Avoid the Practice Management 'Lite' Trap
Posted September 27, 2017 to Billing.
Law Office Systems News
Technolawyer White Paper:
Carol wrote a white paper, “Avoid the Practice Management 'Lite' Trap” for Technolawyer at the request of Centerbase, published on Tuesday, September 26th. Carol makes the case for using a practice management system that allows a firm to add their own fields and information and do sophisticated searches to better manage their practice. Let us know what you think!
Carol will be leading a Lunch and Learn webinar on “Law Practice Management Software Demystified” for the NJSBA Solo and Small Firm Section from 12:30PM-2PM on Thursday, October 5th. Carol will discuss and compare the products available and discuss what to look for. To sign up for the webinar, you must be a member of the NJSBA. Click here to sign up.
On October 20th at 2:00pm, Carol will be the guest consultant for a Lexis “Office Hours” session to answer questions about Time Matters. Save this date and expect more information to register as this event gets closer.
On Thursday, November 9th, from 2:15pm- 3:00pm, Carol will be facilitating a panel of attorneys discussing Practice Management products for the New York City Bar Association as part of their 14th Annual Small Law Firm Practice Management Symposium. The symposium runs from 8:30am-5:00pm at the New York City Bar, 42 West 44th Street. Click here for more information. We hope you can join us for this worthwhile day.
Back to School…Back to Business
With summer coming to a close, many of us are back to business as usual. You may have had a helping hand over the summer- an intern, summer associate, or law clerk. With school being back in session, you may have lost that helping hand. We want to remind you that we now offer paralegal and legal billing services. Call us if we can lend a hand!
The current crop of cloud based practice management systems are beginning to get closer to the functionality of the premise based products. Firms looking to ditch their server and have the flexibility of a web based system may want to add Centerbase to the products they consider.
In late July, Amy and Carol went to Dallas for Centerbase certification. Over the last few years, we have gotten certified on or evaluated many cloud products including Clio, Cosmolex, LEAP, MyCase, and Zola Suite. All have strengths and weaknesses. Many of our clients have relied on server based products like Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, Abacus Law or Practice Master for many years. The strength of products like Time Matters is in their ability to be customized to support each firm’s internal processes.
In our experience, no two firms do things the same way. Some firms new clients come primarily from referrals from existing clients while others may get new clients from presentations or their own marketing efforts. Firms manage client work differently depending on staffing, practice areas and other variables. Having a product with the flexibility to adapt it to their workflow allows firms to be more efficient and serve their clients better.
Firms that have had practice management programs understand the value of connecting information to their cases or matters. For those firms, having a product that adapts to their procedures is key. Centerbase does an excellent job of combining the benefits of the cloud with the power of customization. Carol has just published a white paper for Technolawyer expanding on the power of customization and search tools. We encourage you to read her white paper and give us a call if you are looking for a better fit for your firm.
Tech Trends: The Long View
When I first started my business (30 years this month!), the PC had been out for a few years and law offices were beginning to purchase them to replace electric typewriters and dedicated word processors, which were essentially personal computers that did a single function. The early market leaders for word processing programs were the same companies who had sold minicomputers and dedicated word processors for the previous decade- IBM (Displaywriter), Wang (Multimate), Data General (WordPerfect) among others. Over the next few years, programs like Tabs, Timeslips, Time Matters and Abacus began to make their way into small law firms. Microsoft Word was available but barely made a blip in the landscape when competing with Word Perfect, and the other products of the time. Then came the transition from DOS to Windows. Many of these vendors had focused on OS2 which turned out to be an expensive dead end. By the early 1990s, most of the word processors were gone and Microsoft Word began to dominate the marketplace.
During those same years, there were many legal billing and early “docket control” programs that had big booths at trade shows and expensive marketing budgets. By the mid 1990s, many of those products had come and gone. Over the last few years, it has felt like we are in a similar transition. While it is taking longer than I would have anticipated, we are moving away from server based environments and moving towards increasingly mobile solutions. The challenge for both law firms and consultants is to figure out which products and which companies will have what it takes to be viable contenders. A wise mentor of mine once told me, “just because companies are big doesn't mean they can’t make big mistakes.” I am frequently reminded of this when I consider that Microsoft in the late 1980s and early 1990s was competing with mega corporations like IBM and eventually won.
