There is major acquisition news today involving practice management technology. Software Technology LLC, developer of Tabs3 Software, a leading desktop law practice management program, has acquired CosmoLex, one of the leading cloud-based practice management platforms.

With the acquisition, Tabs3 is now able to provide solo and small firms with complete suites of billing, financial and practice management software in whichever “flavor” they prefer — desktop or cloud. The acquisition gives Tabs3 a combined customer base of over 100,000 legal professionals in the United States and Canada, the company said.

Tabs3 CEO Dan Berlin

CosmoLex will remain a standalone product and become a division of Tabs3. Rick Kabra, who founded CosmoLex in 2013, will be president of the division, and his entire New Jersey-based team will remain with the company. CosmoLex customers will see no change in pricing or services, Kabra told me.

Tabs3 is a nearly 40-year-old company, founded in 1979 and based in Lincoln, Neb. Its desktop product includes billing, financials and practice management. It also has a cloud billing and trust accounting program, Kurent, designed for solos and small firms.

“We are thrilled to welcome CosmoLex to the Tabs3 family as we continue to build the leading platform for practice and financial management software for solo to midsized law firms,” Dan Berlin, president and CEO of Tabs3 since 1984, said yesterday. “CosmoLex plays a significant role in our vision to be the software partner of choice for every solo to midsized law firm in the United States and Canada, whether they desire cloud, desktop, or hosted desktop software.”

CosmoLex founder Rick Kabra

Kabra told me that he sees several advantages in this acquisition for customers of both companies. For CosmoLex customers, Tabs3 is a profitable company with the resources to continue to develop and improve CosmoLex’s cloud technology and features. For Tabs3 customers, they now have the option to switch to the cloud seamlessly, supported by the same company and team they already work with.

This is also good news to the network of technology consultants and referral partners who resell Tabs3, Kabra said, because they will no longer be forced to choose between recommending a desktop company or a cloud company.

In a phone call yesterday afternoon, Berlin said that he is excited about the acquisition becomes if fills out and complements his company’s product offerings. With the three-product line of Tabs3, Kurent and CosmoLex, the privately-held company will be able to provide a full range of financial and practice management services to firms from solos to mid-sized, whether they want cloud or desktop.

He said that he has heard from several Tabs3 customers who want to transition to cloud-based platforms, not because they are dissatisfied with the product, but because they want the flexibility of the cloud. He also hears from customers who are on cloud platforms but want to move back to desktop.

One of his first priorities now that the acquisition is complete is working on making migration seamless either way, whether a customer wants to move from desktop to cloud or cloud to desktop. Another focus will be on combining sales and marketing efforts to expand the market for all three products.

The deal was concluded last Friday and announced to partners yesterday afternoon.

The practice management platform CosmoLex has been approved by the Law Society of Alberta as a software vendor for its Electronic Trust Transaction Reporting Program.

The approval means that the Law Society has certified CosmoLex as compatible and in compliance with its requirements for uploading trust transaction data. The Law Society requires law firms to upload this data so that it can audit billing and trust accounting transactions.

CosmoLex is only the fourth company to obtain this approval. The others are LexisNexis PCLawESILaw and Clio.

user guide is available for lawyers interested in using CosmoLex for their data uploads, as well as for the other approved software vendors. A frequently asked questions document on CosmoLex’s trust accounting features is also available.

Last October, CosmoLex released a version of its software designed for Canadian law firms and hosted at a data center located in Canada. The software automatically generates the annual trust safety accounting upload, which can then be submitted to the Law Society.

Before-and-after views show the navigation panel moved to the left.

CosmoLex, a cloud-based practice management platform, today rolled out its version 5.0, featuring a new user interface and several new features, including custom fields, document templates and data mining. It also revealed that it is shifting its focus slightly, away from solo lawyers and towards larger firms of 5-20 lawyers.

“Going forward, our entire focus will be shifting towards mid-sized firms now,” CEO Rick Kabra told me. “So future development will be heavily focused on mid-sized firms of 5-20 lawyers.”

