Global launch menu for common activities.
Global launch menu for common activities.

In a major update scheduled to  be released today, the cloud practice management platform CosmoLex is rolling out a number of new features and enhancements, including a client portal with secure messaging, internal firm messaging, native document storage, a global launch location for commonly used functions, and more.

On Friday, Rick Kabra, CosmoLex CEO, gave me a preview of the updates. Here is what I saw.

The first set of changes are enhancements to the user interface, and the first of these is a new global launch location for commonly used activities. With today’s release, a new menu box appears globally throughout the platform from which all commonly used functions can be launched. This enables users to add time, expenses, events, tasks and more from anywhere within the platform, without having to first navigate to a specific task page.

Multiple-Timers

In conjunction with this, CosmoLex now allows users to launch multiple timers from wherever they are in the platform. When you are working on a memorandum and a client call comes in, simply click to launch a new timer and the one that was running is paused. Need to dash off a quick email. Click again to open another timer. There is no limit to the number of timers you can open (although only one will run at a time).

With another click, any of these timers can be easily converted into timecards for billing, where you can add in a billing code and description.

In addition to these user-interface enhancements, CosmoLex is adding several new features:

Client-Portal
Firms can brand the client portal with their own logo.

Client portal with secure messaging system. This new feature enables lawyers to create portals for their clients through which they can share invoices, documents, events and tasks. The portal includes secure, two-way messaging so that clients and lawyers can communicate with each other without using email.

The feature has several levels of controls to determine what gets shared and what does not. At a system-wide level, the firm administrator can set firm-wide policies for what can be shared through the client portals. Perhaps a firm wants to allow sharing only of invoices and documents, but not notes and calendar items.

The client's view of documents shared through the portal.
The client’s view of documents shared through the portal.

At the individual-lawyer level, the lawyer can decide whether to create a portal for any given client. For each portal, the lawyer can further limit what can be shared with that client. These controls help ensure nothing is shared with a client that should not be. Matters that have a client portal enabled will display a distinct icon in the matter landing page.

Once an invoice, document or any other item has been shared with a client, an icon appears next to it to highlight the fact that it is shared. Access can be revoked at any time by unsharing an item.

Clients can use the portal to view and print invoices and they can also pay invoices directly through the portal, provided the firm has enabled LawPay within its account.

The client portal allows secure two-way messaging.
The client portal allows secure two-way messaging.

The portal has a built-in messaging system so that the firm can send messages to clients and vice versa. The portal can be set up so that client messages go to multiple people in the firm.

Internal-Communication
CosmoLex now has an internal firm messaging system.

Internal CosmoLex user messaging system. Members of a firm can now send messages among themselves from within the system. Message one or multiple people. A flag in the navigation bar notifies users of new messages. All communications get logged within the system.

CosmoLex now has a native document storage system.
CosmoLex now has a native document storage system.

Native document storage. CosmoLex users no longer need Box or Dropbox to store their documents within CosmoLex (although they can still do so if they wish). CosmoLex now natively provides secure storage for documents within the platform. Documents are organized in a folder structure based on the user’s matters.

The system includes a document viewer, but so far it works only with PDF documents. A later release will allow the document system to work with Office 365.

Also new is that users can now assign various properties to documents, such as document type or description. This applies whether the document is in the platform’s native storage or in Box or Dropbox.

Each matter now has a dashboard summarizing key information.
Each matter now has a dashboard summarizing key information.

New matter dashboard. When you go to a matter within CosmoLex, you now come to a new matter dashboard that displays key details and data at a glance.

Email reminders for tasks. You can now set email reminders for various tasks to help ensure nothing is overlooked.

Users can now add comments to activities.
Users can now add comments to activities.

Adding comments to activities. You can now add comments directly to various activities such as events, tasks, notes and documents. If the associated item is shared with your client through the portal, your internal comments will not be visible to the client.

If a user adds a comment that requires action from someone else in the firm (or follow-up by the user), the user can mark it as “Open” and notify the other person. Once the person completes the action, it can be marked as “Closed.”

Users can now mark invoices as final.
Users can now mark invoices as final.

Mark invoices “Final” to prevent accidental edits. Once invoices are approved and issued, they can be marked as Final to prevent further editing. Invoices can be changed back to “Open” status for revisions, but only by authorized users.

In addition to what I have described here, today’s release includes several smaller changes and fixes.

E-Billing-Setup
A firm can choose to enable UTBMS code sets and set which codes to allow or restrict.

