Showing 1-20 of 25 products
Abacus Law is both cloud-based and on-premise case automation solution designed explicitly for legal practices. The system works as a practice management tool that helps in managing workflows including billing, time and accounting... Read more
Recent recommendations: 105 recommendations
PracticePanther Legal Software is a legal management solution for small to midsize practices specializing in areas including bankruptcy law, personal injury, divorce, estate planning, litigation, criminal law and many more. The system... Read more
Recent recommendations: 102 recommendations
Clio is a cloud-based legal practice management solution suitable for small to large law firms. The platform enables legal firms to track important deadlines, manage cases and documents and bill and collect from clients. The time... Read more
Recent recommendations: 80 recommendations
MyCase is a cloud-based legal management solution that helps attorneys in small size law firms to manage communications with their clients and carry out daily business operations. The solution also provides functionalities for accounting... Read more
Recent recommendations: 73 recommendations
BQE Core Legal is a cloud-based solution that offers integrated accounting, time tracking, and billing and invoicing. It can support the operations of a variety of law firms including litigation, corporate, family, tax, immigration... Read more
Recent recommendations: 26 recommendations
Smokeball is a cloud-based legal practice management for small firms that can be used in a variety of specialities. Key features include case management, contact management, calendaring, time tracking, billing and accounting. Smokeball... Read more
Recent recommendations: 17 recommendations
Tabs3 Software offers practice management, case management and financials for small to midsize firms in any practice area. Tabs3 enables legal professionals to manage their schedule and matters as well as track their time and bill... Read more
Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations
ProTempus is an on-premise practice management solution designed for small law firms. Key features include contact management, document management, case management and trust accounting. ProTempus’ contact management functionality... Read more
Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations
Conceptualized by a partner at a personal injury law firm, SmartAdvocate is a legal management platform that offers flexible deployment options and a modular suite of applications. In addition to case management, attorneys and their... Read more
Recent recommendations: 2 recommendations
CosmoLex is a cloud-based legal management solution that offers features including time tracking, billing, trust accounting, task and document management. The solution connects all modules so that users do not have to enter information... Read more
HoudiniEsq is a hybrid law practice management solution that caters to law practices of all sizes and provides them the functionalities to manage various business routines which include cases, billing, invoicing and several other... Read more
Rocket Matter is a cloud-based legal billing and management solution designed to cater small and midsize law practices. It features time and billing management, calendar, document management, payments and collaboration management modules. Rocket... Read more
MerusCase is a cloud-based legal practice management solution for small, midsize and large legal firms and businesses. It is HIPAA compliant and offers document management, time tracking, billing, calendaring and communication tools. The... Read more
Actionstep is a cloud-based legal practice management solution designed for growing and midsize firms. The integrated solution offers tools for managing cases, billing, invoicing and accounting as well as enables businesses to automate... Read more
LeanLaw is a cloud-based timekeeping and billing solution for small to midsize legal practices. Key features include time tracking, billing and invoicing, financial reporting and Quickbooks integration. A free mobile app is also available... Read more
PCLaw is a legal accounting and practice management solution that helps businesses manage clients, cases and matters, reporting, finances, banking reconciliation and billing processes. The software is designed for small to midsize... Read more
Suitable for midsize and large legal practices, ProLaw by Thomson Reuters Elite helps users to manage the law firm management process. The financial management application automates the time tracking and expense management process... Read more
App4Legal is a law practice management solution designed for lawyers, paralegal, assistants and managers. The product caters both to law firms, as well as in-house legal departments. It offers corporate law, contact management, litigation... Read more
Coyote Analytics is a comprehensive financial software system specifically built to meet the needs of law firms. The solution is available in both cloud-based and on-premise deployment formats. It features modules for managing contacts,... Read more
HarmonyPSA is a hybrid professional services automation (PSA) solution that helps cloud-based managed service providers and software companies of all sizes to manage their business operations. The solution can be deployed either on-premise... Read more
Trust accounting is a complex, niche field that spans the financial and legal industries. Dedicated software can make trust accounting easier to handle, but successful implementation requires an understanding of specifically how that software can help lawyers, accountants and other parties manage trust funds and the assets that those funds produce.
This buyer’s guide will not only serve as a primer on what trust accounting is, but also explain what specific things software buyers should look out for if they’re in the market for a trust accounting system.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
In its largest sense, the term "trust accounting" refers to the financial management of trust accounts—accounts in which a trustee holds funds for some specific purpose.
When talking about general trust accounting, though, we are more specifically referring to accounts created as a part of estate planning (the dispersal and management of a person's assets after their death).
