I'm one of those legal dinosaurs that still keeps handwritten ledgers. Are there specific programs I should use?
A. Yes. And there are lots of excellent programs to choose from.
Just run a search of legal practice management software, and you will find hundreds of reviews online. Some of these programs reside on your office computer system, others in the cloud, and most function on both for speed and security.
The right one for you will depend on the size of your law firm, the nature of your practice, the overall cost of implementing it, and a range of personal preferences – maybe even some of the preferences of your IT consultant who may be assisting you with support and implementation.
There are two basic types of software you're going to want to look at: (1) billing and accounting software; and (2) case or practice management software.
Some of the more popular programs actually do both. They can help you with billing, bookkeeping, but also in managing cases and your time and your communications and the like.
These programs help you keep track of your time and expenses, issue bills, manage your trust and operating accounts. Many include components that will process your payroll. There are programs, especially designed for law firms like PCLaw and Timeslips. But many firms have customized QuickBooks to meet their needs.
I use PCLaw. It's a program I've been using for over 20 years. It prints our checks, prints out the bills, keeps track of all financial transactions at our firm, and can generate ledgers and reports on all aspects of our operation. There may be better programs out there now, but of course, I stick with what works for me.
If I were adopting a new system, I would review what's out there now. There weren't as many programs on the market when I created my firm back in the 1990s.
Let me also give an honorable mention to a program called Nota. This is a product of M&T Bank to assist law firms who maintain their trust accounts there. I've actually seen a demo of the program, and I'm quite impressed with some of the online trust banking features that they provide their depositors. It's not going to replace the need for your own software. But it is an excellent tool nonetheless, and can really help you in keeping track of your trust account.
Practice Management Programs
This group includes software like Clio, MyCase, Abacus Next, Amicus, Practice Panther. These are programs that can really simplify your life, helping you keep track of your cases, communications, document assembly, and many have components to handle accounting needs as well.
I happen to use Amicus, which is also a program that I started with over 20 years ago. But there's a lot more on the market today.
You'll also want to tweak the programs to practice the way you do, perhaps loading your templates so that they can assist with document assembly. No matter what you pick, you need to be prepared to invest time and money into its implementation.
There is a learning curve. But within a very short time, I promise you that this investment is going to save you enormous time, enhance the efficiency of your practice, help prevent things from falling through the cracks that can lead to problems and increase your bottom line.
That's going to minimize the amount of support staff you need to have or, at least in my case, it's allowed my support staff to do things that go well beyond some of the rote tasks that are taken care of by the software.
So the investment of time, the investment of money has been well worth it because it's saved us time. It's saved us money. It's increased our profitability. It's increased the quality of life for everybody that works at our firm.
I can't speak more highly of the need to invest and get-with-the-program – with the right program to assist in practice management.