Tag Archives: trust accounts
Most attorneys understand that when it comes to ethics, perception is reality. An honest attorney can still get in trouble if it even appears that something questionable has happened. When it comes to ethics, attorneys can be presumed guilty until proven innocent. This is true in all aspects of legal practice but especially when it comes to trust accounts.
The number one protection against ethics charges is comprehensive and accurate information. This used to mean rooms full of file cabinets documenting every financial transaction. Modern attorneys track this information with legal billing and accounting software with trust account capabilities such as Easy TimeBill and Easy Trust.
Dedicated lawyer trust account software simplifies the process of entering, tracking and retrieving transaction information regarding trusts. Attorneys use the software to keep each matter in a mingled account separate, so that “on paper” each is treated as an isolated account. The software generates comprehensive transaction reports that make it easy to track every penny that has come in or out of a trust.
Attorney time and billing software has evolved as computer technology has advanced. As we move into an increasingly paperless society, many of the receipts and statements a firm receives are electronic. The software can link to the electronic copy so a user can pull up the original document rather than depending only on the numbers entered in the software.
The latest innovation in attorney practice management software is the cloud. A firm’s trust information is stored in offsite servers that are both highly secure against intrusion and yet easily accessible to authorized users. Attorneys can access or enter information from anywhere. This allows lawyers to enter a transaction the moment it happens rather than stuff a receipt into a pocket, hoping to remember it later.
Your word may be good, but it won’t be good enough if you end up under an ethics investigation. Without hard data backing up your claim you could be subject to financial penalties or even disbarment over a simple misunderstanding. Contact Easy Soft to find out more about how our accounting and trust software protects your practice from ethics charges.
Managing trust funds for multiple matters in a single bank account is a common practice in the legal industry but attorneys must be very careful not to let the funds intermingle. Each matter has to be scrupulously maintained as a separate entity and never “borrow” money from other matters in the same bank account. Law offices have several options for documenting trust accounts .
Manual Books – It’s rare to find a business that keeps their books in literal books anymore, but a few firms, particularly single-attorney practices, prefer manual bookkeeping. Manual bookkeeping is slow, susceptible to arithmetic errors that can take hours to track down, and clumsy when it comes to tracking multiple matters in a single account. Computers are commonplace and software is cheap so there really isn’t any practical reason to work with pen and paper anymore.
Spreadsheets – Raise your hand if you remember VisiCalc. Wow, you’re old! VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program released in 1979 and was designed to mimic the manual ledgers bookkeepers used. Trust fund accounting with a spreadsheet is a step up from manual books since it eliminates arithmetic errors, and nearly every computer comes with Microsoft Office preinstalled so the software is effectively free. However it is difficult to track individual matters within an account or reconcile an account without a lot of sorting and other manipulations.
Personal Finance Software – Applications designed to help consumers track their checking accounts and credit cards add reconciliation functions and are significantly less expensive than business software. Matters can be tracked in an account by using the client as a budget category. On the other hand there are no protections to prevent you from overdrawing a client’s trust fund, a critical error in trust management, and no ability to network across multiple attorneys. This might work for a single-attorney practice but is not an ideal solution.
Business Finance Software – Products like QuickBooks or Peachtree offer double-entry bookkeeping, which reduces the chance of keying errors by requiring all transactions to balance out. They can be networked across the firm and data can be manually transferred to escrow accounting software like Easy Trust but still are more limited than solutions tailored to legal trusts.
Dedicated Trust Applications - Only legal billing and accounting software will have all the features needed for fast, accurate and secure trust management. Integrated trust features ensure that each matter is accounted for separately. Attorneys can see trust status at a glance without having to pick it out from all the other transactions in the bank account. Automatic warnings let the firm know when a trust balance is getting low, and three-way reconciliation ensures no money falls through the cracks.
Attorneys might be worried that specialized legal software is more expensive than the alternatives, but Easy Soft’s law practice management software is surprisingly inexpensive. Try our trust account suite and if you aren’t completely satisfied, then return it for a full refund within 30 days.
Businesses print their own checks because it’s quick, easy and cheap. Financial applications such as Easy Soft’s legal billing and accounting software have the capability built in so you don’t have to mess with formats and spacing trying to set it up yourself. Although we try to make the process as painless as possible, there are a few ways you can make it even easier–and safer.
First of all we recommend you use Easy Soft checks. Yeah, everyone says “use only our proprietary stuff” but in this case it actually makes a difference. Low quality checks not only make your business look bad but can expose you to fraud and embezzlement. You can order the checks right from us with just a click and they are guaranteed to work with Easy TimeBill, our lawyer billing software. However, if you prefer to use another vender then be sure to look for these features.
Get the right check format. Our attorney time and billing software supports standard checks, which have three checks to a page, and voucher checks, which have a check and two stubs on each page. Standard checks are faster to print while voucher checks provide a better paper trail. Be very careful because some vendors sell checks for specific accounting packages that have a proprietary format, such as voucher checks with the check in the middle of the page instead of at the top of the page, and our software can’t print those correctly.
Insist on the best security features, especially when paying from trust accounts. Modern checks are very hard to forge as long as they have these features. Chemically reactive paper makes it nearly impossible to alter the check. The Padlock icon is a symbol of the Check Payment Systems Association and confirms the check incorporates at least three features to defend against alteration. Finally look for anti-photocopy features such as an Original Document security screen that won’t show up on a duplicate.
