Monday, July 13, 2015

How the @SupportPayApp Works with Child Support Systems to Help Manage Shared Expenses

After a separation or divorce, parents who live apart may have a child support order or agreement - yet are left to figure out how to manage the process on their own, inevitably leading to conflict and tension. SupportPay (www.supportpay.com), a desktop/mobile app is the first platform to address this need, by helping to standardize the billing and payment process for child support as well as other shared expenses – such as medical, child care, education, and extracurricular activities – that aren’t usually addressed by court orders or state-run payment platforms. SupportPay is private, secure, and fully transparent – making the process of managing & paying child support and sharing other child-related expenses simple and less stressful. 

 

SupportPay allows a parent to manage the monthly child support payment, as well as easily submit additional expenses and attache receipts. The other parent can quickly review the item, see immediately that the expense is for their child, and make or schedule a payment directly through the platform. SupportPay does all of the calculations, tracking and reminders for parents, so they don’t have to worry or fight about it. The platform stores the complete child support information, and provides a certified record for court or tax purposes. As a result, paying parents can easily see the money is going to their children, while receiving parents clearly demonstrate exactly what it costs to raise them. In fact, SupportPay is so effective in the child support process that parents are 90 percent more likely to pay or receive child support than without the system, according to founder Sheri Atwood.

 

By Guest Blogger: Supportpay

At Legaltech West Coast, Sample Catalyst's 'Secret Sauce'

McDonalds has its secret sauce. Coke has its secret recipe. And Catalyst has Contextual Diversity Sampling—the "secret sauce" that sets apart its Technology Assisted Review engine, Insight Predict, from any other in the market. At Legaltech West Coast July 13 and 14, attendees will be able to see it in action, with ongoing demonstrations at the Catalyst booth. 

By Guest Blogger: Catalyst Repository Systems, Inc.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Researching new software options can be a daunting task. Learn where to start!

Buying Software? Start By Evaluating Service!

 

You can practically hear your office hum with productivity when everyone is working – diligently plugging away. You strive to hear that sound every day, but little interruptions can stop productivity in its tracks. That’s one of the things that keeps firms from buying or updating their software. Anytime you start using new software, update to a new version, or even start to use new features in a program, you’ll have questions you want to ask an expert. Not to mention the panic you would feel if your computer or network crashes and you need to get everything back to the way it was. At that moment, having an expert on your team, ready to tackle the problem, is priceless.

You want your concerns understood and a solution presented to you within a reasonable amount of time. You don’t want to wait for an email response, wait on hold for 30 minutes before talking to someone, or end a conversation feeling you haven’t been helped. When evaluating practice management software, customer service is often the last thing on your mind, because you don’t need it right now. But when you have questions, you want to be sure that you can count on your software’s customer service.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before you buy.

  1. Who in my office will use the software the most?

    While managing partners are typically the ones who finalize the purchasing decision, they typically are not the ones who use the software most often. In order to purchase the best software solution for your firm, talk to those who will be your most frequent users – paralegals, support staff, billing managers, and practice administrators. They will be in the software every day, so discuss what they need, and make sure they know what resources are available and how to access them.

  2. Is support or training included?

    It is easy to assume that when you purchase software, support and training will automatically be included in that cost. However, this is not the case for all software. Know the resource options available. Can you call in for free, at least for several months, to ask questions on using the software even if there is nothing wrong? Are there manuals, online help articles, training videos, and webinars? More importantly, are they thorough, easy to understand, helpful resources, or are they a waste of your time?

  3. What is their reputation for service?

    If you want to find non-biased opinions on legal software, speak to your local Bar Association for their opinions on various software options. You can also check out legal technology blogs, review sites, and newsletters, such as TechnoLawyer, Capterra, and Legaltech News. If you still want more input on the reputation of a certain software provider, ask other law firms and see what software they’re using and how they would rate the software’s customer support. Going to one of these three different resources will provide you with valuable information to make an informed decision.

     

    This content is an abridged version of Buying Software? Start By Evaluating Service! by Tabs3 Software. To download the original white paper, visit Tabs3.com/LTStart.

By Guest Blogger: Tabs3 Software

You could be leaving hard-earned money on the table by committing this one billing mistake!

The #1 Billing Mistake Attorneys Make

 

As an attorney, you meet with clients, deliver the work as promised, and, eventually, you send out a bill. We understand that dealing with bills is not why you became an attorney, but in order to get paid and continue to practice law, you sometimes need to focus on billing just as much as practicing your passion.

The number one billing mistake attorneys make is tardy invoicing. Sending invoices to clients in an ad hoc fashion creates a cycle of problems. Here are just a few of the major pain points that late invoicing creates and how to fix them by creating a timely billing policy.

