, etc in a draft mode for our billing department to ensure that proposed changes are allowed according to company policy or customer specifications before they are finalized and sent to customers. With this in mind, there is the option of sending the invoices to customers in a queue or otherwise saving the time of having to send them individually via Outlook. For this reason (and some others), when the time comes to explore new systems, we will be receptive (and a little wiser) to explore other systems with improved technology.
ASJ: I still receive a lot of check payments from customers. I wish Freshbooks had the ability to take a picture of the check to put on the invoice, automatically record the amount, check number and payment date so I don’t have to manually enter this information into the system.