Full view of the dashboard.

The new UI was designed to create more “real estate” on the screen so that more information can be displayed. It accomplishes this by moving the main navigation menu to the left and making it collapsible. When not in use, it is a narrow black band. Hover over any item and it expands to show the full menu.

This redesign creates from 20-30 percent more vertical depth on pages within CosmoLex. Because CosmoLex is an all-in-one platform that includes accounting, the company saw the need to make more information visible on key pages such as the dashboard and matter pages.

Custom Fields

Custom fields created by the firm.

Also new with today’s update is the ability for firms to create custom fields within matter templates. Users can add whatever fields they want. But the ability to add fields is limited to those with administrative-level access to the platform.

“We believe everyone in a firm should be able to use custom fields, but that not everyone should be able to design them,” Kabra said. “So we put them in the administrative settings.”

Document Templates

Document templates can be created using any fields.

These new custom fields can be used in conjunction with another new feature, document templating. Firms can create standard form documents and add any standard or custom fields from CosmoLex to automatically insert that information into the document.

Subscribers can download a fields database from CosmoLex as an Excel file that contains all the standard and custom fields that can be inserted into a document template.

CosmoLex plans later next year to develop a library of document templates. However, that will not be ready for 6-8 months, Kabra said.

Data Mining

Search filters can be applied to mine specific billing and accounting data.

A final feature introduced today is data mining to facilitate data analysis. This is an enhanced search feature that lets a user search billing and accounting data within CosmoLex using a range of filters. This enables the user to see very specific sets of data. The results of the search can be exported in spreadsheet, PDF or CSV formats.

For example, a user could apply filters to see only cases being billed on an hourly basis and then only those where the retainer is running low. A number of filters are available and any can be applied to narrow or tailor the data.

Kabra believes these new data-mining tools will be particularly useful to larger firms, in that it will allow them to do deeper and more nuanced productivity and profitability analysis. The company has plans to significantly expand these capabilities over the next year, he said.

There will not be any change in pricing, Kabra said. CosmoLex charges $49 per user per month when paid annually, or $59 when paid monthly. The price includes LawPay credit card processing.

“Law practice management has become almost like a religion for us here,” Kabra said. “Anything we can to do improve the practice of law, it has become the mission of so many of us here.”

Canadian lawyers can enable settings specific to their province.

Because Canadian lawyers are subject to strict and unique accounting, taxation and reporting requirements, cloud-based practice management systems designed for U.S. lawyers often are not good fits for them. For this reason, the majority of Canadian firms that have practice management software use on-premises systems, with PCLaw from LexisNexis leading the pack at a reported 13,000 law firm installations.

As of today, Canadian law firms now have a cloud-based alternative. CosmoLex is announcing the release of CosmoLex Canada, a version of its practice management software specially designed for Canadian law firms and hosted at a data center located in Canada. The software is designed to meet all Canadian accounting and law society guidelines, CosmoLex CEO Rick Kabra told me last week.

CosmoLex Canada includes several features that are unique to the practice of law in Canada. They include functions related to accrual accounting and trust accounting compliance, as well as tax functions designed to comply with GST/HST requirements for taxation of legal fees and disbursements and claiming input tax credits.

Users can generate a complete set of law society compliance documents.

In addition to Canada-specific accounting, CosmoLex Canada includes the ability to create a complete set of compliance-report documents in conformance with law society requirements.

Law firms can enable accounting settings specific to the requirements of their province.

Because requirements vary among provinces, CosmoLex Canada allows users to select the province in which they are located, and then all accounting and tax settings are enabled to conform to that province’s requirements.

Services taxes are added as the lawyer completes time entries.

The software includes the ability to track taxes for time spent performing legal services and for costs incurred. Taxes are recorded at the time-entry level rather than added onto the invoice so that the time-keeper can decided whether the service or expense is taxable.

