Can general accounting programs like QuickBooks generate required legal reports?
There are some specific reports that law firms are required to generate due in order to meet ethical obligations – such as a three-way reconciliations report for trust accounts. But there are also other non-trust account-related reports that attorneys are required to produce in certain situations. For example, under the lodestar method of calculating a reasonable attorney fee recovery, the law firm must submit a detailed accounting of the services provided along with an explanation of how those services furthered the case. The easiest way to meet these requirements is to print a report in your legal billing software which shows the date of the services, the name of the attorney or staff member providing the services, a description of the services provided, the hours worked, the hourly rate, and the total fee amount for each time entry.
General accounting programs may not keep detailed enough records or print out a report that contains the information required for a lodestar fee analysis, but specialized legal billing software can print these types of reports easily:
Also, there are other reports which, while not required, are necessary as part of good law practice management. These include reports that track attorney productivity and collection rates, reports that show all pre-billing information, and reports that show past-due client balances on the same page with the trust account balances for each matter. If your law firm uses a general accounting program, it may have to print several different reports to get the required information. Printing multiple reports and comparing them manually can be time-consuming and increases the likelihood of human error. Specialized legal billing programs provide this information on one easy-to-read report, reducing the likelihood of human error and decreasing staff time spent preparing these reports.
So, while you can use general accounting programs to generate some reports, the limitations described above increase the time your legal staff has to spend on legal billing tasks, which increases the time your firm spends on law practice management, and decrease the time available for staff to spend on billable activities.