If you'd like to take the guesswork out of your time management and billing preparation for your small law firm, consider investing in time and billing software. These software packages aren't basic programs for entering only your time and producing an invoice for your client. They come with built-in practice management software to fully integrate various aspects of your firm's practice to ensure accurate billing. Before you go out to make that purchase, consider the pros and cons of these options to ensure you'll be investing in the time and billing software that will meet your firm's needs.
Abacus Law Classic/Gold
Pros: AbacusLaw is a comprehensive time and billing software, which is capable of integrating client meetings, court dates, and other events into a fully-integrated calendar across the entire firm. It calendar format is useful because you'll know what's going on within your firm with just a glance. It can link documents, emails, messages, and notes to client records for easy access. Abacus is unique because it's the only software that offers one-click time and billing.
Cons: Abacus has limited access from mobile devices, so it isn't good if you're an attorney on the go. The software is a bit light on the features it offers to make your firm run smoothly, like document assembly, document management, and to-do lists that some of the other accounting software makes available.
Pros: Amicus Attorney comes fully loaded with nice features that will make practice management easier for you, such as knowledge management through an online legal library, client contact management features, and other legal form automation features. The software is also compatible with numerous third-party applications, like Microsoft Outlook, Tabs3, and Juris. The software is even compatible with QuickBooks, so a transition from QuickBooks to Amicus is as easy as importing the data.
Cons: Amicus doesn't offer annual support or maintenance with its software licenses so these services must be purchased separately. This will add $545 to the cost of the software, plus there are fees for additional licenses for each associate of the firm. The software isn't expensive, but you'll need to be computer savvy to install and maintain the program locally on your machine or pay for the additional support and maintenance fees as well. Overall, Amicus is a good choice for most small law firms that expect to experience low- to moderate growth in the near term.
Pros: Clio has a straightforward pricing model that makes knowing the cost of the software easy to determine. Clio charges a monthly subscription fee of $49 per month per attorney and $25 per month per support staff. Unlike the other programs, Clio is a legal software hosted online (in the cloud), which means that it can be accessed from any computer or mobile device where you can pick up an internet connection. The main advantage of Clio is that you don't need to make the initial capital investment in computers and servers to run the program and you'll avoid the headaches of needing a network administrator to install, manage, and maintain the software on your local machine.
Cons: Clio doesn't have many of the bells and whistles that other small business accounting software packages offer. Though you can keep track of time, billing, and reporting, and have the option for online bill pay, you can run your small practice just fine. Clio is the best option if you're the attorney who wants to have easy access to your time and billing software from any mobile device and who don't want to invest in the computers and server needed to host other software programs locally.
Pros: ProLaw has one of the most extensive set of practice management capabilities of all the time and billing software packages reviewed. It's compatible with Peachtree and QuickPayroll, which makes transitioning to the software easier. The legal form automation tools are cutting edge and include compatibility with HotDocs for easily making Word and PDF templates throughout the firm. The time and billing module of the software program also comes with expense tracking, budgeting, and specialized collections reports to manage your firm's cash flow. Fully-integrated calendaring features are also available, which are linked to document assembly and management, docketing, and Westlaw research. Specialize practice modules are also available.
Cons: The downside to ProLaw is that it's not accessible from any mobile devices. You'll also have to install the program locally on a server or a computer which will require a large initial investment in the hardware. The hardware will also need to be maintained as well. ProLaw has the deepest research tools and probably the best time and billing and practice management features in the marketplace. However, it's not recommended for those who want easy access to their software anytime or anyplace.