Legal accounting software is designed to allow your small law firm to track the critical elements of cash flow and client interactions in numerous helpful ways. QuickBooks Online offers a comprehensive cloud accounting software program which facilitates client management and tracks the time spent on each case. But that’s not all it does; it also enables you to track the hours and salaries of your firm’s employees from paralegals and administrative assistants to couriers and mailroom clerks, as well as to stay on top of business expenses such as office supplies, transportation or the hiring of expert witnesses.
QuickBooks provides law firms like yours with several useful tools to help you spend your time more efficiently. When the amount of time spent on mundane matters is reduced, and you can automate the everyday tasks that keep your practice moving forward, it becomes easier to focus on the bread and butter of winning cases and pleasing your clients. The free tools in QuickBooks track billable time, update appointments, send invoices and documents to clients, and track how much cumulative time you’ve spent on cases.
Learn how to set up your firm’s legal accounting software properly and it will save you both time and money across the board in every aspect of your practice, particularly when using QuickBooks.
Establishing Your QuickBooks Account
Setting up multiple users in QuickBooks gives you complete control of your legal accounting software for payroll, tax, and other purposes. The beauty of it is, you need only assign each employee the level of access to the features of QuickBooks that their job requires.
As the master administrator, you have complete authority over your small law firm accounting software. Your colleagues and employees will each have need for differing levels of access, depending upon their status and duties. Lawyers can easily keep notes about clients and customers on the QuickBooks system completely confidential and private. While administrative assistants may handle billing and accounts receivable – and even organize case files – they don’t ever have to lay eyes on specific case details or sensitive information such as notes from conversations clients have had with lawyers and paralegals.
Take a look at the step-by-step process for creating multiple user accounts in QuickBooks.
- Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and select Manage Users.
- Click New to open the new user window.
- Choose what type of new user you are adding from the available selection of radio buttons. At this point, you can decide whether your employee just needs to track their time, or if they should have access to clients, view reports, and be a part of the company administrative team. You can also create a custom access point, which lets you designate what parts of your QuickBooks system each user can access.
- For law firms, selecting custom access is the best way to go. Click the radio button for Limited to see the various sections of QuickBooks available in your system. If you have paralegals working heavily on cases, they probably need access to client information under the Customers and Sales section. Office staffers will most likely need access to Vendors and Purchases so they can order supplies like more copier paper and laser toner.
- Choose the file permissions for each user.
- Enter the user’s email address and name. When you do this, the system sends out an email to your new user which contains a message about accessing QuickBooks. This message instructs the employee to create a user ID and password so they can log in. Once they do, the administrator receives an alert confirming that this person is now an active user.
Don’t worry: you can always alter permissions later if the situation should change, such as when an administrative assistant becomes a paralegal or a paralegal becomes a lawyer. You can also delete users when they leave the firm for whatever reason. In an age when cybersecurity breaches and information leaks are rampant, having in-house control over your users is an important consideration. Safeguarding the private information of clients is a vital responsibility of any law firm, so of course you will want to take all possible steps to prevent unauthorized access.
Tracking time in QuickBooks gives you a number of opportunities to save money on labour costs, including your own billables and the wages of hourly employees. Tracking time should be a priority for the use of your lawyer software, especially since you can automate so much of this process. Some of the many advantages of doing so include:
- More accurate billable time ALL of the time you spend on a case represents a billable asset. If you don’t correctly track every minute of the time you’ve spent on a case, you can’t properly bill the client, so your firm loses money. Furthermore, accuracy with your books is absolutely imperative when it comes to filing taxes or if you’re ever subjected to an audit.
- Revealing missed time Regardless of how you have chosen to bill clients for your services, tracking time helps you to become more aware of – and therefore more efficient about – how you plan and spend your work days. Tracking time in QuickBooks makes it crystal clear precisely how much time is spent working on each individual case. This includes everything from talking on the phone or offering free consultations to prospective clients, to researching cases and making court appearances for your existing clientele. Knowing how your days are spent enables you to eliminate inefficiencies in your schedule.
- It all adds up Billable time really does add up, especially when it’s viewed over the course of the entire fiscal year. Consider a scenario in which you randomly miss 20 minutes of billable time on this day or that, during which your billable rate was set at $150 per hour. This means that you missed out on being able to collect $50 of billable time for that lost 20 minutes. If this situation is repeated and multiplied over 20 weekdays per month, that’s $1,000 each month. By the end of a full year, you will have missed out on a whopping $12,000 in income that your firm might have otherwise been able to collect from your clients.
