PRODUCT REVIEW

QuickBooks 2008 for Your Law Firm

Reviewed by Alan Pearlman

For more than 15 years the folks at Intuit have tried to make the tasks associated with running a business simpler and easier. In the long run this gives business owners the time and resources to focus on what they do best: running their businesses.

In the practice of law (which we normally don’t think of as a business), it’s really no different. We have motions to present, clients to call, and a number of other things to do, without having to worry about bookkeeping or our clients’ checks and trust accounts. With the 2008 versions of the best-selling QuickBooks program, Intuit has again given us financial software that will help us focus more of our time and energy on our professional concerns and less on running our small businesses. The software includes a number of new and enhanced features and helpful online services, all with a focus on making the most critical jobs for our law office, and our accountants, quicker and easier.

Many small firm lawyers are not really proficient with utilizing software products and often leave most of that to support staff, but if you are a sole practitioner and have to depend on yourself, you will love the ease of use of this product.

Often, after completing the initial setup of a new piece of software, the user is faced with the thought, “where do I start with this thing?” Well, once you have finished with the setup of the new edition of QuickBooks, a “coach” highlights the exact steps that you need to move beyond that point. It starts to teach you concepts such as creating invoices and even how to go about paying employees. Intuit also has included a new context-sensitive search engine to ensure the Help content becomes more relevant to the task facing the user. In prior editions you didn’t have any help close at hand; in the 2008 version, however, all your Help topics appear next to QuickBooks itself in its own window, which allows you to view the steps while you are working on them. The program also has a direct link to online support with a QuickBooks online community; you can share information with millions of members as well as gain access to Intuit’s own experience and advice on the matters at hand.

There are several new ways to track time in QuickBooks. The user now can transfer billable time from Outlook calendar appointments, e-mails, and tasks to the QuickBooks Time Tracker Service, a QuickBooks add-on, and thereby ensure that billable hours are not lost. A new invoicing feature allows service firms, like your accountant or consultant, to view all your unbilled time and expenses directly from a single screen and to create an invoice with a single click—and then the program allows the user to send the invoice or other form directly from QuickBooks to Outlook or Outlook Express.

The new program also features a new item that allows you to create, encrypt, and securely transmit your “accountant’s copy” file to a server where your accountant can download and review all the information. It is a simple one-click process that reduces the chances of losing the file, sending the wrong file, or having to look for another way to send these extremely large files.

With the new and improved Payroll Center, which is a subscription service at an added charge, the user has the ability to manage payroll and payroll taxes from at-a-glance screens. No double-entry, and nothing new to learn. The center guides the user through the entire payroll process—review, confirm, and submit—giving the user full confirmation that payroll is correct and ready to go. The program also provides automatic calculations as well as the latest tax tables and forms, which helps to improve the accuracy of the payroll. You can even create groups of employees according to pay frequency and schedule payment for easy batch processing of the payroll.

The new edition also sports an easy way to create a business plan with three-year projected financial statements. It also has the ability to export these statements to PDF (portable document format) for an effortless distribution to others or to Microsoft Excel format for further analysis. In the Premier Edition there is even a plan review feature that helps ensure that the user’s plan is complete and accurate.

Without question QuickBooks 2008 is a welcome addition to most law firms. Within minutes of installation, you will be up and running and on your way to making your firm more productive and efficient.

QuickBooks 2008 comes in several editions that range in price from $99.95 for the Simple Start Plus Pack 2008 to $3,000 and up for the full Enterprise Solutions. I myself use QuickBooks Premier, which sells for $449.95. You can evaluate them all and find the package that best fits your needs at www.intuit.com

Alan Pearlman, Esq., has been a practicing attorney in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs for the past 35 years. He is the author of the nationally syndicated column The Electronic Lawyer and a frequent speaker at national legal technology seminars, as well as several family laws seminars. He may be reached via e-mail at or on the web at www.theelectroniclawyer.com.

Copyright 2008

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