What's the Best Legal Billing Software for Small Firms?

Often attorneys will ask me, "What's the best billing software?" Depending on the firm's situation, the answer will be one or more of the following:

The one you have.
The one that handles your special situations.
The one that works.
The one you can understand.
The one that you can afford.

The one that you have. Often firms have good billing software but they are looking to change because their systems and/or users need upgrading. You may be running an old version of a billing system on a newer operating system that it wasn't designed to run on. The users may not have been trained on how to use the software or have developed poor habits in using it. In the worst case, all of the above apply and you need to upgrade to the current version and upgrade your staff by having them trained.

The one that handles your special situations. The top vendors are now generally equal with regard to "must have" features such as control over the format of bills, aged WIP and receivables reporting, UTBMS task-based billing for electronic delivery of bills (e.g. LEDES) and creation of PDF bills. All of the top legal billing vendors offer these things, but vary in method and difficulty of execution. Years ago, I consulted with a firm that was considering Timeslips.  During the evaluation, we found that they needed a function that, at the time, Timeslips did not have. So, I recommended Tabs3. Examine in detail any situations you may have and use the software that can handle them.  Here are some examples: You need to print multiple addresses on bills. You need a different bill format for matters for the same client. You need to report receipts by timekeeper. Timekeepers work away from the office and need to enter time via the internet or on a mobile device.

The one that works.  If your computer systems (and their users) are compatible with the billing software, but you still have trouble getting your billing system to work, get professional troubleshooting assistance.  Don't just click OK on that error message that pops up everyday. If problems recur after engaging professional troubleshooting assistance it's time to find better software.  This may be a newer version of your current software or a new product.

The one you can understand.  As a consultant and trainer, it is my job to help users to learn to use their software. Some firms are reluctant to invest in training, insisting that the software should be intuitive enough that users will "pick it up" after a browsing a Quick Start guide. With help screens and links to online videos and other resources, there is some truth to this assertion.  However, in this context "easy to understand" means once your are on the screen that you need to be on, it's easy to understand how to enter or view information. Getting to the screen you need to be on, may require some guidance. You will not successfully implement new billing software in a timely manner without outside help.  Once trained, you should understand what the system does and how to get what you need from it. 

The one you can afford. The top legal billing systems for small to medium firms are comparable in price.  The price tag of the software should be secondary to all of the other concerns discussed here.