Cloud software is being refined and with its maturity, is paving the way for law offices to perform more efficiently than ever before. Just a few years ago, a sole practitioner needed bricks and mortar, a secretary and/or paralegal, and volumes of books just to get started. Now there is a movement to a whole new breed of law firm; one that can operate from the back seat of a Lincoln with perhaps an occasional rented conference room.
All of this is enabled by technology, and I’m talking about software that takes the virtual practice concept to a whole new level. There are a number of products on the market that can achieve a smoothly humming virtual practice; this suite is one of my favorites. Let’s discuss using Clio and Xero for trust accounting.
Clio. No law practice, virtual or not, can operate effectively without a case management system. While a number of products have been around for a while, Clio is quickly gaining popularity. There is duplicate functionality in a number of software packages, so Clio can be used for all or some things, depending on the demands of a particular practice. Clio’s matter-centric organization is intuitive and makes tracking all documents, discussions, and emails easy to learn and maintain. Combine this with customizable task lists, billing, and IOLTA account management and Clio creates a powerful foundation for a law practice.
Xero. In spite of its robust funds tracking and reporting capability, Clio isn’t intended to be an accounting package. Enter Xero! Xero has a seamless integration with Clio that allows two-way synchronization of contact information and one-way synchronization of bills. A law firm that takes advantage of Clio’s billing capabilities can manage the other financials in Xero for complete, real time books. A Clio-Xero integration ends the era of sole practitioners wondering how they are doing and finding out a month or two (or more) after the fact. Another reason to love Xero for law firms is the customizable dashboard and reporting. It is easy to see at a glance that the IOLTA account(s) are reconciled to the penny. This gives peace of mind for the attorney wanting to be prepared at all times for a trust audit.
Hubdoc. Hubdoc is a virtual file cabinet with fetch capabilities to put a retriever to shame. When Hubdoc is set up to collect a law firm’s bills and bank statements, they show up in the portal automatically, all in one place. Bookkeepers love it because it eliminates the reminders and hassle involved in an otherwise very manual collection process that is prone to error. Attorneys love it because they don’t have to give additional people online access to bank accounts for accounting purposes. In addition to fetching documents, Hubdoc allows receipts to be emailed to a special email address or uploaded from a mobile device by simply taking a picture with the Hubdoc app. Hubdoc extracts the relevant data and retains the document image, and provides file cabinet functionality for all documents for easy retrieval. Additional functionality that is due to be released imminently (as of July 2015) allows bills and receipts to be sent to Xero, allowing the Xero transactions to have images of supporting documents right in the transaction.
If you have made it this far, you can see the vision of several integrated applications working together to provide anywhere, anytime access to enable a virtual law firm, reducing the barriers to entry for sole practitioners, and reducing the overhead for established attorneys who want to practice more law and do less administration. In the next blog, I will discuss apps that work well with this suite for time capture and payroll.