I reported recently that the cloud practice-management application MyCase is slated to debut a new mobile app. The app will be a first among practice-management apps in that it will allow both clients and lawyers to access their case information. The app is not yet available for download. By way of a preview, below are [...]
TAG | practice management
At ABA Techshow tomorrow, the cloud-based practice management platform Clio will announced integrations with two cloud-based third-party platforms: NetDocuments, for document management and sharing, and Xero, for accounting and banking.
According to Clio’s announcement, the NetDocuments integration will enable Clio users to:
- Upload documents to NetDocuments and associate them with Matters in Clio.
- Create, open and save documents directly to NetDocuments and Clio from within Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.
- Take advantage of NetDocuments’ powerful full-text searching of documents;
- Get optional on-premise document backup with NetDocument’s Local Document Service
Xero provides a sophisticated accounting platform that is suitable for both small and midsized law firms, Clio’s announcement says. It includes real-time financial reporting, payroll, bank reconciliation, invoicing, expense claim management, check writing and accounts payable.
Clio’s integration with Xero will allow users to automatically synchronize key client and financial data between the two platforms. Bills generated within Clio, along with payments of those bills, will be automatically synchronized with Xero. Communication between the two platforms eliminates duplicate data entry.
Both the NetDocuments integration and the Xero integration are being released initially as a beta with a general availability release anticipated in May 2013. Clio users interested in participating in either beta may request access via firstname.lastname@example.org.
At ABA Techshow next week in Chicago, the cloud practice management platform MyCase is slated to debut a mobile app that will be a first for practice-management apps in that it will allow both clients and lawyers to access their case information. While other practice-management platforms have mobile apps allowing lawyers to access their case and client information, this would be the first that would include a separate portal for use by clients.
Reportedly, the app will include features that will allow clients to:
- View information about their case.
- Send and receive messages to and from the law firm.
- See and respond to comments.
The app will also allow lawyers to access their matters within MyCase, send messages to clients, view contact and calendar information, and bill on the go.
I have not seen the app, which MyCase will officially debut during Techshow. The app will not be available for download until it has completed the iTunes store approval process.
In what is getting to be an increasingly crowded field, another cloud-based practice management platform launched this week. The latest entrant, Velawsity, joins the ranks of Clio, Rocket Matter, MyCase, LexisNexis Firm Manager, Thomson Reuters Firm Central, and others.
So why does a crowded field need to get any more crowded? The press release announcing Velawsity’s launch describes it as “unique” and goes on to explain:
Velawsity has its sights on a rather specific inefficiency in the practice of law encountered by a growing number of sole practitioners. The technology is focused on the intelligent manipulation of critical data to render the amount of time an attorney must spend on routine, non-billable — albeit necessary — tasks almost negligible.
Designed by a team of lawyers, the cloud-based software is engineered to boost lawyer efficiency, encourage compliance and simplify attorney-client communication. The flagship version of the product features digital engagement, cloud-based conflict checking and seamless attorney-client communication modules.
I have not tried Velawsity, which is still in beta, but as best as I can determine from its website, that last sentence of the above excerpt is where it is most trying to distinguish itself from other platforms — with its digital engagement, conflict-checking and communication features.
When a new client comes in, Velawsity runs a conflicts check against all your existing clients, relationships and matters. If the new client clears the conflicts check, then Velawsity automatically sends out an engagement letter by email. It also automatically opens a new matter for that client and enables a private attorney-client communications gateway. The gateway, the website says, makes client communications “as simple as text messaging.”
According to its website, Velawsity also includes the ability to create letter templates and automatically populate them with client information.
No one of these features is unique. Several platforms have document assembly or even word processing built in. LexisNexis Firm Manager has conflict checking. MyCase has a client portal and direct messaging with clients.
Velawsity appears not to have a time and billing component, which, again, most of the other platforms have, in one form or another.
The cost of Velawsity is $30 a month.
So do we need another entrant in an already crowded field? Having not tried it, and with it still in beta, I’ll reserve judgment. But I will say this: Not only are there already a number of cloud practice-management platforms, but several of those that are already available are mature, well-developed and feature-rich. Anyone hoping to break into this market has to truly distinguish itself in some unique way.
In a post earlier this week, I wrote that the first of what are now a number of cloud-based practice management platforms was Clio, which launched about five years ago. No sooner had the ink dried on that post than I saw the announcement from Rocket Matter of its celebration of its five-year anniversary, which includes a new logo and giveaways of iPads, Kindle Fires and Samsung Galaxy tablets. So I checked my dates and, as it turns out, the two have been engaged in somewhat of a horse race from the start.