Regardless of the checks you use, we recommend you print the checks using magnetic ink. Although optical character recognition is common, many banking system still use MICR systems. The experts say MICR is dying out, but they’ve been saying that for years. For now, continue to use magnetic ink for faster and more accurate check processing.
Combine Easy Soft’s high-quality commercial check stock with our first-class attorney practice management software and you have a winning combination that speeds up your financial tasks and protects your practice from fraud.
In our last post, we mentioned that each of Easy Soft’s software packages are all-inclusive—in direct contrast to your standard legal software package. For one yearly cost (typically less than one hour of billable time), you get:
- Software Procurement.
- Complete Training for your attorneys and staff.
- Ongoing Educational Support geared towards your practice.
- Technical Support—crucial in the event of outages, breakdowns, data loss, etc.
- Personalized Service. During business hours, a human being always picks up the phone.
- One Nominal Yearly Fee, so that you can plan your annual budget accordingly.
- No Hidden Fees.
Today, we wanted to mention a few extras that add to the value behind Easy Soft’s legal software packages.
One. Although Easy Soft specializes in making life easy for lawyers, our Technical Support Team and Business Analysts can introduce you to further administrative efficiencies you haven’t thought of—and won’t immediately discover. Our Business Analysts live and breathe not just technology—but the art and science of increasing the efficiencies behind your specific practice and small business.
For example, for optimum utilization of Easy Time Bill (ETB) Software, straight hourly billing differs from retainer or fixed fee billing, and both differ greatly from contingency billing. ETB contains special features to be used in tandem with our Easy Trust Software. We set you up right the first time, so there are no errors—only ease, efficiency, and incredible convenience.
Two. We absolutely practice what we preach. Our company aims to create efficiencies for our customers—not just for the first three months after you give us your business, but for the entire life cycle of your software. Take our training webinars.
At the outset, we live-host weekly software training webinars for all products of Easy Soft. During each live hosting, there might be a few dozen participants. Typically, a recorded copy of the webinar is also available online—at your convenience, and the convenience of each of your attorneys and staff members. What could be easier than that?
Three. We don’t believe in off-shore outsourcing. All of our programmers and technical support personals are located in the same Easy Soft headquarters—right here in New Jersey. If a question arises that our skilled and able Tech Support Team doesn’t have answers for, they can turn immediately to our Business Analysts for more complete information. In other words, your call goes right to the source. One way or the other, we are likely to have a speedy answer for you—with full comprehension of your issue, and without messy language barriers.
In our last post, we talked about the services triggered by new legal time and billing software: software training, software setup, and practice customization. Today, we’ll discuss how an all-inclusive package is mandatory for even the most technologically savvy of attorneys and law firms.
Most legal time and billing software companies offer you email only or limited # of phone calls type technical support. When this runs out, you procure your own—or use their—additional training and setup through a subcontractor typically charging $125/hour and up.
You might say this sounds adequate. But even if you yourself are technically savvy, consider:
1. Your fellow attorneys, paralegals, assistants, and any new hires—an unknown factor—might need additional handholding.
2. You’ll need to explore your new software extensively—through time-consuming trial and error—to figure out its particular efficiencies and special features. But why reinvent the wheel?
3. You’ll never be in complete control of your PC. Machines go down, and when they do, you’ll need expensive contractors to recover systems and data—unless you have an all-inclusive software package.
In contrast to the standard legal time and billing software package, all of Easy Soft’s software packages are all-inclusive. For one low yearly cost, Easy Soft provides all of the technical support, educational support, and setup advice that you need for every piece of legal software you purchase from us.
We believe we are the only major legal software company in the U.S. whose prices include:
- Software License.
- Complete Unlimited Training for your attorneys and staff
- Unlimited US Based Phone/Email Technical Support—crucial in the event of outages, breakdowns, data loss, etc.
- Personalized Service. During business hours, a human being always answers the phone.
- One Nominal Yearly Fee, so that you can plan your annual budget accordingly.
- No Add-On Fees—ever for these services.
In total, your software costs for the year will probably add up to less than one (1) billable hour for a single attorney in your firm.
So you get a) the incredible price, and b) worry-free technology geared specifically toward making your legal practice the most easy and effective it can be.
Legal software purchasers beware! The sticker price of a software package may look like a bargain. But if you base your choice of law office billing software on price alone, your final costs may add up to an unpleasant surprise.
Regardless of the ease and purpose of the legal software you’re choosing, or your own skill with technology, it’s important to grasp the price of ad hoc services, charges and other add-ons that make what sounded like a bargain a very bad deal indeed.
First, consider that all law office software requires the following:
- Software Training. Training teaches you, your fellow lawyers, and your staff a) the major features, b) how to adapt technology for your particular need c) the bells and whistles of your new legal software.
Say its legal time and billing software. Everyone that will use this software to enter their time tracking, setup matters, billing, payments, special rates and discounts, and the like (we’ll refer to them collectively as “administrators”) must be newly trained. Cumulative and repetitive training can be both time-consuming and expensive.
- Software Setup. You’ll need to set up your new legal billing software on all employee workstations. Again, cumulative setups—for new workstations, new attorneys, etc.—can get time-consuming and expensive.
- Practice Customization. Customizing your new software to the needs of your specific law office, practice, and state bar requirements is essential. We will cover attorney billing software customization specifically in another post this month.
In our next post, we’ll talk about the hidden costs of the above services.