- Accurate charges for customers Tracking time translates to improved accuracy when it comes to the billing of clients. It allows you to provide each client with an itemized and detailed list of the tasks that have been performed on their behalf, when they were completed, and how long each of these tasks took to finish. More accurate record-keeping also provides insight for altering your billable rate if you decide that your time may be worth more or less than what you’ve been getting.
QuickBooks’ time tracking software offers several convenient ways to take care of your payroll and determine how best to bill your clients. Each employee can pull up their own file and record their time manually, or they can do so by simply clicking on a clock. QuickBooks can sync with Google Calendar to easily keep track of client meetings, court dates and deposition times, as well as travel time to and from the courthouse or other locations. Your staff can even sync GPS programs with QuickBooks to record exactly how long it takes to get to a meeting or court date and how many miles they drive to reach each location. QuickBooks free legal billing software downloads enable your employees to track every minute of their work day, manage their time wisely, and demonstrate to your firm’s clients exactly where all of their money is going.
To track the time of an employee:
- Click on Employees and then select the Enter Time option.
- Choose an employee’s name from the drop-down list.
- If the time is billable, choose the client’s name and service item before marking the time as billable. Skip this step if the time is not billable, for example when the employee is a member of the custodial staff which cleans your office.
- Choose a payroll item for the time, which includes the rate of pay.
- Enter the hours worked for that particular day on a specific task.
- If you do this on a weekly basis, you can repeat these steps to make a timesheet, but it’s more efficient if employees input their own time as they work on each task. This will serve to make your timesheets much more accurate.
- Click Save and Close to move on to another task.
Weekly timesheets and reports come in handy for payroll as well as for ongoing monitoring and balancing of staff levels and caseloads. They also help you to automate as many as possible of your firm’s most mundane processes. For example, tasks such as responding to emails and writing legal documents become much easier with the creation of automated emails and customized legal document templates. Weekly timesheets in QuickBooks also make your payroll easier to process.
Billing Customers with the Help of Legal Accounting Software
When it comes to legal accounting, law firms have two basic choices for use in billing their clients: they typically employ either hourly rates or flat-fee billing. Flat-fee billing might be the most viable strategy to make more money for your Canadian law practice because clients may feel more relaxed knowing they paid a flat rate that will cover a certain specified range of legal fees. In your firm’s contract with the client, a flat fee spells out precisely what the client will get for a given amount of money. A flat-fee billing strategy also eliminates the need to send monthly invoices to all of your clients, which saves on labour costs over the long term. However, if your firm uses payment instalment plans, invoices must still be sent out on either a monthly or quarterly basis, even though each of these invoices will reflect the same amount of money.
Now let’s talk a little bit about accurate time-tracking and billable hours. Once you track your firm’s billable time and average it all out, you gain a clearer idea of the figure that you can reasonably expect to charge clients.
For example, you have determined that every prior merger and acquisition case your firm has worked on has resulted in a range of $3,000 to $3,500 in billable time. Keeping in mind that such billable time provides profit for your firm, you decide that in the future you will charge clients around $3,300 per case when a medium-sized business seeks to acquire another company. You further decide to double that fee for larger companies who wish to do the same.
Charging customers by the hour is also a viable option using law office billing software from QuickBooks. When you’re charging hourly rates it is even more crucial that time is tracked appropriately, and you’ll be happy to find that Quickbooks makes it a snap.
Regardless of the methods you choose for billing purposes, you may choose for the Quickbooks invoices that you send out to clients to be completely plain and bare-bones with minimal information, or you can include as many pertinent details as you want or need to.
To create a custom QuickBooks invoice:
- *Begin with your company’s name, contact information, and logo at the top** QuickBooks lets you input this information quickly, efficiently, and automatically once you’ve set up your account.
- Input the client’s name and contact information This step may already have been performed by your staff, in which case all you have to do is select a client’s name from the drop-down menu.
- Create an itemized list of services and billable time Set up your legal accounting software to track common billable time scenarios, such as court filings, depositions, legal research, expert consultations, and gathering evidence or information. Once you have a list of these items, all you need to do is select a billable time event from the menu, and the fee will automatically populate.
