Leave it to me to cover something on the afternoon of the last day of early-bird registration. So register fast if you’re interested.

This summer, July 18-20, in the bucolic Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, the practice management company Rocket Matter is hosting its first Legal Wellness Retreat, which they are describing as “two full beautiful days of goodness for the mind and body,” combined with eight hours of CLE and a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, yoga and ropes courses.

(My advice: Combine it with an evening at Tanglewood, where you can catch some Bach or Mozart.)

Each morning of the conference will start off with optional yoga and 12-step programs. Then, each day will cover four hours of wellness programming, including:

  • Secrets to a Successful and Happy Legal Career.
  • Better Lawyering Through Mindfulness.
  • How Time and Stress Management Can Ease the “Weight of the Law.”
  • Transforming Personal Adversity into Professional Assets

After lunch, attendees will have their choice of an afternoon activity, including hiking the Appalachian Trail, yoga, canoeing on the Housatonic River, or a ropes course. At night, participants can enjoy the cuisine and culture of the Berkshires.

Speakers include Brian Cuban, author of the book, The Addicted Lawyer, Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption; Jeena Cho, co-author of the book, The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation; and Heidi S. Alexander, deputy director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers in Boston and director of the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP).

If you register by the end of today, early-bird tickets are $1,000. Starting tomorrow, they go up to $1,200. Beginning June 1, they will cost $1,500.

Tali – the voice-driven time-entry application – now integrates with the Rocket Matter practice management platform, the two companies announced.

Tali enables lawyers to record their time using voice commands via the Amazon Echo or any Alexa-enabled device. With this integration, Rocket Matter subscribers will be able to use Tali to record their time by voice.

They will then be able to use Rocket Matter’s billing features to automatically generate invoices and payment links.

Using Tali, a lawyer can simply say, “Alexa, tell Tali I spend 12 minutes on a client phone call for Jones,” and the time will be recorded to the appropriate client matter.

Tali already integrates with Clio’s practice management platform.

Tali currently works via Amazon Alexa, but soon will also work with Microsoft Cortana and Google Assistant.

Tali Selected for SXSW

Tali also announced this week that it has been selected as an alternate in the Enterprise and Smart Data Technologies category for the 10th annual SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event.

The event is considered the marquee event of the Startup & Tech Sectors Track of the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals, which takes place March 9-18, 2018, in Austin.

Tali is one of 80 finalists and alternates slected from among more than 500 companies that applied to present at the SXSW Accelerator.

The two-day event is held the first weekend of SXSW, March 10 and 11. Winning startups from each category will be honored during a Sunday night awards ceremony.

Read more:

[Clarification: Although this post described LexCharge as having “spun off” from Rocket Matter, I did not mean to suggest that the company was formed within Rocket Matter and then sold off in some way. Rocket Matter’s CEO Larry Port and LexCharge’s CEO Jeff Shavitz together conceived of the company and it has been a fully separate corporation from the start, with different management and ownership structures. I regret any confusion my wording may have caused. I have changed the original headline, “Rocket Matter Spins Off Its Own Payment Processing Company for Credit Cards,” to the one you now see, and also clarified the text below.]

Accepting credit card payments is becoming increasingly common among solo and small-firm lawyers. Contributing to this trend are credit card processing companies that specialize in handling payments for lawyers and therefore in understanding the ethical and bar requirements for processing payments.

The most prominent of these companies is LawPay, which boasts on its website that 46 state bars and 50 local bars exclusively approve it as the payment processing solution for their members. LawPay also has integration partnerships with a number of the leading law practice management platforms. Other payment processors serving law firms include Lex/Actum and LawCharge.

Now, one practice management company is taking a different route. Larry Port, CEO of Rocket Matter, has helped launch a new payment processing company for law firms, called LexCharge. LexCharge is an entirely separate company from Rocket Matter, with its own CEO, Jeff Shavitz. Port was instrumental in forming LexCharge and he has an untitled position as part of the LexCharge management team.

LexCharge will be fully integrated with Rocket Matter Payments, Rocket Matter’s feature that automates collection of fees by credit card and e-check. Rocket Matter users will have to have a separate LexCharge account in order to accept payments through LexCharge.

But lawyers need not be Rocket Matter customers to use LexCharge. They can set up accounts and accept payments directly through LexCharge. In addition, LexCharge hopes to integrate with other partners, including other practice management platforms, and says it will offer them a more competitive revenue sharing arrangement than its competitors.