For vendors, surviving and thriving in a cloud-based environment will require not only technical prowess but funding, innovation, marketing, and superior service and support. Many of the current products are being developed with funding from venture capital firms. Relying on “other people’s money” can be good to get started but can create constraints in the future as investors look to get a return on their investment. There are also many examples of the best technical product not becoming the market leader.
So, with that ominous background, what should a law firm that has an aging server, older unsupported versions of products or has hit limits with their current software do? The first step is a needs assessment. Consider what is working, what isn't and what your firm needs to do its work more efficiently and serve its clients better. Like our law firm clients, we have been reviewing many of these products and going through their certification processes. This gives us the ability to know where their strengths and weaknesses are and help match our clients with the best fit for their needs. If your firm is at a technology crossroads and considering what direction to go, give us a call and let us be your compass.
There are all sorts of shortcuts in many different programs. The best way to find them is under the pull down menus at the top. Sometimes, they are a bit hidden from view. In Outlook, hovering over functions in the Ribbon will reveal shortcuts like pressing F9 to do a send and receive email. Other times, right click will show additional functions and shortcuts.
In Timeslips, when you have the Billing Assistant open, there are icons in the upper right hand corner of the Overview screen that will show whether that client’s bill is ready to be billed, in proof, in audit (for electronic billing) or approved. Did you know if you click on the highlighted icon, you will have options to either move your bill through to the next stage (e.g. from ready to proof or approve or from proof or approve to go back or undo)?
Did you know that pressing CTRL+E will let you create an Excel file when you are on a list view in Time Matters? Sending info to Excel is a way to do a quick report or use Excel sorting or searching to do more with your Time Matters data.
Recent Product and Service Releases
Timeslips: Sage released Timeslips 2018 in July. The major enhancements to version 2018 include more flexible options on prebills, bills and reports. Version 2018 also includes the option for a Quick Bill, which lets you create a client, enter time, expenses and partial or full payments and prepare a bill more efficiently. Quick Bills are ideal for in person or phone consultations. The Accounts Receivable screens have been redesigned to put better information at your fingertips and making the information easier to enter. For firms whose clients require budgets, version 2018 has improvements to make creating and monitoring budgets simpler.
Sage also released a service release for version 2017 in August. The service release fixes problems with reprint bill images as well as resolving issues with flat fees, posting of payments and Timeslips Today views. Click here to see the list of issues that have been resolved.
For firms on older versions (2016 and earlier), moving to Firebird SQL will bring both improved performance and more stability (less corruption and errors than the BDE database). Sage representatives can only sell a subscription version of Timeslips (Premium). The Premium version requires you to renew annually to continue using the program but also includes any updates as well as access to support. If you prefer to purchase Timeslips without an annual payment requirement, you can purchase the upgrade to Timeslips 2018 Perpetual from us. Call us with any questions!
Time Matters/ Billing Matters: Lexis released service release 16.2.2 in early September. After criticism of changes to the calendar in recent releases, Lexis is working towards addressing some of the more visible components. The pop upbox can now be sized and retain its size rather than needing to be adjusted each time it is opened. The zoom options on reports have also been improved. For Billing Matters users, there were improvements to the Bill Flow Manager (the option to keep tagged records tagged), Billing Items List (more search options) and Time Sheet (ability to access other parts of the program while using the Time Sheet). We are monitoring customer and other consultants’ experiences, particularly with links to Timeslips and PCLaw, to determine when we recommend that our clients upgrade to this version. Contact us if you would like to discuss timing and steps to upgrade.
PCLaw: A service release (version 16.1) was released in late August. It addressed some defects as well as made improvements in performance. As Lexis is moving customers from older (C-Tree) versions to SQL, they have incorporated a pre-check tool to ensure databases convert properly. Firms looking to upgrade will need to make sure their environment meets the system requirements and budget in additional time to run the pre-check and address any issues with Lexis tech support before completing their upgrade.