Adding to the confusion is the fact that this form of trust accounting, or "fiduciary accounting," has a counterpoint in the legal profession. Although legal firms are frequently involved in trust accounting for estate planning and other purposes, "legal trust accounting" refers to a different, separate practice.
Lawyers create legal trust accounts for a few reasons, including:
By law, these accounts must be separate from the lawyer's own personal or business account, making legal trust accounting an essential part of legal practice and ethics.
In many cases, these trusts are eligible for the IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) program, which takes the interest from lawyers' trust accounts and uses it to provide legal aid on civil matters to low-income families and individuals. All 50 states currently have an IOLTA program.
According to the program's website, "A lawyer who receives funds that belong to a client must place those funds in a trust account separate from the lawyer's own money. Client funds are deposited in an IOLTA account when the funds cannot otherwise earn enough income for the client to be more than the cost of securing that income. The client—and not the IOLTA program—receives the interest if the funds are large enough or will be held for a long enough period of time to generate net interest that is sufficient to allocate directly to the client."
One of the main features of legal trust accounting software is automated management and accounting of those IOLTA funds, making lawyers the primary customers of trust accounting software vendors.
The products we'll be discussing in this guide are specifically geared toward legal trust accounting, though we will be referring to it as "trust accounting" for simplicity's sake.
Different trust accounting systems will have different features, depending in part on how integrated they are with a more robust suite of legal and/or accounting software. The most typical features are explained in the following chart.
|Financial reporting||Create financial statements tracking funds across multiple trust accounts. Lawyers must be able to produce a report showing how funds in a trust account are used. This also allows you to reconcile trust accounts every month and be audit-ready should the need arise.|
|Billing and timekeeping||Almost all trust accounting software integrates with (or comes in a suite with) more generalized legal billing/timekeeping software that allows for easy creation of invoices and payment collection, while squaring those exchanges with trust accounts.|
|Accounting integration||Some trust accounting software integrates with general legal accounting software, so all financial records are housed in the same database and trust accounts match up with overall financials.|
|Client ledgers||Track the ledgers of multiple accounts for multiple clients, avoiding the mistake of commingling accounts. Organize by legal matter or client to customize according to your preference.|
|IOLTA accounting||For accounts that qualify, track the interest accrued, make automatic payments into the program and make sure you are abiding by the IOLTA rules of your state.|
|Trust account automation||Some systems will apply trust monies directly through automatic billing, keeping the accounts balanced without the need for manual transactions.|
|Compliance||Many states have laws that regulate how attorneys can maintain lawyers' trust accounts. Software can help you make sure you follow all relevant local and national legislation.|
|Accountant/bookkeeper access||Some trust accounting systems provide free account access for an external financial advisor, so that you can have your chosen expert double-check your compliance.|
Although lawyers and law firms are the primary buyers of this type of software, they are not the only parties interested in legal trust accounting. Other buyers might include: bank trust departments, independent trust companies, accountants/CPAs, family offices, guardians, foundations and nonprofit organizations.
However, most buyers will be lawyers and law firms, falling into one of the following three categories:
A trust accounting software system allows for easier, more automated management of attorneys' trust accounts. Though just a small part of running a law practice, trust accounts are nevertheless extremely important, and need to be properly handled. Trust accounting software can make this easier. Some benefits of using this software include:
Ethical and legal compliance. Trust accounting software can help you make sure you follow all the rules of ethics and law surrounding trust accounts in your state. This will increase your accountability to your clients, to yourself and to the state bar.
Separation of accounts. Software will let you keep track of multiple accounts so you don't run the risk of accidentally commingling client funds with your own accounts.
Increase client/audit readiness. If your client asks for reports about their account, or if you should be audited, trust accounting software ensures that you have proper, thorough records of all transactions, including deposits, payments, interest etc.
An example of CosmoLex trust accounting preventing an error
However, an overreliance on software is always a danger. In the case of the legal profession, making a mistake with your software will not save you from potential ethics violations or legal repercussions. Be sure you aren't just blindly following the software, and that you are well-informed about local and federal regulations regarding legal trust accounting. The software will aid you in managing those trusts, but it does not replace your own required due diligence.
Here are some market trends you should consider as you select a product:
Cloud-Based Software. Cloud-based systems are increasingly popular. They require less hardware than on-premises software as well as less IT knowledge, have lower upfront costs, and are more quickly implemented, making them a good choice for smaller firms/businesses, in particular.
Mobile functionality. As with most software at the moment, trust accounting systems are beginning to add mobile functionality, allowing you to access your software from a phone or tablet. This is particularly beneficial to solo firms where you can't be constantly bound to the office.