More than ever, the software your law firm chooses will affect your bottom line.
Once a legal practitioner begins their journey in the legal industry, the individual is faced with deciding to find employment within an established firm or venture out on their own, having a private practice. Either way, they are faced with using a firm's software that is already in place or making decisions on what software is required for private practice. One would think it is an easy task, but it is far from it.
Over the last 5 years, many kinds of software have moved from the "nice-to-have" category and are now considered critical to business operations. Today, legal business need to find software solutions for the following:
These are just a few examples of types of software that a firm may require, and each of these categories has a plethora of software solutions available to choose from. Making the decision can be challenging and frustrating for anyone, let alone someone who is not tech savvy or knowledgeable regarding software, after all - not all firms have an IT department. Legal professionals rely on software companies to "sell" their product to justify why the firm or legal practitioner should spend the money on specific software.
Of all the functions I've listed, there's one that I feel is crucially important for law firms to get right and that is their accounting and billing software. Why is choosing the right legal accounting software so important? Simply put, money is everything to a business. Accounting is the key to operating a successful legal firm and is a crucial component of overall business management. Not having the right software in place can cost a firm time and money, and ultimately could affect a law firm's ability to serve their clients.
Legal accounting software that meets the company's needs and allows the firm to operate at a high level of productivity ensures success throughout the business's life. Legal accounting software, or a financially-focused legal practice management software, provides a multitude of benefits to a firm; going beyond doing the daily tasks associated with the accounting aspect of the firm. The right software delivers value that will instantaneously show benefit through:
Law firms really looking to get ahead should select legal accounting software that can keep track of the time spent working on a client's file, billings, individual schedules, and instant access to financial data. Having instant access to specific data allows the firm to know the business's health at any given time, making decisions regarding the company's financial needs.
One thing I want to make clear is when I say legal accounting software, I don't mean just any accounting program such as Quickbooks. Legal accounting software refers to solutions that are specifically designed to meet legal industry requirements to assist with the business's operations; from managing payroll, streamlining yearly tax filing, providing data accuracy, and producing professional financial statements, while promoting accuracy. If your firm is audited, you'll be grateful you selected a tool that ensures your accounting is compliant without you having to lift a finger.
What about the legal support staff? Law firms require skilled people in place that can complete the tasks associated with a firm's operations, but unfortunately, not many firms consider how software choices directly affect the staff. Taking the time to research the software that is needed and speaking with the people that will be the ones using the software the most will go a long way to guaranteeing that the right legal software is purchased. Support staff are the ones that will be using it daily, from keeping calendars up to date, entering disbursements, and docketing their time spent on tasks to creating invoices and preparing reports that are required. It is vital to have software that anyone can learn to use whether or not they are a bookkeeper or accountant.
Over the years of teaching computer applications and instruction to software, the main feedback I hear is how individuals want to use software that is easy to learn and does not require a degree in accounting. After all, my students wish to enter the field of law to do legal work, not accounting. Good legal accounting software provides confidence that critical bookeeping work is done through with the utmost security and a user-friendly system so that wish can come true.
Taking all of this into account, choosing the right legal accounting software can and will increase a law practice's ability to meet the needs of their clients and the firm itself. If you're going to invest in a software, make sure the value it provides you exceeds the sticker price.
Angelina R. Asturi is a professor in the Paralegal and Law Clerk programs at Georgian College. In her role as Field Placement Coordinator for the program, she has assisted hundreds of students in launching their careers. She is a former Senior Law Clerk, with over 30 years of experience in the legal field. Angelina is currently completing a master’s degree in Business Innovation Leadership at the University of Fredericton, as well as completing the requirements to become an accredited Family Law Mediator in the Province of Ontario. As a contributor to Soluno's blog, Angelina covers topics on legal education, accounting technology, and the Canadian legal industry.
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