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Tag Archives: law office management software
Would it surprise you to learn that couples who have divorced in New York over the last thirty years don’t pay alimony? Well it probably surprises those couples too, since it’s still common for one spouse to send monthly payments to the other. Technically New York State spousal support is called “maintenance” rather than “alimony”. Is there a difference? Yes.
Alimony was based on the outdated assumption that women are incapable of surviving without a man to support them. It was also seen as a punishment to the husband for not taking care of his marital obligations. This changed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an Alabama alimony law that penalized only husbands was unconstitutional. The New York Domestic Relations Law was amended in 1980 and 1986 to create a different kind of support that was called “maintenance” instead of “alimony”.
The New York spousal maintenance formula looks at payments with a different philosophy than in the past. An important factor is the independence of each spouse after the divorce. Since two-career couples are common, it is more likely that each spouse will be capable of self-support. However if one spouse has shouldered the bulk of domestic duties at the cost of career opportunities, then maintenance is appropriate to allow the less-moneyed spouse some time to pursue opportunities to become independent.
The NY spousal maintenance worksheet is designed to determine a fair amount to give the poorer spouse the ability to maintain a similar standard of living as before while pursuing other opportunities. That leads to another change in philosophy: alimony was typically permanent, or at least until the recipient got remarried, while maintenance is often awarded only for a limited time period.
The payment formulas are different than they were prior to 1980. The way payments are viewed by judges and lawyers are different. And yet, to be fair, divorcing couples probably don’t see much of a distinction. It probably doesn’t make it any easier to write that check every month knowing it’s maintenance rather than alimony. However it is a fairer, non-sexist way to view post-divorce financial obligations that is better for both parties than alimony was.
Whether you call it maintenance or alimony, Easy Soft’s New York divorce software calculates it right. If the New York Domestic Relations Law is amended in the future, we will update our law office management software to reflect the new changes. Download a demo of EzSupport-NY to see how easy it is to calculate spousal maintenance and child support for your clients.
Reconciliation is the core of proper trust administration. Every single penny must be accounted for because “close enough” is not close enough when it comes to trust accounting. This zero tolerance for misplaced funds or omitted transactions gave rise to the most accurate way to track accounts: 3-way reconciliation. The best trust accounting software must include 3-way reconciliation to be up to the demanding task of escrow administration.
3-way reconciliation tends to be limited to trust accounts, but almost everyone has done 2-way reconciliation. You get your monthly checking account statement and then verify the bank balance against your book balance, which is the balance listed in your checkbook. After you adjust one of the two balances for the outstanding deposits and withdrawals, the two numbers should be equal. If they aren’t, then you’ve made a mistake.
Personal and business accounting software makes reconciliation a snap. All you have to do is pull up the account, click on transactions listed in the bank statement to clear them, and then compare the totals when you are done. However trust account software may include only 2-way reconciliation and that isn’t good enough for trust accounting.
The added complication of an escrow fund is that the fund may handle multiple matters. It’s not cost effective to set up individual accounts for every case, so trust administrators often combine smaller matters into one account. Each trust matter must balance and the overall account must balance, and this is the third way in 3-way reconciliation. The software has to be able to add up the individual matter balances to be sure they match the bank balance and the book balance. Not all law office management software includes this capability, and it is clumsy to administer 3-way reconciliation on legal software programs that don’t have the feature.
Easy Trust is our fully-featured trust administration software and it includes 3-way reconciliation. Users just have to check off cleared transactions and generate a reconciliation report to ensure all three balances agree. If they don’t, then it is time to go through the ledger and find the problem, whether it’s a missing transaction or a miskeyed amount or some other issue.
Don’t trust this critical aspect of trust management to software not designed to handle the job. Use Easy Trust to get all the tools you need to protect your clients and yourself from trust administration mistakes.
One of the most daunting tasks facing attorney is the administration of a trust. Nearly all law offices have a trust account to handle various transactions, and mismanagement of those accounts is not only a disservice to your clients but could also lead to legal penalties including disbarment. The parties don’t even have to have criminal intent. Simple mistakes can lead to serious penalties when it comes to trust accounting.
The law requires that a trust overseer use a proper accounting system and audit trail to account for every penny in and out of the account. In the past this meant contracting with certified accountants who had the skills needed to administer the funds but that is no longer necessary with today’s legal software programs.
A dedicated product like Easy Trust includes features designed specifically to make it easy for attorneys and other professionals to administer escrow funds with all the confidence of an experienced accountant. The trust management software automatically maintains a comprehensive audit trail so there is no chance of undocumented transactions. It enforces basic accounting rules to prevent you from making some of the basic trust accounting mistakes.
Your office must still maintain due diligence. Trust accounting software has the tools to assist in the administration of trusts but must be backed by policies that ensure all transactions are entered completely, accurately and in a timely fashion.
Easy Trust integrates with our law office billing software to handle all of your office’s bookkeeping and accounting needs. You can handle trust transactions from your office computer without having to keep track of paper documents and ledgers. Print out audit reports to document trust transactions whenever you need to.
Does this mean you can fire your accountant? Probably not. Even the best legal software won’t turn you into a CPA overnight. It’s still best to consult with a professional experienced with trust administration to ensure your system is set up correctly. However you can turn the daily bookkeeping tasks over to the law office management software rather than paying your accountant to do it.
