April 2013

How To Hire A Staff Without Hiring A Staff

Large law firms can hire teams of specialists to handle everything from balancing the books to maintaining the office computers to making the coffee. Unfortunately small firms, especially single-attorney practices, can’t afford to bring on a host of employees. The good news is that these small businesses can get the skill they need from dedicated legal billing and accounting software like Easy TimeBill.

Time and billing software is like having a bookkeeper. The software makes it easy to record your billable hours and expenses, maintain separate billing for each matter and send out professional looking invoices to your clients. You can see at a glance the current payment status of each account, automatically calculate late fees and print checks for your vendors.

Add the Easy Trust trust accounting system to the mix and you have a dedicated escrow accountant at your fingertips. Maintain your trust accounts in full compliance with strict state and federal regulations, generate three-way reconciliation reports required by most bar associations and keep each matter’s funds separate even if they are in the same account.

Attorney practice management software acts as your personal assistant, checking for conflicts of interest that might jeopardize your case. Practice management tools like calendars, to-do lists and case notes keep you organized. Document management links electronic documents to each case file so you don’t have to worry about misplacing a key file when you need it.

Get the cloud version of our attorney time and billing software and you get your own IT department. You don’t need to concern yourself with software installation, updates, data security or backups. We handle all the technical details so you can focus on helping your clients.

With the right software tools, even a one-person practice can operate as though it was an elite team of specialized professionals. Get the skills you need at a fraction of the cost of hiring even one of these people much less all of them. Your virtual assistants work day and night, don’t take vacations and don’t need medical insurance.

But you’ll still have to make your own coffee.

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Defending Reduced Self-Employment Income

Divorces often turn ugly, and the two things the couple fights about the most are children and money. Child support involves both so can be the biggest stumbling block in a settlement. New Jersey family law attorneys on both sides put a lot of effort into Case Information Statement preparation to be sure the child support determined is fair.

However it’s often not over after the first decision. Changes in either parent’s life can require a new Case Information Statement to reflect the current financial reality and a judge can rule that child support needs to be raised or lowered. Loss of income is one of the most common reasons for the noncustodial parent to request a reduction in child support payments.

In a typical job, the parent has little control over income. However, self-employed parents will sometimes attempt to manipulate the system by deliberately lowering the number of clients or projects taken, thus reducing income. The parent shows up in court claiming poverty, asks for a reduction in child support, and then takes more jobs in the future.

But what if the reduction in income is real?

This strategy is so common that family law judges view reduced self-employment skeptically. Nevertheless industries change, economies fall, and hard-working business owners find themselves unable to generate as much revenue as before. The burden of proof falls on the self-employed parent which is why it is so important for attorneys to carefully document everything that appears on the New Jersey CIS.

Family law attorneys use New Jersey matrimonial software to do more than simply complete the CIS. They can link documents proving their client’s entire industry has been in a slump. They can present multiple support scenarios to find the support situation that is not only fair to the client but in the children’s best interest–and it is easy to forget that in the end it’s about the kids and not the parents.

In theory, self-employed parents are supposed to be treated the same as traditionally-employed parents. In reality, they often aren’t. That may not be fair but it is the truth, and a family law attorney has to be prepared to prove beyond doubt that a client’s reduction in income is unintentional. Use law practice management software to gather and organize the information you will need to best represent your client’s interests.

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April Is Fair Housing Month

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, a law signed by President Johnson. That law and its amendments make it illegal to base decisions on sale or rental of property based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, family status or disability.

Although racial discrimination is less frequent today than it was in 1968, fair housing violations still happen. The HUD blog recently pointed to events where a woman with children and a man with hearing loss were each denied housing. Anyone who has been discriminated against can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under a HUD program designed to investigate and correct any actions taken in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Fair housing is a year-round law, not just something to think about in April. However Fair Housing Month is a good opportunity for real estate attorneys and agents to take a look at their practices and ask themselves if they are discriminating without meaning to. Something as simple as not showing properties with stairs just because your client is in a wheelchair could be seen as a fair housing violation rather than a compassionate act.

This would be a good time to mention how Easy Soft’s HUD 1 settlement software helps you maintain a fair practice…but it doesn’t. It reduces the time it takes to complete closing forms, automatically enters property taxes and other calculations, and includes optional features that generate hundreds of real estate documents, integrate with real estate accounting software for trust management or allow you to file 1099-S forms electronically but it’s still up to you to ensure you treat all your clients equally.

However this blog isn’t just about trumpeting our products. We want to give you information that adds value to your real estate practice. In a previous blog entry we pointed you to HUD software that helps your clients get fair housing advice or file a fair housing complaint. We stay on the lookout for changes to HUD laws or tax regulations that will affect your business.

Fair housing affects us all. Real estate attorneys and agents have to be especially careful to avoid even the appearance of bias when dealing with clients. Easy Soft’s line of legal practice management software automates and simplifies your practice, allowing you to focus on providing quality service to all your clients.