The cloud practice management platform CosmoLex today rolled out a set of upgrades designed to extend its suitability to larger law firms. The upgrades include the incorporation of LEDES 1998B billing codes and ABA UTBMS task management codes, the ability to distribute income among lawyers based on their roles, online trust retainer collection, automatic email logging, and the ability to add labels to events, tasks, emails and notes.

CEO Rick Kabra told me last week that ever since CosmoLex added general-ledger accounting last year, he has seen an increase in larger firms moving to CosmoLex from legacy systems. (For Kabra, “larger”means firms of 10 or more attorneys. Although there is no limit to the size of firm his platform can accommodate, he said, the largest customer currently is a firm with 150 seats.)

Many of those larger firms represent corporate clients and do electronic billing. For them, LEDES — the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard — is essential. Many also use UTBMS, the Uniform Task Based Management System used as the American Bar Association standard to classify the legal services performed.

With this upgrade, CosmoLex users will be able to add or restrict LEDES codes both at the matter level and firmwide. (It cannot be done on a client-by-client basis.) Once LEDES codes are added or restricted, users see only those codes. CosmoLex now also supports use of the UTBMS codes, either in conjunction with electronic billing or as standalone codes. These also can be restricted to only the ones used for the particular matter.

Fee-Allocation-Calculations
Firms can now allocate income among lawyers.

A second feature rolling out today is income distribution. This allows a firm to customize the formulas by which  collected fee income is to be distributed among partners. The firm can set the percentages that will be allocated to the originating attorney, the responsible attorney and to others who billed time. Firms can now create a Collected Fee Income Allocation Report to be used for tracking productivity and making fee allocations.

“This has been a top request from our midsized customers,” Kabra said. “Once you have multiple partners, you need to allocate how you pay them. Lawyer A might have brought in the matter but Lawyer B might be doing the work.”

Trust-Retainer-Online-Payment-Request
A request to a client to pay a trust deposit by credit card.

Also announced today is online trust retainer collection. Last August, CosmoLex announced its integration with LawPay for taking bill payments by credit card. Now this integration is expanding to include credit card payments to fund client retainers.

Now within the CosmoLex platform, an attorney can request payment by a client of a specific trust amount. The client receives an email requesting the payment. A link in the email takes the client to the payment interface. The client cannot change the amount to be paid. Once the payment is made, it is recorded in CosmoLex and the deposit is made to the trust account.

This feature requires a separate account with LawPay. For trust account payments, LawPay does not take its fee from the trust — the full amount paid by the client is deposited into the trust account. Instead, LawPay takes its fee from the firm’s business account.

System-Emails
CosmoLex now provides a log of system email communications.

Another feature announced today is system email communication logs. Now, all emails sent from CosmoLex (such as invoices, reminder notices, that trust-payment request we just discussed above, etc.) are automatically recorded to a log and tagged by matter. This provides firms with a complete record of its communication history in case there is every any uncertainty, dispute or audit.

The final feature unveiled today is categorization. Now, users can add user-defined labels or tags to items such as events, tasks, emails and notes within each matter. In this way, you can see all tasks associated with a particular label, for example. You cannot, however, universally see all items associated with the same label.

 

cosmolexemail

The cloud-based practice management platform CosmoLex will be unveiling a new matter-based email integration at ABA Techshow next week. The integration will allow users to manage all their email from any email program within the CosmoLex platform and to keep emails together with all other documents and information pertaining to a particular matter.

The integration works with any email provider, by auto-forwarding copies of all incoming and outgoing emails, including attachments, to a law firm’s CosmoLex account, and then automatically tagging them to the appropriate matter. You can view emails on a matter-by-matter basis, in which you see only the emails associated with that matter, or globally, in which you see all your emails.

The feature will be available to CosmoLex subscribers over the weekend and will be officially announced next week.

MatterCircle
The CosmoLex Matter Circle

CosmoLex describes this integration as its “Matter Circles,” in that everything related to a particular matter is combined in one place: documents, meetings, tasks, billing, costs, payments, trust transactions, and now email.

[Full disclosure: CosmoLex is a paid advertiser on this blog.]

Earlier today, CosmoLex CEO Rick Kabra gave me an advance look at the new email integration. The way it works is through email forwarding. CosmoLex assigns each subscriber firm a unique email address. Then, when you send an email in whatever program you use — Outlook, Gmail or any other — you simply blind-copy the email to the CosmoLex address.

For incoming emails, you have two choices. Either you can set your email program to forward all emails to the CosmoLex address or you can forward them individually.