Shavitz is a veteran of the credit card processing industry. In 2002, he cofounded a national credit card processing company, Charge Card Systems, which he sold in 2012 to Card Connect, owned by private equity firm FTV Capital. He stayed with Card Connect for another two years as a consultant. He has also written a number of business books, one of which, Size Doesn’t Matter — Why Small Business is Big Business, was at one point the top-ranked book on Amazon in the business and entrepreneurship categories.

In a recent interview, Shavitz said that the biggest advantage LexCharge offers lawyers over its competitors is better pricing.

“There are a lot of hidden fees and bullshit fees in our industry,” Shavitz said. “It’s like trying to read a telephone bill. What we’ve been doing for all our clients is a simple cost comparison. We can show you’re paying X dollars in fees with their company and we’ll save you 20 percent.”

That 20 percent is just an example. In fact, LexCharge does not state its fees on its website. This is in contrast to LawPay, which offers three plans, each with its own subscription and fee schedule. (You can see these fees on LawPay by clicking the New Account button on the homepage.)

Shavitz prefers to work individually with each firm to customize a plan. That is how he saves them money on processing and transaction fees, he said.

“If you take a B2B transaction, there are ways to lower the rate from 3 percent to 2 percent by getting certain information,” Shavitz explained. “What we care about is what’s their effective rate. They might say your rate is 1.5 percent, but the effective rate is 3.5 percent. We focus on the effective rate.”

(Shavitz wrote about all this in an article on Law Technology Today, The Hidden Fees of Credit Card Processing.)

Another advantage his company offers, Shavitz said, is faster funding. The company says it will have the funds in your account within 12 hours of a payment.

“Some providers won’t deposit the funds for 2-3 days,” he said. “We guarantee that if the payment is settled by 6 p.m. Eastern time, we’ll have the money in your account by the next morning.”

As for why Rocket Matter decided to spin off its own processing company rather than continue working with existing ones, Shavitz said it was driven in part by concern that some of the processing companies did not fully understand the nuances of the rules governing lawyers’ trust accounts. There was also concern that other companies were not paying a fair share of revenue back to their integration partners.

Both Rocket Matter’s Larry Port and Shavitz thought they could build a company that would have expertise in handling lawyers’ accounts, that would offer customers better rates, and that would offer integration partners better revenue share.

But Shavitz, who also works as a coach to small businesses and entrepreneurs, said that the part of the business he likes best is helping lawyers grow their law practices.

“This is all about how to grow a law practice,” Shavitz said. “For me, the exciting part is helping law firms save on expenses and grow their revenue.”

The practice management platform Rocket Matter is releasing a variety of new features and tools today in an update that founder and CEO Larry Port calls the product’s second-biggest in its nine-year history, after only its 2016 top-to-bottom overhaul of its user interface.

Perhaps the most significant addition is a feature called Communicator, a tool that allows the members of a firm to securely message and collaborate among themselves within the Rocket Matter platform, in much the same way as they might use an external collaboration tool such as Slack or HipChat. Conversations within Communicator can be associated with a matter, so that the full discussion stream pertaining to a matter can be viewed within the matter.

Also today, Rocket Matter is introducing a completely redesigned mobile application for iOS and Android devices. This new version of the app adds many of the capabilities of the full platform that Rocket Matter had left out of the earlier version of its app. The app also incorporates the new Communicator tool so that users can engage in discussions directly from a mobile device.

Another new feature today is integration with LawToolBox. Subscribers to LawToolBox, a court rules and deadline management system, will now be able to import case deadlines directly into Rocket Matter. Port told me that his developers worked hard to make this integration flexible and functional, so that if deadlines for a matter later change, they can easily be updated.

One final feature introduced today is enhanced e-check acceptance, so that users can now accept payments from clients via e-checks in addition to by credit cards. Although Rocket Matter already had an e-check acceptance option, Port tells me that this new version uses a different provider and works better than before.

The Communicator tool uses a set of shortcuts to make it easy to reference specific people within the firm, clients and matters. To reference a client, for example, type “c:clientname” and, as you type, it will suggest the client name and then associate that conversation with the client and later view the stream associated with that client.

Conversations can be among all members of a firm or only selected members and you can create channels for specific groups.

A bot within Communicator recognizes dates, so that anytime a date is mentioned in a conversation, it suggests adding the event to the calendar.

With regard to the mobile app, new features include:

  • A persistent menu across the bottom for adding time, expenses, and other new entries.
  • Faster log-in via touch ID or, on devices where touch is not available, via PIN.
  • Multiple ways to launch timers.
  • Persistent view of timer as you move within the app.
  • Global search.
  • Preview documents (but not edit them).
  • Add new documents from the device or using the device’s camera as a scanner.

