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accountant advice

Switching your mid-size law firm client to 21st century financial software

Switching law firm financial software is not something you do every year. If you make the right decision, you won’t have to make a change for years to come. On average, we see users transitioning after having been on their previous program for 5+ years.

When making a law firm financial software switch, there are two components to consider:

  1. Which accounting platform to choose?
  2. What is the best time tracking and invoicing tool that can integrate into the accounting platform?

The accounting platform – what you’ll want to think about

You want to put your law firm accounting into a tool that you trust; there is nothing more important than safeguarding your financial information.

A critical question is whether your accounting software includes a meaningful financial platform for your law firm? Meaning: Is it an open environment, and does it connect with other tools, as well as your financial institutions and your clients? Does it allow your users to connect anytime, anywhere, on any device? Does it include a community of accounting professionals who are experts on the platform who can help you if you are not? Finally, does the software integrate well with other applications to provide the customization you need? This could be anything from timekeeping and billing, to invoice management and collections.

If you don’t choose an open platform, you might find yourself limited by a boutique solution that by necessity is isolated.

An example of an open platform is QuickBooks® Online. It has millions of customers, a large number of expert ProAdvisor® accounting professionals who specialize in law firms, and 700 integrated software apps.

Tracking your time

Questions to ask:

  • Can my users track their time?
  • Is it easy to produce an invoice?
  • Is it easy to generate the reports I need?
  • Does it integrate with my core accounting tool?

Many apps sync accounting with timekeeping and invoicing, but sync and integration are not the same thing. Sync happens periodically, leaving your timekeeping and billing out of whack with your accounting and reporting in between. Integration means you have a single set of books, one source of truth, and everyone seeing the same data at the same time.

Why should it be any other way? It also means your firm’s critical data is generated automatically without the sloppy ledger entries and manual workarounds that are the hallmarks of tools that sync. LeanLaw has spent a huge amount of effort to ensure QuickBooks is the source of truth – and LeanLaw truly integrates in real time with the QuickBooks data.

Data transparency

How hard are you working to get at your data? Do you have to ask someone else to get it for you? Is there a lot of manual work involved? Why do you stick with this inefficient process? Really, why not switch to something more modern and ultimately, less expensive?

Some advice

Your first decision is to choose an open platform that connects to financial institutions that you interact with; CPAs, accountant and bookkeepers who can support you; and anywhere, anytime, any device accessibility. Having your law firm accounting software on a server is a thing of the past and does not keep your data more secure. Do you think that you know better than a multi-billion dollar company how to keep data safe? Their viability as a company is at stake if they are cavalier with your data security. They have the resources for better security.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online is an obvious partner: More than 700 companies have created apps to extend its functionality. Even better, QuickBooks has upped their game and is positioned for the mid-market law firm business. With custom fields, advanced reporting, and trust accounting solutions that will thrill your bookkeeper, QuickBooks Online Advanced, the newest product in the QuickBooks line, has the mid-market law firm in mind.

One caveat

As we mentioned above, there are over 700 app companies that work to extend QuickBooks functionality, but LeanLaw works only with QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Online, however, needs the LeanLaw app to create the appropriate workflows that law firms expect. If you tried to use QuickBooks Online without LeanLaw, it would not be your best experience – and LeanLaw is not an option without QuickBooks Online.

With LeanLaw and QuickBooks Online working together, your mid-market law firm’s financial workflow becomes a well-oiled, customizable solution for you at a fraction of the price of other boutique mid-market solutions.

Why choose QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online is the smartest platform for mid-market law firms: It’s like how Gmail, Outlook, and Apple are the default for sending mail – platforms for which thousands of apps have been created to extend functionality. By adopting QuickBooks Online, you are adopting the platform and have access not only to LeanLaw, but to hundreds of other apps (some of which we can recommend) to extend the functionality of QuickBooks and make your workflow more streamlined and with less manual work. Don’t take our word for it — see the reviews.

How to move forward

The sticking point tends to be inertia. Everyone wants change: Ask your team if they like their time tracking software, does it serve their lifestyle?

What we’ve come to understand at LeanLaw is that our future clients feel like they don’t have a partner to help them migrate off their current financial software. We’re not going to say it’s easy, but you can have experienced professionals who are QuickBooks ProAdvisors steward you into your new software. If you’re migrating your accounting, they are trained to make that happen for you.

As unpleasant as you may think migration of software might be, know this: It takes 90 days to institutionalize good software. And then, you’re home free.

I’ve made the decision to switch to QuickBooks + LeanLaw. What are the steps to migrating my workflow?

  1. Pick a cutover date — meaning: the beginning of the month — everything after that date will be with the new software.
  2. Prior to the cutover date, export billing data (names, addresses, responsible attorney, and other information to your new software). LeanLaw or your accounting professional can help with this.
  3. Onboard all of your users. With LeanLaw, it’s a breeze after a free 15-20 minute coaching session.
  4. Bill your final invoices out of your old application. That creates what are called opening balances for the QuickBooks / LeanLaw environment.
  5. During the course of the first month, users will add time and the accounting team will be polishing financials (adding AR balances, setting up trust ledgers, establishing a chart of accounts, for example).
  6. Run your first invoices from QuickBooks – typically 30-35 days after the cutover date.

By the third billing cycle, you have institutionalized new billing workflows. And each month is easier than the last.

LeanLaw Accounting Pros are QuickBooks ProAdvisers who are also fluent with LeanLaw and who can help with this migration.

Good luck with this crucial decision!

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