When the forwarded email is received by CosmoLex, it automatically matches it to the client based on the email address. If the client has multiple matters, it prompts you to choose the correct one. If the system doesn’t recognize the email address, it prompts you to select the appropriate matter.

Once the email is in CosmoLex, a user can record the time spent on that email, with the time automatically billed to the associated matter. The time is tagged directly to the email so that the user can go back later and see directly from the email how much time was billed for it.

Users who have administrative privileges will be able to set who sees which emails. A managing partner may want the ability to see the emails of everyone else in the firm, while an associate or staffer may be restricted to only his or her own emails.

The system also enables users to set rules for how to handle certain kinds of emails.

Note that this is not an email client. This is for storing and viewing emails and their attachments in connection with the matters to which they relate. You cannot compose and send an email from within CosmoLex. “Lawyers don’t want to give up their Outlook or Gmail,” Kabra says.

If you are attending Techshow next week, you can find CosmoLex at booth numbers 410-412.

image1

The cloud-based practice management platform CosmoLex and the legal research service Casemaker have formed an exclusive alliance to integrate their two products.

The integration enables lawyers who are subscribers to both services to easily track their research time in Casemaker using CosmoLex’s time-tracking capabilities and associate the time with matters in CosmoLex.

The integration was announced last week and rolls out to customers today. The exclusive arrangment means that CosmoLex will not integrate with any other research service and Casemaker will not integrate with any other practice management platform.

image2

Now, within Casemaker, a new menu item appears in the left-hand panel, CosmoLex Matters. Clicking that opens a dashboard where you then select the matter for which you’ll be performing research. Once you’ve selected the matter, a timer appears at the top of the page in Casemaker. Click it to start tracking your time. When you’re done, click the arrow button to upload the time to CosmoLex. You can add billing codes and a description if you want, and then the time is added to CosmoLex.

As time goes by, additional functionality will be added, CosmoLex CEO Rick Kabra told me last week.

This is the first of what will be further integrations with third-party products, Kabra said. Having completed its goal of combining practice management, billing and accounting in one platform, the company decided that, “from a strategic perspective, it was time to form some alliances.”

Casemaker currently has partnerships with 20 bar associations and 250,000 users.

At least two other practice management applications integrate with legal research services. Clio and Fastcase have had an integration since September 2014, and Thomson Reuters Firm Central integrates with Westlaw.

Being released today is a new version 3.3 of cloud practice management platform CosmoLex. Key highlights of this new version are the ability to import bank and credit card statements and automation of the month-end reconciliation process.

I’ve not yet had a chance to view the new version, but information provided to me by CosmoLex says that the new features will include these highlights:

  • New customers who are initially migrating to CosmoLex will be able to import their historical financial data by simply importing their prior bank statements.
  • Users will be able to load their monthly bank and credit card statements into CosmoLex by the click of the button, reducing the manual recording of transactions.
  • CosmoLex will now automate the month-ending bank reconciliation process.

“While we have built our software with fully integrated legal accounting, the system has lacked the ability to interact with our customers’ banks,” Rick Kabra, CEO of CosmoLex, explained. “Version 3.3 was developed with this in mind and we have put a great deal of importance on our customers’ ability to easily import bank statements and close this gap in functionality.”

The update will be rolled out to all CosmoLex subscription customers.

Third-Party Integrations

Last week, CosmoLex announced that it had launched an integration platform for technology partners. The integration allows other vendors to integrate their products with CosmoLex to provide subscribers access to a broader variety of practice-management tools. The company says it plans to aggressively incorporate multiple partners into the platform.

“We envision this integration platform attracting technology partners across a number of different areas including payroll processing, document assembly, legal research, and even telephone system technologies,” said Kabra. “While we are considering a number of different technologies, we do intend on being selective and only accepting integration partners that provide the greatest value to our clients.”

It has not so far announced any specific third-party integrations.

To read more about CosmoLex, see my prior posts.

cosmolexcredit.png

As I’ve noted before, the practice-management platform CosmoLex has been on a development roll. It made its debut at ABA Techshow in 2014 as a cloud-based time, billing and trust accounting program for solos and small firms. (I reviewed it here.) Then, in December 2014, it added a suite of practice-management tools that included document storage and management, pre-defined workflows and case notes. At this year’s Techshow, it announced the addition of a complete law firm accounting system, including both general business and legal-specific accounting functions.

This week, it is announcing another new feature: integrated credit card payments and processing.

