As software consultants, we frequently talk to groups or individuals about the programs we support. Inevitably we are asked – “But which software program do you like best?” The answer is not a matter of “like” or “dislike”; it’s a matter of knowing which program provides the most desirable features for a client.
So today we’d like to talk about the billing, accounting and financial management programs we know: Timeslips, Time Matters/Billing Matters, PCLaw and QuickBooks.
“Best of Breed” versus “Integrated”
Choosing a software program from this point of view can be compared to choosing office equipment. Some firms want The Best Copier, The Best Scanner and The Best Fax Machine. Others are happy with the 4-In-One machine that sits next to their computer. The first approach guarantees a firm will get exactly the features they want in each machine. The second approach gives a solution that may not have the top of the line features in each category, but it does the job simply and with one machine.
Using a program like Timeslips will give an end-user a simple way to enter data. A major strength is its bill layout design, constructed to give organizations what they want in terms of presentation. It has over 100 pre-defined reports, plus the option for totally custom reports built from scratch. And it gives the end-user (and their accountants) the option of using the accounting program of their choice.
On the other hand, Time Matters/Billing Matters and PCLaw give end-users the simplicity and security of knowing that data is entered once and it goes where it needs to go. It records information about Contacts, Matters or Cases, and Vendors (in the case of PCLaw). Users set up the data, enter time and expenses, and generate bills. Both programs have document management, calendaring and Email management as well. In the case of Time Matters/Billing Matters, there is the additional functionality of document generation, phone call management, tracking mail, outlining, and other “Front Office” features. In the case of PCLaw, there is a fully functional general ledger program that handles trust accounting as well as other “Back Office” functionality.
“Front Office” versus “Back Office”
People often hear these terms when speaking of LexisNexis products and ask what it means. Think of walking into a professional services firm. Who is the first person you often see? The receptionist. And that person is often involved in – answering the phone, setting up appointments, generating documents, etc. That is the “front office”; therefore, those functions are often referred to as “Front Office Functionality”. Continue past the receptionist and walk down the hall. What is often at the end? The accounting/bookkeeping department. Here is where billing is done, along with producing financial reports. This is the “back office”; therefore, such functions are often referred to as “Back Office Functionality”.
Time Matters/Billing Matters puts its emphasis on “front office functionality”. PCLaw is designed for “back office functionality”.
When your firm needs to determine the best solution which solves identified needs, it is important to look at what each software program can deliver. Here’s a chart to help you out:
|Timeslips||Stand-Alone||Strong features in time & expense tracking, bill layout, reports, custom reports, A/R and trust account reporting; allows users choice in their accounting program|
|Time Matters (BasicBilling)||Stand-Alone||Contact management, Matter (Case) management, document generation/management, time and expense tracking, bill generation. Good for firms with basic billing needs and light bill generation volume. No accounting module so allows users choice in their accounting program.|
|QuickBooks||Stand-Alone||Simple, general ledger accounting program popular with many accounting firms. Works with Timeslips and Time Matters. We generally do not recommend this as a stand-alone, single solution for law firms, particularly those with IOLTA escrow accounts.|
|Time Matters/Billing Matters||Integrated||All the features in Time Matters above, with some advanced billing features and moderate- to heavy-bill generation built in. No accounting/general ledger module so allows users choice in their accounting program.|
|PCLaw||Integrated||Client, Matter, Billing and General Ledger Accounting program. Made for the firm with moderate- to heavy-volume of billing, trust account management and/or complex billing/accounting needs.Moderate-to-heavy bill volumes and/or complexity with accounting and case/matter management needsModerate-to-heavy bill volumes and/or complexity with accounting and case/matter management needsModerate-to-heavy bill volumes and/or complexity with accounting and case/matter management needs|
And for those who want it all, there is the ultimate combination of Time Matters and PCLaw.
What’s the best solution for your firm? Is your present solution meeting your firm’s needs? Call us at 1-877-ELS-0555 for advice and further information about our products.
Dana Riel is President and Founder of Business Solutions, Inc., serving the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area since 1985. Her firm is the authorized training center for the region for Time Matters and PCLaw by PCLaw|Time Matters, PLLC; Timeslips and Peachtree Accounting by Sage Software; and QuickBooks by Intuit Corporation. As a trainer, Dana has provided training services to organizations such as the DOD Defense Logistics Agency, Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAG)/Department of the Navy, University of the District of Columbia School of Law, U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as with small‐ to mid‐size law firms in the Baltimore‐Washington D.C. area. In 2009, she participated in the series of day‐long seminars sponsored by the District of Columbia Bar Association Practice Management Section, titled “Basic Training: Learn About Running a Law Office”. Ms. Riel also served as an Adjunct Professor in Georgetown University’s Paralegal Studies Program, having taught the course, “Legal Ethics/Legal Technology” in 2009; and “Legal Technology” for the Spring and Summer Semesters of 2010. She presently serves on the Advisory Board for PCLaw|Time Matters, PLLC.