These new features will be rolled out to customers beginning today, but the roll out will be phased to different segments of customers.

The cloud practice management platform Rocket Matter today is announcing a deep integration with Microsoft Office 365, enabling two-way Outlook calendar and contact synchronization and the ability to save emails and Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents directly into Rocket Matter.

Rocket Matter previously integrated with Outlook through an add-in, but this new integration is easier to set up, more robust in its functioning, and extends the integration to Office documents. In addition, while the add-in worked only in Windows, this new integration is cloud based and therefore works on PCs, Macs, Chromebooks and smartphones.

“This is probably our most helpful and exciting integration so far,” Larry Port, CEO of Rocket Matter, said in an announcement. “Microsoft has done an incredible job giving us the flexibility to work with their systems, and we took full advantage to make a great, easy experience for our users.”

Rocket Matter also announced three other new features today: the ability to add interest or discounts to client invoices. the ability to set convenience fees as an alternative to billing for expenses, and a more robust conflicts checker than was previously available.

Office 365 Integration

Yesterday, Port and Ed Case, Rocket Matter’s product manager, gave me a tour of the Office 365 integration, starting with the calendar and contact syncing. Enabling this synchronization is done through two toggle switches, one for calendar and one for contacts.

When a new event is added in Rocket Matter, it also appears in Outlook.

Once enabled, any changes you make to your calendar or contacts are synchronized. Synchronization is two way, so changes made in Rocket Matter appear in Outlook and changes made in Outlook appear in Rocket Matter. The changes appear instantaneously — there is no need to wait for the synchronization to occur. The integration allows you to to keep track of your calendar events from inside your matters. Also, calendar appointments can be sent automatically to your invoices for billing.

Save emails from Outlook to matters in Rocket Matter and add billing information.

The email integration allows you to upload your emails from Outlook on a Mac or PC directly into a matter. A side panel within Outlook lets you designate the matter, add billable time for the email and, if you choose, import your attachments as well. This works only for emails you are reading, not for emails you are drafting, so you cannot draft an email and automatically send it to Rocket Matter. Instead, you have to send it, then open the sent message and save it to Rocket Matter.

Upload a document to Rocket Matter from within Word.

The final aspect of the integration adds the ability to upload documents directly to Rocket Matter from within Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can also bill for the time you work on your files. Rocket Matter has also added full document versioning, so that any documents uploaded from Office are versioned.

Rocket Matter now tracks document versions.

Other New Features

As mentioned, Rocket Matter is also announcing three other new features today.

Create rules for applying interest.

Interest and discounts. Users can now set up rules within Rocket Matter for applying interest or discounts to client invoices. Port calls this a carrot-and-stick feature, in that discounts for prompt payment encourage clients to pay their bills in a timely way, while interest penalizes them for late payments. Users can create multiple rules. For interest, set the term and rate, and indicate whether to apply compound interest. For discounts, set the number of days the discount will be valid and the discount rate.

Use discounts to encourage prompt payments.

Convenience fee. Some firms choose not to track expenses and instead charge a convenience fee as a percentage of the total bill. The option added today lets firms set rules for applying convenience fees.

Rocket Matter now has more robust conflict checking.

Conflict checking. Although Rocket Matter previously had the ability to check for conflicts through searches, today’s rollout adds a more robust conflict-checking capability. It allows users to add multiple search terms and choose the areas within Rocket Matter to search or not search (contacts, matters, activities, etc.). Results show any conflicts found and the areas in which they were found. The search can be exported and saved as a record.

recurring-billing-step-2

The cloud-based law practice management platform Rocket Matter today is rolling out a major software update that adds recurring billing functionality, user interface enhancements and workflow improvements.

The recurring billing functionality can be used for two distinct billing scenarios. The first is if you have a client who pays you a flat amount each month, either perpetually for the life of the representation or for a set duration. This is most common among attorneys who use alternative fee arrangements.

The other scenario is to set up a payment plan for a client who owes an outstanding balance. This might be used, for example, where the client cannot afford to pay a large bill but can pay in installments.

In either scenario, Rocket Matter’s new feature lets you set up the payments once and be done. Each month thereafter, the invoice will be automatically sent to the client. Additionally, it can be set up to automatically charge the payment amount to the client’s credit card or checking account.

recurring-billing-step-active

 

When you use the feature to set up a payment plan, you have three options:

  • Set the number of payments and have the system calculate the monthly amount.
  • Set a specific monthly amount until the account is paid off.
  • Specify a larger amount for the first payment and then equal payments thereafter.