All data for CosmoLex Canada users is being hosted in a state-of-the-art data center located within Canada, because some law societies prohibit lawyers from using cloud systems that host data outside Canada. Anyone who logs in to CosmoLex from Canada will be automatically redirected to the Canada data center. Kabra believes CosmoLex is the only cloud practice management system with a data center located in Canada.

Kabra said his main goal in launching CosmoLex Canada is to give Canadian lawyers access to the benefits and mobility of cloud-based practice management.

“The unfortunate reality is that up until now Canadian law firms were a decade behind their American
counterparts when it came to modern legal technologies,” said Kabra. “They were essentially stuck with
a handful of desktop-based practice management options and didn’t have access to cloud technology.”

CosmoLex, the cloud-based practice-management platform, today announced the release of a new credit card processing feature, CosmoPay, that eliminates the need to pay a separate subscription for credit card processing services through LawPay.

Now, any CosmoLex subscriber who opens a new LawPay account within CosmoLex will have the monthly LawPay fee covered by CosmoLex for as long as the subscriber remains an active LawPay user. Current LawPay account holders will also be able to take advantage of the new benefits of CosmoPay by contacting their CosmoLex account manager, the company said.

Subscribers will still have to pay LawPay’s per-transaction fees, which are typically 1.95 percent plus 20 cents. But they will no longer have to pay LawPay’s monthly subscription fees, which range from $5 to $20 a month.

For users of CosmoPay, the entire process of charging clients, getting paid and reconciling with bank accounts all takes place within the CosmoLex system.

“With CosmoPay, we are removing yet another barrier for smaller law firms, making it easier than ever for them to get paid,” CosmoLex CEO Rick Kabra said in a statement. “This is something all our users will immediately benefit from.”

Last year at Above the Law, I wrote a column, Practice Management Pricing Gets Murky, in which I talked about credit card processing charges as examples of how subscription pricing for practice management systems can sometimes be difficult to sort out up front. While several practice management platforms offer credit card processing, what you pay can differ quite a bit.

With CosmoLex, for example, if you wanted credit card processing, you had to pay both CosmoLex’s $49 monthly subscription plus LawPay’s subscription. Today’s announcement is good news for CosmoLex customers, because it eliminates the need for the separate LawPay subscription.

As I wrote in my Above the Law column, other companies handle this differently. Clio, for example, offers LawPay integration, but covers the cost of LawPay only for subscribers who have its upper-tier price plans. MyCase, at $39 per month, includes its own, integrated credit card and e-check processing service.

 

 

 

Now you can add bills for accounts payable within CosmoLex.

CosmoLex today released an update to its cloud-based practice management platform that adds a new module for managing a law firm’s accounts payable. While some desktop practice management systems include accounts payable functions, this is the first cloud-based platform to add this, as far I can determine.

The new module enables law firms to manage and track accounts payable from within the CosmoLex platform. This includes both their own accounts payable – phone bills, rent and the like – and those incurred on behalf of clients.

A dashboard shows pending payables.

When you receive a phone bill, for example, enter the details such as amount and due date. When you pay the bill, enter the payment information and the item is mark paid. A dashboard shows all unpaid items and their due dates. Overdue bills are shown in red and the system also sends you an alert that a bill is overdue.

Recurring bills can be marked as such and the system will track them separately as recurring items.

Recurring bills can also be tracked.

If a firm receives a bill chargeable to a client, it also can be entered in this system. As you enter the bill, click the option to post it as a matter expense, and you will then be able to associate it with a client matter. The next time you create an invoice for that client, the expense will be included.

You also have the option of choosing to hold the bill until the client pays the invoice in full. If you select this option, the system will place a hold on paying the item. Once the client’s invoice payment is recorded within CosmoLex, then the hold is lifted automatically.

A noteworthy feature of this new release was designed specifically for personal-injury attorneys and others who have to track third-party lien claims on their clients’ behalves, such as medical bills, so payments can be properly disbursed from trust funds after any financial recovery. A component of this new accounts-payable module tracks these third-party claims and ties them to the client matter.

Third-party lien claims can be added directly to matters.

