Moreover, popular business accounting solutions are not necessarily tailored for law firms. For example, QuickBooks requires a number of complex workarounds and customizations to even start handling some common legal billing issues, including sensitive trust transaction management, practice management reporting, billing realization and other client-level fee arrangements such as flat fees, evergreen subscriptions, or contingency fees. While using a practice management solution that integrates with QuickBooks can help ease some of the effort demanded by these workarounds and reduce redundancies, it’s still not the ideal solution.
How, then, can firms best implement automated payments? By turning to an all-in-one practice management platform that also handles payments. Providers of legal practice management systems have long recognized that integrating business management workflows and information into an all-in-one system enhances client service and improves firm efficiency. Integrated payments are an important piece of a complete practice management system.
Why an Integrated Solution Is Better
The most successful approach for law firms looking to make the move to automated payments is to choose an all-in-one practice management platform that combines automated payments and all your firm’s other accounting needs into one system. The right end-to-end system will not only bring seamless workflows to your payment processes, it will support the unique features and compliance regulations that law firms require.
Ease of Use
All-in-one practice management platforms designed for law firms will ensure users do not have to constantly switch between disparate systems, and they also provide for unified training and support. The result is an integrated, efficient system that is easy to use.
Another benefit is unified metrics and reporting. An integrated online payment system allows your team to review transactions, AR aging, and balance sheets anytime.
Integration links between practice management, billing and payments do a better job of managing alternative fee arrangements and trust accounting, while also ensuring that they comply with attorneys’ fiduciary duties. General accounting tools are not designed to support the mandatory requirements for handling client funds held in trust accounts or deposited in operating accounts. Violating these requirements, even inadvertently, can jeopardize the ability to practice law.
Improved Firm Management
When practice management and payments work together, client and case files are clearly organized and up to date, and billing is a breeze, with payment processes built into overall case management workflows. This means that an entire matter is handled in one place, from intake to billing to reconciliation of your firm’s ledgers and financial reports.
Compliance with e-Billing (LEDES) Requirements
Business clients often adopt the LEDES standard—an acronym for the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard created in 1995 to systematize electronic exchange of billing and other information between corporations and law firms.
Complying with legal e-billing standards such as LEDES provides transparency for every line item that law firms bill with corresponding e-billing codes. LEDES-compliant billing, tailored to the firm and clients’ wishes, will speed through the client’s AP approval process and ensure timely payment.
Rapid Client Acceptance
Legal consumers, like the rest of us, prefer to pay via electronic means. Law firms that delay offering e-payment options to their clients are well behind the times, while firms that are not using proprietary, in-system payment tools are sacrificing efficiency.
Attorneys want to spend their time practicing law, not handling paperwork, preparing invoices and chasing down payments. An all-in-one system that combines practice management, accounting and automated payments allows them to do just that. You will be freed to focus on serving clients and remaining competitive, rather than toiling away to complete administrative tasks. Practice management that includes automated payments enables your firm to enhance client satisfaction, get paid faster, speed up cash flow and increase overall profitability.