If you set up the automatic payment option, you can then specify where you want the funds to post — whether to your operating account or trust account — or you can choose automatic accounting, which will pay off the balance first in the operating account and they apply any excess to the trust account.

At any point, you can view a page that shows the payment plan status and payment history.

User Interface Improvements

Today’s release speeds Rocket Matter by eliminating as much as 80 percent of the page-load time. This has been accomplished by moving the platform to a new single-page architecture and by major database optimizations.

The single-page architecture means that Rocket Matter now loads a single HTML page and dynamically updates that page as the user performs various functions. This eliminates multiple page reloads that would slow down transitions from various functions, such as moving from a billing screen to a matter dashboard and then to a calendar.

In addition, the new design allows users to add and edit critical information such as timer entries, calendar events and tasks without transitioning away from the page they are on. Instead, a modal window opens up to add the information. When you finish, you are still on the page where you started.

Mix-and-Match Matter Templates

Another change today enhances workflows within a firm by enhancing the functionality of Matter Templates in Rocket Matter.

I wrote last March about Rocket Matter’s introduction of Matter Templates. These allow law firms to create templates that will automate the process of setting up new matters for specific practice areas. Firms will be able to customize the data fields to be filled out for different types of new matters and to set specific tasks and events.

Previously, that could be done only when creating a new matter. With today’s change, firms can apply templates to any matter at any time, and they can apply multiple templates to the same matter.

In addition, the templates now allow tasks to be assigned by roles as opposed to by names. Before today, when using a Matter Template, specific tasks would be assigned to specific individuals within the firm by name. Now, they can be assigned by role, such as Primary Attorney or Lead Paralegal. That makes task-based assignments much easier, particularly in larger firms.

Document Overhaul

Rocket Matter today rolled out three enhancements to its cloud-based practice management platform: document folders, role-based access and printable calendars.

The document folders function allows users to organize documents within the system using nested folders. Previously, Rocket Matter used only tags to organize documents. With folders, users can create their own hierarchical structure for organizing documents.

The change also makes it easier to upload documents into Rocket Matter, because users can now upload entire folders. Folders can be integrated with third-party document systems such as Dropbox, Evernote and Box.

permissions

Role-based access means that lawyers and firm administrators can now set different access levels for different users based on their roles within the firm. That enables firms to control the information users can access. For example, billing staff can have access to run pre-bills and batch billing but not access to administrative reports. Designating someone as “of counsel” gives them access to matter information but not billing information.

Printable Calendar

The printable calendars feature is an enhancement to Rocket Matter’s newly redesigned calendar that formats it for printing. The printable view shows all upcoming appointments organized in an agenda view.

gamification badges for onboarding
A gamification feature allows users to earn coins as they learn the system.

The cloud practice management platform Rocket Matter today is rolling out a series of updates designed to address requests from existing customers and to help new customers get up to speed on the system.

The new features being added today are:

  • A game for new users to incent them to learn the system’s basics.
  • The ability to set any number of custom tax rates and calculate taxes owed.
  • Multiple timers for tracking time on different work.
  • New dashboard and calendar customizations.

The gamification feature, as Rocket Matter is calling it, is designed to encourage new customers to learn the basics of using the system. Larry Port, Rocket Matter’s CEO, told me that the more quickly new customers learn how to use the system, the more likely they are to be successful in using it over the longer term to manage their practices.

The new feature prompts users to complete certain tasks, such as add their first matter or add billable time. Each prompt provides a brief tutorial that walks the user through the task. When the task is completed, the user earns a coin. The more tasks the user completes, the more coins the user earns.

So far, earning the coins is the only reward. They cannot be redeemed for anything. However, Port said that he plans eventually to add the ability to redeem the coins for account credits.

custom taxes configuration screen
Users can now set tax rates for multiple jurisdictions and apply them to invoices.

The new tax-rate feature allows law firms to define as many tax rates as they have jurisdictions. Rates can be applied to both fees and expenses or just one or the other. Once  a user adds a tax rate to a matter, the tax is automatically calculated when an invoice is prepared. Reports can be created to show how much tax is owed across all pending invoices and how much tax has been generated across all invoices. Customers who sync with QuickBooks Online will have the tax information included.

close up of multiple timers
Users can now have multiple timers open simultaneously.

Also new today, Rocket Matter users will now be able to open multiple timers for tracking time. This is useful when you have to stop work on one project to take a call or respond to an email. Users can have as many timers open as they like.