- Preview the invoice Down at the bottom of the invoice-creation screen you will find a button that lets you preview and print the invoice. The view on this screen is identical to what your client will see.
- Enter a due date Put the due date in a prominent and logical place where your client can easily see it, either all the way up at the top or near the total down at the bottom.
- Send a note Pop off a quick email message to your client along with their invoice. Show the case number, if applicable, and also indicate somewhere within the message when the bill is due. You can create a standard message that goes with every invoice or type a few personalized sentences to go along with the boiler plated verbiage.
Regular invoicing serves more purposes than just to bring money in or explain your work on a client’s case; monthly invoices also serve to ensure that you stay in constant contact with them. Checking in with your firm’s clients, even if it’s just with an invoice, lets you touch base. It demonstrates that you haven’t forgotten about their case, that you appreciate their business, and that you consider them to be valuable assets. In this way, invoices can serve as a convenient and powerful client management platform within QuickBooks.
QuickBooks provides you with essential tools to help manage your client relationships in simple, yet relevant ways. Adding clients to QuickBooks not only enables your firm to to maintain records for the tracking of billable time, but your staff can also make unlimited notes and manage court documents for your clients using this legal accounting software.
On the customer Information screen you will find multiple tabs containing various fields, including fields for notes and attachments. The notes field offers a place to record an overview of the progression of each client’s case as well as memos of interactions with that client. A quick note on top can show the date a court case was filed along with the docket number. Below that, you can list the date of the first consultation with the client, when that person paid their fees, and dates/times when they called in to your firm to discuss a case. You can also note when their next court date is, as well as when you should send out reminders.
With QuickBooks, you can also custom-design court date reminders to send out. Simply retool an invoice to show the dates and times of appointments on a great-looking page that emphasizes the times, dates, and locations. You must make sure to include instructions that explain in detail how and when to reply to the message, so your firm always knows whether or not a given client has acknowledged receipt, as well as whether or not there are any issues to be resolved or questions to be answered.
The ability to import client information from Excel is another fabulous feature that saves time and money while managing clients. This comes in especially handy when you are consulting on a case from another firm, and they send you their data in an Excel spreadsheet. Just format the spreadsheet to your specifications by clicking Browse to input a new customer file, upload the file, and then map each field you want to import to QuickBooks. Instead of spending hours of billable time on data entry to type each entry in by hand, you can rapidly import the file in its entirety, after which it is easy to perform any necessary editing.
Customer databases can be used for a lot more than just keeping track of the people who pay for your services. A QuickBooks customer database can also help you maintain a list of prospective jurors for a case. As an example, say you have the names of potential jurors from a prior case. You and your staff took notes during the jury selection process at that time, and you uploaded all of that information to your QuickBooks database. In the special notes field, you listed the juror’s name and juror number, followed by your staff’s perceptions of that person and what, if any, objections you had to their being seated on a particular jury.
Fast-forward to this year, and that juror has come up again in another case. Your staff can easily access the notes you previously saved in QuickBooks thanks to the mobile capabilities of the software. This lets you make an informed decision about jury selection.
The Attachments field in QuickBooks legal accounting software for Canada allows you to quickly send court papers to your firm’s clients for their perusal. This is another reason why monthly billing has a bit of an advantage over flat-fee billing. When you’re sending an invoice, you can add attachments to the message with the stylized paperclip tool in QuickBooks. Upload the file to the customer’s entry in QuickBooks first, and then fill out the invoice or document you need to send. Next you simply prepare the email message, and make sure you add the attachment before clicking send.
When you transmit documents to your firm’s clients using this method, make certain to assure them that their information is being kept both confidential and secure. Also consider making it clear to your client what kind of format the document is in, whether it’s a Word, PDF, or Google Doc, because this will reduce confusion when your client seeks to view their important papers.
All of these features add up to make your practice better at time and case management, which gives you a distinct advantage over the competition. Your firm also stands to earn significantly more money over time, because Quickbooks provides you with so many means by which to economize and improve efficiency in handling your caseload. Making and saving more money allows you to update and upgrade to stay ahead of the game. This is important, no matter whether your goal is to get more clients, win bigger cases, or expand the practice and hire more people.
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