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How To Find The Best Legal Billing Software

Automating your law office allows you to serve more clients and generate more revenue. You have many choices in billing software for lawyers and of course we think that Easy Time Bill is the ideal option. But don’t take our word for it. Evaluate the products and decide which one best suits your practice’s needs.

A good place to start is by reading time billing software reviews. If you haven’t used billing software before you might not know what features to look for and the reviews can help you come up with your own system for evaluation. Consider the source when reading a review. An assessment done by an attorney or a bar association will be more valuable than an article written by some guy who reviewed recipe databases yesterday and will evaluate the best zombie apocalypse computer game tomorrow.

We recommend you look only at dedicated lawyer billing software rather than general business finance packages. Attorneys have unique needs such as trust accounting, multiple hourly rates and practice management. Trying to adapt generic software to a law practice requires extra work and creates more chance for billing and accounting errors.

Once you have an idea of what your practice needs, evaluate the different products. Download demos. Take them through their paces. Call the companies and ask questions. The right law practice management software will stay with you through your entire career so take the time to find the best product early on.

Consider the history of the company. You might find what seems like a great product, but if the developer has been around only a year, who know if they will still be there to offer support down the road? You would be better off dealing with a business that has over 20 years’ experience with attorney time and billing software-a business like Easy Soft.

If you should decide that a competing product is best for your practice, then do us a favor. Drop us a line at 800-905-7638 and let us know what factored into your final decision. Help us to develop better tools for attorneys so we can be your software of choice next time.

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Dependency Exemption As A Child Support Bargaining Chip

When a couple divorces, who gets to claim the kids as tax deductions? The law says whichever party is named the custodial parent (CP) claims the exemption. However the CP has the option of waiving that exemption to allow the non-custodial parent (NCP) to claim it instead. That can be a powerful advantage when negotiating child support.

The question becomes important when the NCP makes significantly more money than the CP. The NCP will gain a larger tax break from each child than the CP will. So why would the CP give up the exemption? Because the NCP offers a boost in child support.

Just because the attorneys use New York child support software to determine what state law calculates child support should be, that doesn’t mean the parents have to accept that amount. If both parties sign an alternative support agreement, then it will supersede the amount laid out under the law.

The NCP could offer to pay a higher child support amount than calculated by the New York family law software in return for the exemption, specifically an amount greater than the tax benefit the CP would get from claiming the exemption but less than what the NCP will get. The NCP gets a big tax break. The CP gets more child support. More money is available for the child’s expenses. It’s a win-win-win situation, and the more kids involved the greater the potential impact.

Attorneys on either side who want to present this deal will need to have the figures to back it up. Using family law software New York attorneys can calculate the value of each offer, allowing both sides to see the waived exemption is in everyone’s best interest.

This is just one of the many ways EzSupport-NY simplifies family practice in the state of New York. Prepare the New York net worth statement, print out customized forms and correspondence, and file cases with a fraction of the effort as doing it manually. Use it in conjunction with our other law firm software products such as Divorce Financials or Easy Time Bill for a full suite of practice management tools for even greater benefits.

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5 Ways To Simplify Your Closing Process

When you squander your time, you increase operating costs and devastate your profits. Real estate deals are handled on a flat fee basis so the best way to maximize your profit is to reduce the amount of time it takes to produce your HUD-1 settlement statement. Easy HUD can reduce your closing time by up to 70% but only if you take advantage of every feature. Here are five ways you get the most from the Easy HUD suite of utilities.

1) Figuring The NETs – Don’t forget to check the NET flag on charges that are lender deducted or disbursed. Click on the “Tools” menu and then “Lender Worksheet” to see the gross mortgage amount and a list of itemized deductions. This feature is already included in our title closing software.

2) Fast And Accurate Documents – Real estate paperwork isn’t just about the HUD 1 statement. Add the Real Estate Documents module and gain access to hundreds of customizable forms including letters, contracts and checklists. The software uses the information you’ve already entered for the HUD form to complete the paperwork so you know any document you produce will be accurate.

3) Accountant In A Box – Handle all the financial transactions yourself by adding the Ledger module. Balance the account, print checks and produce a closing ledger without the need for an outside accountant. The software works with our Easy Trust escrow software to help you manage accounts easily.

4) Trustworthy Trust Accounts – Speaking of Easy Trust, are you on top of all of your firm’s trust account actions? Mismanaging trusts is one of the leading causes of attorney disbarment and real estate agent license revocation. Trust administration doesn’t have to be hard if you purchase Easy Trust for effortless escrow transaction management.

5) Easy Tax Forms – File your 1099-S forms electronically with the click of a mouse by enrolling in our free filing service. Not only can you be certain the forms are accurate, but the IRS actually prefers electronic forms over paper submissions. Each filing costs you only a nominal $10 fee and you get immediate confirmation the form was received.

Try any of our law firm management software products free for 30 days and if you don’t see an immediate improvement in your office’s efficiency and profitability, we will gladly offer a refund.

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