Family law in New Jersey or any state is not practiced from your office. You meet with other attorneys to negotiate in third party locations and occasionally in court. Information is power during negotiations, and often the attorney who doesn’t have the complete case file is the one who loses. Cloud-based NJ matrimonial software ensures you always have what you need at your fingertips.
A surprising number of lawyers still use briefcases. To be fair, there is something viscerally satisfying about a big stack of papers. However every one of these lawyers have experienced the stomach-sinking sensation that comes from realizing a key document was left back at the office, or even from forgetting a legal pad and pen to take notes.
It’s not enough to have just a copy of the CIS NJ divorces require. You need all of the supporting documentation. Laptop software gives attorneys the ability to keep digital copies of all documents within easy reach. Cloud-based software takes this portability one step further by allowing the attorney to access the information from any computer.
Having a computer means you always have the ability to take notes. Cloud-based software means those case notes are automatically included as part of the client’s file. You don’t have to worry about filing them later, or losing them somewhere between the courthouse and your office.
Computers allow you to refer to all the rulebooks. Although NJ family law software doesn’t include copies of the laws themselves, you can store PDFs of state laws, court rules and other documents for those times the opposing attorney goes all “rules lawyer” on you. Some attorneys try to cloud the issue by quoting non-existent rules, or misquoting existing ones — plus of course some lawyers simply make mistakes. You can pull up a copy of the law and read exactly what the real regulations are.
It can be difficult to transition to a new system, especially when you have been practicing for a long time. However “old school” attorneys are at a serious disadvantage against lawyers using attorney practice management software to manage their practices and case documentation. Today’s software is easy to learn and use, even for those who don’t like technology. Give your client the best possible representation by using the best possible tools.
When you were in law school, you probably assumed you’d spend your days practicing law. Unfortunately the reality of running any business is there are a host of other administrative details that take time away from the core function of the organization. If you spend too much of your day being a clerk instead of a lawyer, attorney time and billing software simplifies these tasks and gives you more time.
One of the leading mistakes small firms make is to not take fee collection seriously. They do the work, send an invoice and then just hope to get paid. A startling number of law firms have no systems in place to collect fees and end up turning delinquent accounts over to collection firms. This not only loses money but also effectively ensures the now-upset client will never bring business back. Here are a few ways you can use legal billing and accounting software like Easy TimeBill to get paid.
1) Easy Invoices – The first step is clear, uncluttered billing statements. Clients shouldn’t have to puzzle over confusing lists of charges, or hunt to find balance due. Clean billing statements are more likely to get paid, while confusing ones get put aside for future examination and are promptly forgotten.
2) 360-Degree Financial View – See un-billed and unpaid balances on all matters. Someone using the time billing software reviews the monthly totals and can immediately see which accounts are becoming problems and may need special attention.
3) Automatic Reminders – Prompt follow-up is critical on delinquent accounts. The longer you let a client languish without some kind of reminder, the less likely you will be paid. Software can automatically send out reminders to clients who are 30, 60, 90 or more days behind in their payments.
4) Late Fee Calculation – Late fees can provide a little extra pressure to encourage clients to pay on time, but determining the amount to charge can be complicated. Automatic calculations add the fee to the client account each month, considering the outstanding balance, new charges and any payments to determine the correct amount.
Collections matter. Even if you are willing to give a client some extra time to pay, you should still remind the client of outstanding balances every 30 days. Rather than avoiding collections — the way your clients are avoiding their bills! — or turning them over to a third party, use law practice management software to manage your firm more efficiently and improve your cash flow.
Our federal government is so huge that sometimes different branches operate under conflicting rules and the public is caught in the middle. As an example the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the 2010 RESPA Final Rule give different requirements for home loan information.
VA Loan Fee Caps
VA loan regulations set a number of requirements on lenders funding home loans for veterans. Among those requirements are caps on the fees that can be charged for the loan. The lender is limited to an origination fee of no more than 1% of the loan amount, as well as certain other reasonable and customary fees. Lenders that charge more than these caps are subject to penalties that range from being removed from the VA loan program to criminal charges.
HUD Program Changes
The 2010 RESPA Final Rule changed the HUD closing statement in a number of ways intended to make the home purchase and sale process easier to understand for consumers, and to make it harder for unscrupulous lenders and brokers to take advantage of their clients. Unfortunately these changes made it harder for lenders to observe the VA loan requirements. Specifically, fees are no longer itemized to the extent they were before, so it is difficult for lenders and brokers to verify that the fees do not exceed VA loan caps.
Help From Easy HUD
Brokers need software that satisfies compliance with both VA and HUD regulations, as well as any other state or federal agencies that might have their own rules. Easy HUD settlement statement software has been designed to allow brokers to both lump fees together to prepare a RESPA-compliant HUD 1, and to itemize charges so they can see that they are observing VA caps. In fact we specifically have a “Print VA Itemization” button so you can generate a report already tailored to VA loan regulations.
Any company that develops real estate or law practice management software has to stay on top of the changing web of regulations. If the rules change, our software has to change with it. This is why we keep ourselves educated on changing real estate laws for Easy HUD, as well as state-specific divorce laws for our suite of family law applications. Easy Soft software evolves as the law does.