Rocket Matter was indeed the first to announce its product, five years ago today, on Feb. 21, 2008. At that point, the product was still in beta version. It released its first non-beta version, Rocket Matter 1.0, almost a year later, on Jan. 6, 2009.
Meanwhile, on March 1, 2008, a little over a week after Rocket Matter released its beta version, Clio announced its launch. At that point, Clio was launched as a closed beta available only to invited users. It was first released for general availability on Oct. 1, 2008.
So, Rocket Matter beat Clio out of the gate by just over a week with its beta version. Clio came out first with its general-release version, three months ahead of Rocket Matter.
Does this matter one iota? Frankly, it does not matter at all which was first out of the gate or first to market. What does matter, however, is that both of these products have now established their longevity.
The reason that matters is that lawyers have an ethical duty to vet a cloud provider before entrusting it with client data. At least some of the ethics opinions that have so far addressed this issue indicate that part of the vetting process should include the provider’s viability as a company. After all, you do not want to entrust your client data to a company that might be here today, gone tomorrow.
For that reason, this five-year anniversary is, if nothing else, evidence that both Rocket Matter and Clio are in it for the long term. For lawyers who are interested in cloud-based practice management, that is important to know.
When it comes to law practice management technology, recent years have seen the launch of a bevy of cloud-based platforms. Clio was the first of these, followed by a number of products that include Rocket Matter, MyCase, LexisNexis Firm Manager, and the most recent addition to the lot, Thomson Reuters Firm Central. Cloud platforms offer many advantages, not the least of which is mobility — the ability to access your case and client information from any device.
But cloud platforms are not necessarily right for every lawyer or every firm. Orion has been a long-time provider of installed financial management, firm management and practice management systems for mid-sized law firms. Just last year, Sean Doherty looked at Orion and other installed practice management platforms for Law Technology News. He found that they offered good reasons for firms to stick with locally installed systems, most notably their deep integration with a firm’s back-office infrastructure and front-office tools.
Although most locally installed systems offer some form of mobile access, it is rarely on par with the full-featured mobile access some cloud systems provide. Aiming to remedy that with a full-featured mobile app, Orion introduced iOrion at the recent LegalTech show in New York.
Designed for the iPad, iPad Mini and iPhone, iOrion enables mobile access to key Orion financial management tools as well as to information about clients, cases and contacts. iOrion fully synchronizes with the desktop Orion, including the ability to start a timer in one and then manage it in the other.
Included within iOrion are:
- Full access to all contacts. If you initiate a phone call or email from within iOrion, it automatically prompts you to make a time entry.
- Access to key information about matters (or cases), including the ability to initiate and bill for time.
- Customizable “Smart Timers” that make it easy to track time for multiple matters while away from your desktop.
- Access to key client and matter financial information, including receivables, work-in-progress billing, accounts receiveable ledgers, retainer ledgers and trust ledgers.
As of this writing, iOrion is not yet available in the Apple iTunes Store. Orion is awaiting Apple’s final approval. I was provided with a pre-release version linked to a demonstration database containing mock client, matter and financial information.
Although I have never used the Orion desktop version, I found the app to be extremely easy to use and understand. I was particularly impressed by the depth of the financial data accessible through the app and by the capabilities it offers to track billable time and expenses.
I was also impressed by the ease of timekeeping on the app. To enter time manually, simply select the client or matter, select the activity code, and select the time, and you are done. If you wish to add notes to a time entry, you can. Alternatively, Smart Timers make it easy to simply turn on a timer for any client or matter and then automatically bill it when you are done.
In the range of features and access to data it offers, iOrion surpasses other mobile practice-management apps I’ve tried. Of course, iOrion can be used only by lawyers at firms where Orion is installed. For more information about the app, read Orion’s brochure.
When it comes to practice management software, competition is a good thing. With the ever-increasing popularity of cloud-based practice management among lawyers, the various platforms have all been scurrying to add new features and enhancements. A prime example is Rocket Matter, which in recent months has added email integration, launched an iPhone app, launched an API to allow third-party developers to integrate their own applications, and added document assembly and custom fields.
Now, Rocket Matter has released an add-on that enables its users to integrate with QuickBooks, the popular accounting software from Intuit. Unlike earlier enhancements, this one is offered as an add-on for an additional fee of $14.99 a month (with discounts for longer-term subscriptions). That would be in addition to the monthly subscription fee, which starts at $59.99 for the first user and goes down based on numbers of users and term of subscription.