Now, within any matter in CosmoLex, there is a new tab for third-party bills. This is where attorneys can enter and track these third-party bills. They are kept separate from the firm’s own accounts payable and billing records.

If the case is settled or a judgment is awarded, then the attorney can go in and pay these items from the funds in the trust account. The attorney can also use this to generate a complete report of these costs, to be filed with the court or provided to others.

Create a report of third-party claims that can be submitted to the court.

“Accounts payable is much like any other aspect of legal accounting, there are many requirements and regulations that are unique to law firms,” said Rick Kabra, CosmoLex CEO. “We have designed this module with these unique needs in mind, as we do with all of our product enhancements.”

The module includes the ability to generate various A/P reports, including an aging summary.

The bank feed is matched against transactions recorded in CosmoLex.

In lieu of flowers or candy, CosmoLex is giving its customers something different for Valentine’s Day — automatic, direct bank data feeds.

CosmoLex says it is the first law practice management product to provide this capability. As far as I can determine, it is correct about that.

General business accounting programs such as QuickBooks and Xero already offer access to bank data feeds, and several practice management platforms integrate with one or both of those programs.

But Rick Kabra, CEO of CosmoLex, has long believed that general business accounting programs are not well tailored to the specific needs of law firms. That is why, two years ago, CosmoLex added its own, fully integrated law firm accounting system.

With today’s launch, CosmoLex users will be able to automatically import bank account information, including credit card accounts, from more than 2,000 financial institutions. Once the user sets up the connection, CosmoLex will automatically fetch transaction data from the bank and match it with transactions in CosmoLex.

The bank feed can be used to perform a reconciliation.

The benefit to law firms is that they will be able to keep better track of their bank activities and will also be able to perform daily reconciliations. Automatic imports of bank data should greatly reduce accounting errors and time spent on reconciliations, Kabra says.

“If I find something in the bank data that’s not matching what I’ve entered in my system, that’s where the unique value is,” Kabra says.

Setting it up takes just a few moments. The set-up process asks for your bank username and password to validate the connection, but CosmoLex does not store that information, Kabra says. Once a bank account is connected to the feed, a bank icon is displayed next to the account name.

If you see something in the feed that was not entered in the system but should have been, you can simply select it and enter it. Perhaps you paid a client fee at the courthouse but did not enter it. You can highlight it from the bank data and select “Post As Client Expense” and it will be entered.

CosmoLex subscribers will be allowed to add one bank data feed at no cost. Additional feeds will cost $2.50 per month per login.

The practice management provider CosmoLex today is releasing Law Firm Accounting Demystified, an e-book intended to serve as a detailed guide for law firms to handling legal, trust and business transactions.

book-product-2The book is available for free online at www.LegalAccountingGuide.com or can be purchased as a downloadable e-book for $42.50.

Written by Rick Kabra, CEO of CosmoLex, and Pamela Rozsa, president of the consulting firm PWR Resources, the book is geared towards both legal and accounting professionals who manage law firm finances.

I was given an advance copy of the book and found it to be an informative introduction to key concepts of law firm accounting. Although the book uses the CosmoLex platform to show examples of accounting and billing functions, the descriptions of the concepts and functions are generic and therefore useful no matter what systems your firm uses.

Over 86 pages and 14 chapters, the book covers:

  • Basic accounting terms and concepts.
  • The components of an accounting system.
  • Retainer management.
  • Trust accounting.
  • Matter billing types.
  • Matter expenses.
  • Billing and payments.
  • Income tracking.
  • Credit card expenses.
  • Business accounting.
  • Bank reconciliations.
  • Financial reports.
  • Productivity and compensation reports.
  • Year-end activities.

“It’s hard to find a legal accounting resource or even a professional that can cover all of the unique requirements and regulations that law firms face,” Kabra said in announcing the book. “Pamela and I realized this and decided to compile our collective experience and knowledge in the field to create this resource.”

Along with the release of the book comes the launch of the legalaccountingguide.com website. The goal for the site, Kabra told me, is to make it a key resource for legal accounting materials and eventually to enable lawyers to engage with expert help. “We hope to build a large community here and offering the online edition of the book at no charge was the 1st step in the direction,” he said.