To provide this feature, CosmoLex is partnering with LawPay. CosmoLex subscribers will need a separate LawPay account. Other credit-card processors may be added in the future, CEO Rick Kabra told me earlier this week.

The advantage for CosmoLex users, Kabra said, is that credit card payments can now be integrated with both a firm’s billing and accounting systems, since CosmoLex includes both.

“Often, law firms have one system for billing and one for accounting,” he said. “So when it comes to credit card processing, it gets tricky.” When a credit card payment shows up in a firm’s bank account, many accounting systems would have no way of identifying it, he said.

With the integration of LawPay into CosmoLex, credit card payments can be made in either of two ways. Either the firm can enter the client’s card information itself or it can add a link to its invoices that lets the client enter the information directly through a Web page that is branded with the firm’s identity.

Either way, the payment is immediately reflected in the client’s accounts. It is properly credited as a trust account payment, a fee advance retainer or a payment against an invoice.

CosmolexAccounting

Since its debut at ABA Techshow last year, CosmoLex has been on a development roll. It started as a cloud-based time, billing and trust accounting program for solos and small firms. (I reviewed it here.) Then, in December, it added a suite of practice-management tools that included document storage and management, pre-defined workflows and case notes.

But CEO Rick Kabra still saw a major gap that none of the cloud-based practice management platforms – including his – had spanned. None offer a fully integrated law firm accounting system. At best, they provide linkages with third-party accounting programs, such as QuickBooks or Xero, that were designed for businesses, not lawyers.

For the past year, CosmoLex has been working to bridge that gap, Kabra told me in an interview last week. At the forthcoming ABA Techshow (April 16-18 in Chicago), the company will roll out a complete law firm accounting system as a fully integrated component of its practice management platform. The system will include both general business and legal-specific accounting functions.

With this upgrade, CosmoLex will offer, in a single platform:

  • Calendar and task management.
  • Business accounting.
  • Time and billing.Trust accounting.
  • Document management.

Kabra told me that the accounting system will be fully live and operational when it launches at Techshow. It will be made available to current customers at no additional cost and will be immediately included in new customers’ subscriptions.

Integrated System

Other platforms’ lack of an integrated accounting system creates several problems for law firms, Kabra contends. One is double data entry. Because there is no way for a firm’s practice management system to talk to its accounting system, the same data often has to be entered twice, once in each system.

Another problem is leakage of recoverable costs, he says. This is due to spending that shows up in a firm’s accounting system but not in its billing system, as well as to differences in cost accounting between businesses and law firms.

A third issue this new accounting system will address is allocation of revenue, Kabra says. The system will break down client payments and automatically allocate them to fees or costs. It will also allow firms to track income by practice areas.

According to Kabra, the accounting features in CosmoLex will include:

  • Complete business accounting.
  • Complete legal-specific general ledger.
  • Register view for key accounts.
  • Complete trust accounting.
  • Check printing.
  • Journal entries.
  • Deposit-slip preparation.
  • Bank reconciliations.
  • Accounting for fee advances or client funds in trust or business accounts.
  • Accounting for client-reimbursable costs or advanced client costs.
  • Contemporaneous posting of direct and indirect matter costs for future billing.
  • Automatic allocation of revenue receipts by cost and fee income.
  • Ability to track income by practice area.
  • Ability to enter and reconcile credit card statements and to post credit card charges as matter expenses.
  • Basic financial reports such as P&L statements and balance sheets.

During my interview with Kabra, he gave me a preview demonstration of some of the accounting systems features and functionality.

Kabra showed the example of a lawyer writing a $100 check to cover court costs in a matter. When CosmoLex is used to create the check, the payment of the court costs gets posted directly to the client’s matter, while it is simultaneously coded as “reimbursable client costs” and added to the accounting system. The payment is entered only once, cutting down on both effort and errors, Kabra says.

Another example Kabra showed me is allocation of payments. When a payment comes in on an invoice, the system already knows what portion of that payment is for fees and what portion is for expenses and it makes that allocation. If less than full payment comes in, the system allocates it first to reimbursable costs.

As noted above, the system will allow firms to track fees by practice areas. This is done through custom settings in the accounting system. When a fee comes in, the income can be allocated to the firm’s family law account, for example.

Later this year, CosmoLex will add integration with banks and automatic reconciliation.

“We put a lot of research into this,” Kabra says. “We have been working with lawyers and accountants to get it right. We will give our users something they can use right out of the box.”