Rocket Matter integrates with QuickBooks by using the Intuit App Center as the link between billing within Rocket Matter and accounting in QuickBooks. This avoids the need to import or export QuickBook’s propriequickbooks ty .iif (Intuit Interchange Format) files.
“Like we did with our email integration, the QuickBooks integration is accomplished in a seamless way,” Rocket Matter CEO Larry Port said in an email. “We wanted to avoid ‘download, import, and pray.’ There’s no IIF files or nasty import-export process. Everything syncs with a couple of clicks, similar to how law firms sync QuickBooks with their bank account.”
Once the integration is set up, synchronization is basically a two-step process. First, from the billing dashboard within Rocket Matter, you click the the “Sync to QuickBooks” button. Then you go to QuickBooks and select an option there to begin synchronization. With that, the Rocket Matter data is added to QuickBooks.
The integration works with 2009 and later Windows versions of QuickBooks Pro, Premium or Enterprise Edition. It supports both accrual and cash accounting as well as trust accounting.
Below is Rocket Matter’s tutorial showing how to set up and use the QuickBooks integration.
The cloud-based practice management platform Rocket Matter today announced that it has added email integration. This means that users can associate folders in whatever email program they use — whether it is Outlook, Gmail or another — to the Rocket Matter system. Thus, email folders for specific clients can be associated with those clients on Rocket Matter and be readily available, including attachments, from wherever you access Rocket Matter.
The feature works only if you are using the IMAP protocol to control your email, rather than POP. If you use Gmail or access your email via a Microsoft Exchange server, you are probably using IMAP. With IMAP, your emails remain stored on a central server, making them accessible through multiple devices. With POP, the emails are actually downloaded to your computer and removed from the server.
The new Rocket Matter feature does not remove emails from your IMAP server, it simply accesses them there once you provide your email log-in credentials. The emails remain accessible through your standard email software as well.
Rocket Matter’s email integration includes the ability to search emails by subject, contents or sender. It also allows you to quickly bill your time for an email.
For another review of Rocket Matter’s new feature, see Erik Mazzone’s post at Law Practice Matters, where he writes, “Rocket Matter deserves credit for advancing the ball for cloud-based practice management software.” I can’t argue with that.
Users of Clio, the cloud-based law practice management platform, now have the ability to add custom fields to matters and contacts, the company announced today. That means that users can add data-entry fields of their own in addition to the pre-defined data fields provided by Clio.
Clio’s new custom fields feature supports “typed data,” meaning that users can specify that a custom field should be a text field, checkbox, date, currency, number, picklist or contact or matter reference, the announcement said. Custom fields will be fully integrated with Clio’s document automation system, which means that you can create automated documents that draw from the custom fields as well as form the standard fields. (See screencaps below.)
“Custom Fields has been one of our most-requested features, and we’re thrilled to deliver a whole new level of application flexibility to our customers,” Jack Newton, Clio’s co-founder and CEO, said in today’s announcement. “Every practice area has specific data-related needs; Clio users can now tailor their matters and contacts according to their specific practice requirements.”
The announcement was made in conjunction with Clio’s fourth anniversary this week. It is the longest-running among the several companies that now provide practice management in the cloud.
Rocket Matter, a cloud-based legal billing and law practice management application, today launched an iPhone app to facilitate mobile access to the application’s core functions. The app runs on all versions of the iPad, the iPhone 3GS and higher, and iPod touch running iOS 5 and above.
The app lets you use your mobile device to:
- Capture time and expenses and associate them with a matter. This includes the ability to run a timer on your device.
- Access information on all of your matters within Rocket Matter.
- View and add contacts and initiate calls and emails.
- Manage your calendar and keep it synchronized with your Rocket Matter account.
I have not tested the app. A press release issued by the company this morning says this about it:
The company designed the app after conducting extensive user surveys. Based on the feedback, the iPhone app provides a streamlined version of the essential features of the flagship cloud-based product.
A built-in timer and intuitively designed screens quickly capture billable time and expenses. Contact lists, client-matter information, and calendars with day, month, and list views keep all relevant case information in one convenient place. Information recorded via the Rocket Matter iPhone app appears instantly in the web-based product.
In situations with little or no connectivity, data is automatically stored offline. The app will instantly synchronize with the Rocket Matter database once connectivity is restored.
It also says that the app uses the same authentication and security measures employed by the web application. All data is transmitted to and from the app over an encrypted channel. Users can set a passcode lock to ensure that there is no unauthorized access to their data if the device is lost or stolen.