Contact us for more information on how Easy Soft products not only help you run your real estate practice more efficiently, but also help you stay in compliance with state and federal laws.
Is your law practice ready for an audit? Law firms are often the target of ethics inquiries and you need to be sure you can back up all of your financial transactions with an unimpeachable paper trail. Of course nowadays the paper trail often isn’t paper, and billing software for lawyers makes it easy to document your finances for your own protection.
Easy Time & Expense Entry – It’s a mistake to trust your own memory. If you try to reconstruct your work schedule or expenses after the fact, you will inevitably make a mistake. If you under-bill a client then it’s unfair to your practice; if you over-bill a client then it’s fraud. Cloud-based software allows attorneys to enter hours and expenses on their smartphones from any location.
Matter-Based Billing – It’s not enough to track your expenses overall, or even to track expenses by client. You must document all hours, expenses and payments by matter. Generic billing software can’t do this but legal billing and accounting software can. If a particular client files a complaint, then you can quickly bring up a specific report that shows just that client’s case transactions.
Trust Accounting You Can Trust – One of the leading sources of ethics complaints against lawyers is the mishandling of trust accounts. It is imperative that you document every penny of trust money and where it goes, and that you never even accidentally use one client’s trust monies to fund another client’s expenses. Many billing products have escrow software built in so you can manage your trust accounts just as easily as you manage your office accounts.
A Natural Disaster Is No Excuse – The night before the audit, a terrible fire roars through your office or a hurricane devastates the city. Is an auditor going to accept that you lost your records? No. Today’s electronic record keeping means there is no excuse for not having a full backup of all of your expenses and case files. Desktop-based billing solutions are easy to back up, and cloud-based products back themselves up automatically.
You can’t afford not to document every financial transaction your practice makes. No matter how honest and trustworthy your firm is, you might someday have to prove that to a judge. If you are still using manual bookkeeping or generic business software, then it is time for you to investigate dedicated attorney practice management software solutions.
Clients are often surprised how much paperwork is involved in a divorce. Although as a family law attorney you are used to the CIS, NJ divorcing couples are often overwhelmed by this huge and detailed form. You can use software to help you complete the form more quickly and easily, but you also need to be prepared to lead your clients through the dark forest of CIS preparation.
Educating Your Clients
Try to think back to the first time you completed the New Jersey CIS. It never seemed to end. You filled out page after page of figures, made more difficult by clients who don’t really know how much they spend on food every month and who’s idea of balancing their bank accounts is “I can’t be out of money; I still have checks left”.
Today you know the CIS is a key aspect of a New Jersey divorce, but to your clients it’s just a ridiculous piece of government paperwork. It’s often a good idea to explain to a new client what the CIS is and why it is so important to the divorce negotiation. After all, if the client doesn’t take the form seriously then you can’t trust the information provided.
Streamlining The Process
Modern CIS preparation is much easier due to affordable and easy to use Case Information Statement software. Enter information on income, expenses, assets and more and have the program automatically fill in the form. Prepare multiple support worksheets in a matter of minutes, finding the ideal agreement for your client. Generate other forms from the same data so you don’t have to enter any information twice.
Software can also make things easier for your client. Easy Soft’s Case Information Statement software includes an optional cloud application that allows your clients to enter financial information through a secure online portal. They can start out providing easily accessed information, like income or mortgage payment, right away. Then after they have a chance to track spending, they can provide other information such as food costs. Filling out the form piecemeal can make it less intimidating.
Like all of Easy Soft’s attorney practice management software, CIS is backed by 25 years of experience providing software solutions to the legal industry. Try it risk-free for 30 days. If you aren’t satisfied with the software then we will provide a full refund.
As a family law attorney, you are a product. You may not like to think of yourself as in the same category as a screwdriver or a pair of pants, but from a consumer point of view that’s what you are. Prospective clients need to believe your services have value, and divorce settlement software enhances your education and experience to maximize what you have to offer.
Do You Add Value To A Divorce?
Although it is possible for a divorcing couple to file all the papers in a divorce, that is rarely if ever a good idea even if the split is amicable. Spouses unaware of their rights may agree to a deal that seems fair on the surface but proves to be unrealistic down the road. Or they might hammer out an agreement but have it rejected by a judge because they filed the wrong forms.
Divorcing couples are often overwhelmed by the legal processes, but family law attorneys aren’t. You can spot problems in agreements, apprise your client of property and support rights, and act as mediator in what is often an emotional debate. Your value comes from years of experience and familiarity with the confusing maze of state and federal laws that govern divorce, property settlement and child support. But is that enough?
Be the Best Attorney You Can Be
So you’ve established you provide a valuable service to a divorcing spouse. Well, so does the law firm across the street. Law, like any business, is competitive and you need an edge. You need an advantage over that other firm, and that advantage can be the right divorce legal software.
Leveraging technology lets you make the most out of your personal and professional skills. Your strengths are in your knowledge of the law and your ability to negotiate a fair deal with opposing counsel, not paperwork and bookkeeping. Use law practice management software to take control over your firm, automate and accelerate case handling, and provide better service to your clients.
If you are still completing divorce paperwork by hand then it’s time you invested in a tool that will remove the tedium without removing your control over the outcome. If you are already using software, then you should be sure you are using the best solution on the market. Download a free family law software demo of Divorce Financials and try it for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.