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by Eileen O'Loughlin,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: December 1, 2015

Here's what we'll cover:

What Is Legal and Law Firm Accounting Software?
Common Features of Legal and Law Firm Accounting Software
Evaluating Legal and Law Firm Accounting Software

What Is Legal and Law Firm Accounting Software?

Legal accounting software is an essential part of an attorney's practice management system, and frequently revolves around projects and time logs. Because law firms often bill as a function of time, work time and schedules should be highly organized to produce detailed reports for the inquisitive client. Time can be broken down into date, activity and billable or non-billable criteria. Goals for total annual billable hours can be recorded and compared to the actual hours worked for evaluation. In addition, software can arrange invoices based on the time logged.

We wrote this guide to help those in the legal field evaluate accounting software. We'll cover the features and functionality to be on the lookout for, as well as best practices for evaluating systems.

Common Features of Legal and Law Firm Accounting Software

As well as general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable and other core features, these systems typically includes the following:

Time & billing Most law firms bill hourly, so the ability to track the time spent on projects and bill accordingly is crucial for any legal accounting software. This feature often includes support for flat-fee, task-based, split, contingency and retainer billing.
Contact & client management Since client relationships are so important, a quality legal accounting solution will contain contact management capabilities, recording information for clients and related parties.
Project scheduling Manage your case load with a tool that stores information like deadlines, events, documents, notes, action items, billing and payments.
Advanced security settings Since lawyers are dealing with sensitive and often confidential information, most robust solutions will have security controls that restrict sensitive information to only the people who need it.
Trust accounting Managing a client’s funds, whether in real estate, family/estate planning, bankruptcy or any other trust situation, brings an extra level of complexity. Trust accounting software will include features to support managing multiple financial accounts, tracking funds, designating escrow agents and credit and debit allocation.

Evaluating Legal and Law Firm Accounting Software

Legal accounting software should be able to record billing and time information in different ways for flexible application. Although law work is often based on time billing, the right accounting software will provide a range of pay options, as listed above. A good software package can also come with abilities to report for multiple clients at different rates and organize the information according to user preferences.

When evaluating these systems, buyers should consider the following:

  • How deep are the schedule reporting abilities?
  • Does it include appropriate payment arrangements?
  • Is invoice generation linked to payment records?
  • Does it provide adequate project sorting, tracking and progress features?

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