 

OneDriveForBusiness
With OneDrive integration enabled, users can now open documents directly in Office web apps.

CosmoLex, the cloud practice management platform, is rolling out new features today that include two-way synchronization with Office 365 calendars, integration with OneDrive, document search, document version control, and new notifications through the client portal.

Although CosmoLex already integrates with Box and Dropbox and has its own native document storage, the OneDrive integration adds greater functionality through the ability to open and edit documents in Office 365 web apps.

A slider button activates the OneDrive integration.
A slider button activates the OneDrive integration.

When users enable the OneDrive integration, an icon appears next to documents stored in CosmoLex that says “Open in OneDrive.” Click it to open the document in Word Online or Excel Online. When you are done editing, the document is saved back into CosmoLex.

The integration works with both OneDrive personal and OneDrive for Business. You will need your own Office 365 subscription.

Today’s roll-out also adds integration with Office 365 calendars. The synchronization is two way. Add an appointment in your CosmoLex calendar and it will appear in all your Outlook apps (web, desktop and mobile). Or add an appointment in Outlook and it will appear in your CosmoLex calendar.

CosmoLex already integrated with Outlook email.

The document properties box lets you add labels and other information to a document.
The document properties box lets you add labels and other information to a document.

With regard to its native document storage, CosmoLex is adding three new features today.

  • Document search. You can now search across all the metadata for your documents. You can add metadata by opening the document properties dialog box for a document, where you can add details and notes. Search does not extend to full body text.
  • Document categorization. You can now add custom tags to documents to categorize them, such as “research.”
  • Document versioning. CosmoLex now captures and saves all versions of a document. When you select a document, you can click on the Versions tab to see a full history of all previous versions. You can download a previous version to view it or you can choose to restore a previous version. You cannot view the version changes from within Cosmolex.
VersionHistory
You can now view a document’s version history.

The versioning feature works with documents in Cosmolex’s native storage as well as with documents in Box and Dropbox. It does not work with OneDrive documents because the OneDrive API does not support this capability.

The final set of changes today relate to the client portal. Now, attorneys can opt to send their clients a daily email digest of any new activities on their matters. The digest shows each day’s new documents, invoices, events and tasks for each of the client’s matters. Only items that the lawyer has chosen to share with the client are shown in the digest.

added-passive-time-to-cosmolex-matter
Adding time passively captured in Chrometa to a CosmoLex matter.

The practice management platform CosmoLex today announced its integration with the passive timekeeping system Chrometa. The advantage of this integration is that it helps attorneys ensure that they are capturing and billing as much of their time as possible.

“Passive timekeeping” means that Chrometa tracks your activity on your computer and mobile phone in the background, without requiring you to enter time. When you respond to an email, work on a file or visit a web page, Chrometa captures that time. It then uses keyword-based rules (including email addresses and domains) to assign time entries to matters (which Chrometa calls projects).

cosmolex-matter-in-chrometa
A CosmoLex matter within Chrometa.

With the integration between CosmoLex and Chrometa, Chrometa imports a lawyer’s client and matter list from CosmoLex into its system so that passively captured time can be logged to those clients and matters. Those time entries are then passed back into CosmoLex where they are handled just as if they were time entries created in CosmoLex. Any descriptions added to a time entry in Chrometa also carry over into CosmoLex.

chrometa-time-added-to-cosmolex
Time captured in Chrometa after it has been added to CosmoLex.

And because CosmoLex already has integrated billing and accounting, the time entries from Chrometa get allocated automatically to the clients’ accounts.

CosmoLex users who want to take advantage of the integration will also need a Chrometa subscription. Its monthly plans range from $12 to $29.

Chrometa also integrates with Clio, Rocket MatterTabs IIITimeslips, PCLaw and QuickBooks.

Last February, CosmoLex announced an integration with Casemaker. As I noted then, CosmoLex plans to implement a series of integrations with third-party products.