Download a demo of our law practice management software and explore the many accounting features included.
Jargon can be confusing, and the worst kind of jargon is the acronym. You might be able to puzzle out words but who can make sense of strings of seemingly random letters? Just what are UTBMS and LEDES and what do they have to do with your legal billing software?
UTBMS is the Uniform Task-Based Management System.
What? You say that isn’t enough information? Well, okay. The UTBMS is a set of codes set up by a group of organizations including the American Bar Association. These codes standardize the documentation of legal tasks so that bills from different legal practices across the country can be analyzed and evaluated on an apples-to-apples basis.
UTBMS codes are simple enough to use in manual billing, but are also integrated into most legal software programs. The format of the codes is X###, where X is a letter indicating the general type of service and the #s are numerical digits specifying the specific task. For example the L400 series is trial preparation and includes L420 (Expert Witnesses) and L450 (Trial and Hearing Attendance). Attorneys use these codes to generate standardized invoices with law office management software.
UTBMS is most often used with electronic rather than manual billing, and most electronic billing uses a format called LEDES or the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard. Law billing software that generates electronic invoices in LEDES format can be processed any electronic billing system.
There is a strong movement in this country to move to paperless billing. As a consumer, you probably get very few paper invoices anymore and there is a good chance you pay your bills with debit cards or direct electronic transfers. Attorney’s clients are starting to expect the same option with legal invoices, so lawyers need to use legal software programs that can handle electronic billing.
Easy TimeBill includes electronic billing capabilities. Users can enter tasks using UTBMS codes and generate electronic invoices in LEDES format. It integrates with our other law office management software such as Easy Trust to create a centralized, one-stop billing solution for law practices.
Use Easy Soft law practice management software and let us worry about the inner workings of UTBMS and LEDES. You can simply enter your case information and generate invoices, confident that the underlying details are being handled by Easy TimeBill.
Pretty much every business has a computer network now. Even fast food restaurants tie all their cash registers into screens in the kitchen to coordinate the front and back of the house. In a legal practice, law office management software links employees over the network, allows them to coordinate their actions and giving everyone access to a central database of case information.
But wait…is that a good thing? Do you want every worker having access to every piece of information? Of course not. Modern legal billing software gives the option of sharing, but also gives the option of limiting access.
The enterprise version of Easy TimeBill stores billing information, case details, calendars, documents and a host of other data on a central server. Any employee on the network can read and change this information, but only as long as that user has the correct permissions set by the system administrator.
An office manager will have high-level permissions set up in the practice’s legal software programs so will be able to look at everything. The manager needs to have a full view of current cases to ensure work is being done, deadlines are being met and court dates are on the calendars of the relevant people.
An attorney will have broad permissions set up in the law billing software, but probably only on the cases that lawyer is working on. If the attorney needs information on some other case, it will be necessary to talk to the attorney assigned to that case rather than accessing the information directly.
A paralegal would also have access to relevant cases in the law office management software but not at the same level as the overseeing attorney. The paralegal might be limited to read-only access to some information, and might be barred from even viewing other data.
A billing clerk would be limited to generating invoices in the law office billing software but there would be no reason to give permission to read case notes, and certainly no reason to allow the clerk to change any information.
So although the enterprise version of Easy TimeBill creates a more open data structure, it doesn’t do so at the risk of security. You retain full control over data access in all of our law practice management software so only the right people get access to sensitive case files.
Contact us to find out more how Easy Soft legal software programs automate and simplify your legal practice.
Not all cases are created equal, and that means not all legal invoices are created equal. If you want to run the most profitable practice, then you need legal software programs that give you the flexibility you need to bill each client the right way. Easy TimeBill offers a range of billing options that can be customized to your particular practice, or even to each individual client. Here are some of the ways you can bill when using our software:
Hourly – Each person involved with a client’s case is called a Timekeeper by our law practice management software. Timekeepers range from attorneys to paralegals to bookkeepers or any other professional. Each Timekeeper can have up to eight billing rates or you can bill a custom rate for tasks that fall outside of your normal rate structure.
Fixed Fee – Routine tasks like a simple divorce financial settlement are often billed on a flat fee rather than at an hourly rate. When you classify a case as a fixed fee, our law office billing software will ignore any time cards attached to the matter. You will be able to create an invoice for any amount less than or equal to, but not greater than, the specified fee so you can’t accidentally bill the client too much.
Contingency – Once you have a judgment, enter the judgment and the contingency percentage and the law office management software will automatically calculate the amount owed by the client. You will then be able to create invoices up to this amount but no more.
Recurring – Attorneys who provide ongoing service typically charge a periodic fee rather than tracking every hour worked. You can use Easy TimeBill to bill recurring charges by entering the amount and the time period: weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.
Product – No time cards or other standard fees will be billed on this case. As noted below, expense cards can be billed.
All of these billing structures also include expense billing. List expenses such as copying, court fees or meal are on an expense card and the law office billing software will automatically include those expenses on any invoices generated.
The Easy Soft design philosophy has always been that our legal software programs should be flexible enough to adjust to your business model and not the other way around. Contact us to find out more about his this product and our other law office management software can take the drudgery out of your legal practice.