Can I use a general account program like Quickbooks to bill legal clients?
Even though general accounting programs such as Quickbooks were not specifically designed for legal billing, law firms can still use these programs to create legal bills that show the date, time spent, a description of services, the rate per hour, and calculate the total amount charged for each entry. Some of the more sophisticated desktop accounting programs even allow employees to track their time through the program and can generate bills from those time entries, just like specialized legal billing programs do.
General accounting programs such as QuickBooks, Wave or Xero, however, have trouble handling the following legal billing activities:
- Trust Account Reporting on Bills
- Tracking reimbursable costs
- Applying complex billing rate structures and non-traditional fee arrangements
- Batch Emailing
- Allocating partial payments
- Reporting on productivity and collection rates
There are workarounds for many of these issues, but the alternate processes can be time consuming and typically increase the likelihood of human error because the fixes cannot be automated.
So, while you can use general accounting programs to generate legal bills, the limitations described above increase the time your legal staff has to spend on legal billing tasks, increase the time your firm spends on law practice management, and decrease the time available for staff to spend on billable activities.