Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Selecting your legal accounting program can be a major task, especially if you are not entirely sure what your business’s needs are. Below we’ll highlight key features of legal accounting programs you may or may not be familiar with.
We’ll also discuss some basic and important aspects you may want to consider when choosing your software, such as understanding often confusing software terminology and cloud-based software. Accounting Software vs. Practice Management Software Before we get further into the details of legal accounting programs, we need to understand that there is a difference and an overlap between accounting software and practice management software. Legal practice management, billing, and accounting are three related, but specific functions with each manageable by different software.
Some software can do all three of these in a neat package. This is where terminology can be confusing to understand, and it can make it difficult to determine what each software package does.
Generally speaking, practice management software specialises in handling a business’s clients and contacts, case/matter management, trust account management, calendaring, workflow, time tracking, and billing.
Usually, full accounting software provides balance sheets and profit/loss, ledgers for bank accounts and operating accounts, invoicing, asset management, and a chart of accounts in a general ledger. As you can see, the examples above are related, but are fundamentally different functions. To summarise, some practice management programs include complete accounting, while others provide a package. This can include billing, time tracking, and expense tracking, but does not provide the actual accounting software. Usually, these programs can integrate with other software that provides actual accounting software such as QuickBooks. This is not to say that one may be better than the other, rather it is to define and understand the different versions of legal accounting programs.
Below is a list of some features that are often included, or that are available in legal accounting software:
· Chart of Accounts · Matter Management · Bank/Operating Account Management · Credit Card Management · Expense Tracking · Time Tracking · Billing / Invoicing · Profit & Loss Statements · Balance Sheets · Cashflow Statements · Tax Reporting · Bank Account Reconciliation · Trust Accounting · Amortisation Functions
This is the time to dive into your business’s specific needs. You need to identify all specific capabilities and features that you require in your legal accounting software.
Legal Programs In this article, we want to focus on understanding both cloud-based and premise-based programs. We have created a chart showcasing popular legal accounting software, both cloud and premise-based, and some features these programs offer.
Take a look and consider which of these might appeal more to your business along with some reasons for it:
Cloud or Premise Based:
What size business is best suited to this software?
- Case management - Mobile work. - Time, Trust/Matter Accounting, and reporting. - Automation and content. - Client self-service technology.
Integrates with Xero & MYOB AR for General Account Management
Growing small to mid-sized businesses.
- CRM. - Matter management. - Document assembly and management. - Trust and office accounting.
Growing mid-sized businesses.
- Document assembly. - Practice management. - Document management. - Activity-based costs. - Time management.
Trust & General Accounting.
Premise-based but offers cloud solutions through IT hosts.
- CRM and marketing - Trust & General Accounting and financials - Customisable forms and precedents - Integrated conveyancing and legal support services - Matter Centre integration
Mid to large-sized businesses.
These are all great options, and there are many more programs that could fit your business’s preferences and needs. There is one thing all these pieces of software have to offer. They are either cloud-based or have an option to integrate with other cloud-based programs. What is cloud-based? Simply put, cloud-based is software that is not installed on your actual computer but instead stored in a server of the company you choose via the internet. This is the main difference between cloud and premise-based software. Premise-based software runs on your local computer or server with a database. With cloud-based software, you can use it wherever you are as long as you have internet access and an internet-enabled device. Cloud-based software has become a very popular technological too, that is now preferred over premise-based software.
Although cloud-based software is preferable, what is included in this software is not always clear. It is imperative that when researching legal accounting programs, you look into what features are included and integration options that could result in costing more than what you might expect. Why choose cloud-based over premise-based software? Here we can look at how cloud-based software makes your life simpler. Many businesses have been moving to cloud-based programs as it is one of the most used and dominant technological tools on the market. There are fantastic benefits to using this technology, such as: o No need for physical infrastructure or file servers. o Easy and timely access to all case and matter documents. o Scalable storage solutions. o Security and access measures can be taken to stop phishing and malware attacks. o Compatible platform to work seamlessly with other internally used software. In addition to these benefits, you gain flexibility, real-time data storage, and it is easy and convenient to set up while bringing down costs. Using cloud-based software offers options that can provide a secure environment and offers services to help keep the clients’ data safe and are ethical to use. Each business should be aware when setting up security features as they are important to protect confidential information. It is important to be diligent when adhering to lower data privacy rules. Overall, these programs make life easier. In any legal office, it seems like every person needs more hours in their day to perform their job duties. Cloud-based legal project management software allows you to optimise legal workflow with operational efficiencies, keeping your staff organised and on the same page and working from anywhere with an internet connection. It’s time to start working smarter, rather than harder. Contact Ironbark Industries Bookkeeping today to discuss our accounting and bookkeeping services, your specific requirements or any other financial management enquiries.