For some law firms, switching from QuickBooks® Desktop to QuickBooks Online is something they have been putting off for a long time. Even after hearing that QuickBooks Online will make their accounts more precise, efficient and compliant, attorneys are still reluctant to change.
LeanLaw spoke with three QuickBooks ProAdvisors® who specialize in law firm accounting (and double as LeanLaw Accounting Pros) to understand the reluctance and to explain why switching to QuickBooks Online for law firms (for everyone, really) makes sense in terms of time, money and hassle.
Lynda Artesani, president of Artesani Bookkeeping, uses her expertise and organizational skills to help her small business clients grow their firms, thrive and become profitable. Her specialty is working with attorneys, real estate clients and start-ups.
Sarah Prevost founded Mintage Labs with the realization that business owners need real-time data, but are often uncertain as to which applications or technology would best fit their needs. As a QuickBooks Online Certified Advisor and a self-proclaimed Knowify master, Sarah offers services to small business owners who need the insight and knowledge found in large firms.
Brandy Derrick started Legal Ease Bookkeeping to help small law offices grow by providing sound legal bookkeeping and financial planning. She also wrote this article on how to set up a chart of accounts for law firm clients.
Why are some law firms reluctant to switch from Desktop to QuickBooks Online?
Lynda: This happens when an older partner who is accustomed to using Desktop doesn’t see the value in moving to the cloud: the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category. What they don’t realize is not only the time savings of automation, but also the efficiencies of accuracy and ability to reduce staff size turn into huge cost savings. When you’re in the cloud, you can be away from the office and have the information at your fingertips.
Sarah: There’s an emotional element to the question: aside from cost, it’s the comfort and mistrust of the cloud, and having to learn a new system. Some are quick to say the price is a reason; however, the cost is the last piece they should be looking at when they are considering the change since the efficiencies more than make up for that.
Brandy: People are afraid of three things: security on the web, QuickBooks Online not being able to do what they want and change. As far as security, QuickBooks Online has the highest level of encryption; it is as secure as your bank’s website. In regards to QuickBooks Online not being able to do what they want, I specialize in law firm clients and QuickBooks Online can do everything Desktop can. People hate change: it takes time to learn a new system, but with the software integrations and automation, law firms can save themselves a significant amount of time by using QuickBooks Online.
What disadvantages do you see by staying on Desktop?
Lynda: With Desktop, the accountant must have a way to access the books. That generally means a trip to their office, or another tool or app to have the ability to log in. I personally do not want to type in every vendor bill, reference number and similar information. It seems very old-school to me.
Sarah: I ask the principal/founding attorneys to consider their billable hour to the amount of the software. If there is no real-time data, you don’t drive the business when you are looking at historical reports. Also, compliance in knowing your trust account details are not up-to-date can cause more pain. Some law firms use extra supplemental spreadsheets to make up for this – back to spending time and money because time is money. That’s the biggest regret I hear about staying in Desktop – not updating the details in real time.
Brandy: With Desktop, you can only access the information on the one computer that has the software. In addition, you cannot integrate with practice management software, which means there will be errors and time spent finding those errors. For small law firms that don’t need a full-time bookkeeper, it can be hard to find a part-time worker who will come to their office to help with bookkeeping.
Can you point to savings from staying with Desktop? Or, the opposite?
Lynda: You can have many company files at no additional cost with Desktop. With QuickBooks Online, there is a fee for each subscription. In Desktop, you don’t have to upgrade for three years, but what you have to weigh is how much time it takes to manually perform processes in Desktop that are automated in QuickBooks Online, and see if it outweighs the savings of using the Desktop product. I don’t see Desktop as cost-effective.
Sarah: It’s never worth staying in a product because of a frugal moment, especially when it comes to your sanity and business finances. You must have updated books that are easy to access on a secure network. Don’t add barriers to your job.
Brandy: QuickBooks Online can save you tons of money via efficiencies. You can bring in data from your bank, and from case or practice management software. This means there is no more double entry and less time spent finding errors. Also, you can use automation tools to send out invoices, make specialized reports and import data. This means that you will spend less time dealing with the same tasks every month.
Do you have a success story for a firm that made the switch?
Lynda: I do! A current client is transferring from another law-bookkeeping program. It crashes daily on them, is cumbersome and not intuitive. They are transferring to LeanLaw, which allows them to do something as simple as clicking more>copy for invoices that don’t require trust tracking. They also use Hubdoc with LeanLaw to drag and drop client advanced costs, and then have it coded and ready to seamlessly bill back to the client with just a few clicks.
Automation is sometimes a thing of beauty! Especially when it means you can help your client dedicate their valuable time to more meaningful tasks than manually entering a billable expense.
Sarah: Lynda and I are working on the massive conversion she just mentioned, but the first thing I hear after a switch to QuickBooks Online is a sigh of relief on the time savings: no more manual entries or bulk invoices, and we can both be in the program at the same time!
Brandy: So many! We recently converted a law firm that used the Desktop version, and was so anti-technology that they didn’t even have online banking for their operating or trust accounts. After going through a couple of bookkeepers who didn’t know how to do trust accounting, they knew they needed to make a change and might need a virtual bookkeeper. We helped them make the switch to QuickBooks Online, provided training classes on how to do things in QuickBooks Online and helped them get a handle on their trust accounts.
For more information on transferring from Desktop to QuickBooks Online, consider Lynda, Brandy or Sarah when you make the switch. They specialize in law firm accounting: they speak lawyer, and for more information on LeanLaw, come to our website, or learn about the LeanLaw app that integrates with QuickBooks Online.