I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: running a successful law firm is first and foremost about establishing sound business practices. However, it’s important to also recognize that there are needs unique to the legal industry, and utilizing generic tools in your practice will likely present significant challenges. Oftentimes, firms default to using popular business tools without considering the requirements distinct to their practice which often go unaddressed in general-use systems. Not only does a legal-specific solution help to simplify processes, it also adds an additional layer of protection against possible errors. Here, I’ll briefly cover the 4 most common questions that our company is asked by attorneys who are struggling to keep up and stay compliant. These are areas where a legal specific solution can help avoid potential pitfalls and begin to meet your firm’s particular needs as they pertain to billing, business accounting, trust accounting, and administrative activities.
“Why can’t I use a general timekeeping and billing platform?”
There are dozens or well designed general timekeepers and basic billing programs — I’d recommend them to my fellow colleagues and others across a range of industries, but never to a lawyer. For billing, a legal-specific software allows for customized templates, which displays information like payments received, retainer balances, and detailed entries. Additionally, you’ll be able to manage complex rate structure per client, per matter, and per timekeeper, capabilities not provided by generic software.
Also, consider all of your payment options when working in the legal industry (billing is end to end, of course). Accepting credit cards from your clients should be a painless process when using a legal-specific credit card processor such as LawPay.
“What makes legal business accounting different?”
The gap between billing and accounting in the legal industry often results in a loss of matter costs and incorrect allocation of income and reimbursements. A legal-specific solution works as a bridge between these two areas, reducing risk. Further, you can avoid common issues with credit card processing and accounting integrations (i.e. batching, voids, and trust money) as well as fee distribution that firms often run up against when attempting to use generic business software by implementing a legal specific solution instead.
“Why can’t I use a general business accounting tool for my trust accounting?”
Basic tools (such as QuickBooksTM) do not offer safeguards against commingling, overdrafting, or duplicate checks, which a legal-specific solution puts in place. By reconciling and billing within the same program, you’ll be able to easily ensure that all balances match and prevent sloppy bank reconciliation, all of which will help your firm perform proper reporting to remain compliant and audit-ready.
“How do legal-specific practice management tools differ from general tools?”
Generic software doesn’t allow your firm to link every item back with its associated matter in order to be billable, nor does it offer a secure exchange of documents. By using a legal-specific solution, you can protect and streamline the administrative process, while also improving collaboration internally and with clients via a secure central portal.
Legal-Specific Tools are a Necessity
Bottom line: a generic business tool is not equipped to fulfill the needs and requirements unique to law firms. Most general business tools do not have the safeguards in place to keep your firm compliant without additional customization and/or costs. Consider what’s best for your firm. What do you need to stop worrying about the proper management of your practice and get back to practicing law for your clients? If you want to learn more about how a legal specific system can improve your practice, view our webinar, Can Your Law Firm Last Using Generic Tools?