Dashboard with task-centric view and new Matter Quick Add feature.
Dashboard with task-centric view and new Matter Quick Add feature.

The final changes introduced today are a response to Rocket Matter’s recent roll-out of an all-new user interface. In that roll-out, according to Port, Rocket Matter changed its dashboard from one that was calendar-centric to one that was task-centric. Turned out, some users strongly preferred the calendar-centric view. Now, users can select the view they prefer. One puts more emphasis on tasks, the other on the calendar.

Dashboard with calendar-centric view and multiple timers.
Dashboard with calendar-centric view and multiple timers.

Also, users now have the option of expanding the calendar when it is in month view. In standard month view, some daily items are not shown. Users can now select to show all events in month view, which expands the calendar to show all daily events.

One last change enables users to enable a new Matter Quick Add widget for quickly adding a new matter when the user plans to go back later and add all the details.

The cloud-based practice management platform Rocket Matter today rolled out a complete, top-to-bottom redesign of its user interface — its first full redesign since it launched in 2008. The redesign also adds a new workflow tool that allows firms to create templates that automate the set up of new legal matters.

“This is our first major redesign,” Larry Port, Rocket Matter’s CEO and founder, told me last week. “We’ve made iterative changes, but never before have we blown it up and done a full sweep. This is based on listening to our customers and digesting their feedback.”

ATLAS UI - Big Green Button - Rocket Matter
The Add New button is now globally available throughout the platform.

As of today, new Rocket Matter subscribers will see only the new interface. Existing subscribers will be able to toggle back and forth between the new interface and the prior one. The ability to toggle will sunset after 45-60 days.

The new design gives Rocket Matter a modern look, with a cleaner layout, new colors and improved typography. It is engineered to take advantage of modern displays, displaying across their full width, whatever the width of the device may be, and displaying more vividly in retina displays.

The changes are not just cosmetic. The navigation bar has been moved to the far left and can be collapsed to increase screen real estate. A global “Add New” button has been added, so that whatever page a user is on, the user can add a new matter, contact, event, payment, time or expense, file or message. When a user adds a new contact, the add-contact form opens in a modal window within the same page, rather than requiring the user to go to a new page.

While the changes introduced today focus primarily on the user interface, there is also a notable new functionality added in the form of Matter Templates. Law firms can now create templates that will automate the process of setting up new matters for specific practice areas. Firms will be able to customize the data fields to be filled out for different types of new matters and to set specific tasks and events.

 

Once a matter template is set up, it can then be used for each new matter of that type. This is particularly useful for areas of practice that involve standard sets of tasks and events. By using the template, these tasks and events will automatically populate in the firm’s calendar and workflow. Tasks and events can be set to cascade from other events so that the completion of one task triggers the next.

Rocket Matter is one of the two originators of cloud-based practice management. When it launched the beta version of its product in 2008, it was the first cloud-based practice management platform to be released, followed just a week later by Clio.

RM_QB_1

At Legaltech today, the cloud-based practice-management application Rocket Matter announced two new features: integration with QuickBooks Online and a fully integrated payment-processing system called Rocket Matter Payments. Both announcements were described as representing the start of a year-long initiative to dramatically boost its users’ profitability.

The QuickBooks integration will allow Rocket Matter users to synchronize their time and billing data with QuickBooks Online. Rocket Matter already integrates with QuickBooks desktop, but Intuit is eliminating the API-based desktop synchronization effective March 1 as it shifts emphasis to its cloud product.

In order to proactively assist law firms with the transition to QuickBooks Online, Rocket Matter is introducing a robust, full-featured integration that continues in the company’s tradition of easy-to-use, visually appealing software.  Rocket Matter users will be able to tie together detailed information between the two systems, including invoices, expenses, trust account credits and debits, as well as sync all current clients with Rocket Matter.

For its current customers, Rocket Matter will continue to service the existing QuickBooks desktop integration until March 1.

RM_Payments_1

Rocket Matter Payments will enable users to collect payments for their invoices through the Rocket Matter platform. The company describes it as a fully integrated payment processing service that allows law firms to simplify and automate the process of sending invoices to their clients and collecting payments.

With the click of a mouse, Rocket Matter generates an invoice, sends it to a client via email, and includes a link to a payment page. Clients can pay their invoices quickly, easily, and securely, by credit card and directly through their bank. Any payment a client makes is automatically recorded in the Rocket Matter ledgers – and then seamlessly integrated with QuickBooks Online, if desired.

The payment processing will be handled through payment processing company TouchSuite.