CosmoLexBanner

Since its launch earlier this year as a cloud-based billing and trust accounting platform, CosmoLex has steadily added new features and capabilities, gradually moving towards becoming a full-fledged law practice management platform. That progress continued today with the roll-out of three new features: document storage and management, pre-defined workflows and case notes.

I first saw CosmoLex at ABA Techshow last March, when I included it in my list of the show’s top 10 product announcements. I reviewed it in more detail in July, when it was still only for billing and trust accounting. At the time, CosmoLex CEO Rick Kabra told me of his plans to build out CosmoLex with a full array of practice-management features such as contact management, matter management and calendaring. “Our goal is to become the leading cloud provider for solo and small firms,” Kabra said then.

True to this promise, CosmoLex in September introduced its version 2.0 with a full suite of practice management functions, including calendaring, task management and docket control, in addition to the billing and accounting features it already had, and integrated with its existing matter-management and contact-management functions. At the time, it also added Google Calendar synchronization.

CosmoLexFolders
Contents of folders in Dropbox can be viewed in CosmoLex.

In today’s release, version 2.3, CosmoLex is adding document storage and management. This is actually an integration with Dropbox, which is where the documents are stored. When you authorize the integration, CosmoLex automatically creates a duplicate folder structure for all your matters in both Dropbox and within CosmoLex.

From within CosmoLex, you can view these folders and the names of the documents they contain. also from within CosmoLex, you can upload and download documents, with the documents actually going to and coming from Dropbox. Likewise, if you add documents to a matter folder in Dropbox, they appear within the same folder in CosmoLex.

Kabra told me that he will soon add integrations with Box, Google Drive and NetDocuments. His team is also developing  a viewer to view documents from directly within CosmoLex.

Also launched today were:

  • Pre-defined workflows. This enables users to create default lists of tasks for various types of matters. If you handle divorces, for example, you can create a default task list of standard tasks for that type of case. Then, when you open a new divorce matter, use it to populate your calendar.
  • Case notes. These are free-form note fields attached to each matter within CosmoLex where you can log notes of conversations or anything else pertinent to the matter.

Among other features added since my July review are:

  • An enhanced address book that added the ability to manage non-client contacts within the application in addition to client contacts.
  • Conflict checking for clients or entities.
  • User-level access controls, allowing an administrator to set levels of access and security for different users. Users can be limited to specific sections or given view-only access to specific sections. Users can also be restricted to a specific set of matter owners and timekeepers.

The price remains as it was when I reviewed the site in July; $43 per login per month if paid annually or $50 if paid monthly. CosmoLex offers a free 30-day trial with no credit card required, if you want to go in and kick the tires.

Earlier this year, I included the cloud-based billing and trust accounting platform CosmoLex on my list of the Top 10 Product Announcements at ABA Techshow. “This is a comprehensive time and billing system with everything you expect in such a system,” I wrote then. Well, CosmoLex is about to get even more comprehensive, adding in practice-management features such as contact management, matter management and calendaring.

Cosmolexlogo2Those additions will be coming within the next three to four months, CosmoLex CEO Rick Kabra told me during a recent interview. “Our goal is to become the leading cloud provider for solo and small firms,” he said, adding that even more product enhancements are in development.

As it is now, CosmoLex is a full-featured, cloud-based time and billing program for solo and small law firms. It claims to be the only cloud-based legal time and billing software with fully integrated trust accounting. As far as I can determine, that claim is true. Other cloud practice management programs say they offer some form of trust accounting, but that is often nothing more than tracking trust balances. None that I am aware of offer full accounting without also requiring use of a third-party accounting program such as QuickBooks. Continue Reading A Review of CosmoLex Time and Billing (Plus Exclusive News about New Features)

ClioCoFounders
Clio founders Rian Gauvreau and Jack Newton.

I am just back from ABA Techshow in Chicago. It was well worth the trip, with great programming, a teeming exhibit hall, and abundant opportunities for networking and socializing. The one question I was most often asked there (and that I most often asked others) was, “What have you seen that is new and interesting?” Here are my top 10 picks.

1. Clio: A $20 million investment. Strictly speaking, this was old news, in that it was actually announced a few days before Techshow. Even so, it seemed to be the talk of the show. After all, it’s not every day you see a $20 million investment in a legal company – let alone a legal-industry start-up (if it can still be called that after six years) in the still nascent field of cloud-based practice management. What does this mean for Clio? What does this mean for other practice-management vendors? And what does this say about how hot or not the legal industry is in general? Clio’s new-found capital had people at Techshow asking those questions and many others. Continue Reading Top 10 Product Announcements at ABA Techshow