Brings up unnecessary questions

Don’t put yourself in a position where your clients forget what you were able to accomplish. Something that was clear to your client, like extra fees, might easily have been forgotten. You may often find yourself re-explaining a fee, or worse, offering a discount because the client wants to argue about why something was done. Sending an invoice right when they agree to your fee, or immediately after you resolve an issue, aligns their thought process with your payment.

Leaves money on the table

As we just mentioned, memory plays a factor in billing – for your client and for you. Do you remember every phone call, email, extra half hour at the courthouse, or late nights at the office?

Even the most seasoned professional cannot remember everything. The longer you wait to enter your time and send out invoices, the more likely details will get lost in the process…and by details, we mean money. A lack of timely billing practices leaves money on the table. So unless you can afford pro bono work to your billable clients, don’t let your well-earned money slip through the cracks.

Suggests that late payments are okay

Clients need you start working on their case or project right away, don’t they? Being late with your bill implies you are not concerned with when you get paid, or even worse, makes you look unorganized, which in turn could make the client less likely to refer you to other potential clients.

Creates more work for later

It may seem like you’re saving time by waiting until the end of the week or month to enter your time, but in reality, you’re actually creating more work. Time spent racking your brain trying to remember who and what to bill, combined with chasing clients for money, adds up. These end up being hours that you, unfortunately, cannot bill for.

This content is an abridged version of The #1 Billing Mistake Attorneys Makeby Tabs3 Software. To download the original white paper and learn how to create a proactive billing policy, visit Tabs3.com/LTBM.

By Guest Blogger: Tabs3 Software

We compiled our top six areas you should be monitoring each month.

Top Six Reports We Recommend to Every Attorney

 

It’s a common scenario: You start the year optimistic, determined to take your billing productivity and practice to the next level. But with the year almost half over, how have you done? Maybe you started out great, but you didn’t quite know what information would help. If this sounds familiar, then our monthly report “6-pack” is what you need. Reports give concrete data for decisions. While qualitative data, or thinking with your heart, is helpful in some circumstances, quantitative data, or thinking with your head, often leads you to the best decisions. By evaluating your monthly performance, over time you can use it as a means to consistently improve your firm’s productivity and profitability.

Remember: even the most seasoned attorney is able to find areas to improve or adjust.

To help you start evaluating your firm’s performance, we compiled our top six areas you should be monitoring each month:

  1. Billable VS. Non-Billable Activity

    You need to know how much of your work is billable and how much is not. The ratio of billable to non-billable time can determine how productive you have been during the past month. Use this ratio to improve the next month and focus on how you can limit non-billable activity. When comparing month to month, and year-to-date, you can see how you’ve improved over the course of the year and where you could still make improvements. Evaluating your billable and non-billable time allows you to assess your overall productivity for the month.

  2. How much your clients owe you

    A law firm cannot be profitable if it doesn’t get paid. That is why it is important to monitor how much is due from every client each month. Imagine if you only checked in on your accounts receivable on a quarterly basis and you realized you have not collected on an invoice that was due three months ago. Because so much time has passed since you last checked in with your client, the uncomfortable conversation that you could have had a month ago is even more uncomfortable now. Chances are, your client won’t remember details of your bill or what a fantastic job you did. By checking on your accounts receivable monthly, you can talk to clients sooner, and avoid walking clients through the details of your efforts months later.

  3. Time spent for flat fee services

    If you work with flat fees, then you should still be monitoring your time to ensure that your fee covers the time you are spending. Let’s say you charge a flat fee of $1,000 for a standard will, but by tracking your time you determine that you are actually spending an average of $1,200 of billable time. Evaluating your billable time can help you make smart changes such as rate adjustments for flat fees.

     

    This content is an abridged version of Top Six Reports We Recommend to Every Attorney by Tabs3 Software. To download the original white paper and learn about all six reports, visit Tabs3.com/LTSix.

By Guest Blogger: Tabs3 Software

We are celebrating 35 years of providing reliable billing and practice management software.

 35 Tips for 35 Years of Service

We are celebrating 35 years of providing reliable billing and practice management software by bringing you 35 practical tips for attorneys! To view the entire list, visit Tabs3.com/LT35.

  1. Enter Your Time

    Successful firms track each hour because it reveals which matters, clients, and areas of practice are the most profitable.

  2. Make paying easy

    If you want to get paid right away, it helps to give your clients some payment options. Law firms that accept payments via credit card reduce write offs and are more likely to get paid right away.

  3. Keep an eye on your firm’s productivity

    Know the difference between hours worked and hours billed. Hundreds of hours can be spent on a matter, but your bottom line will never improve if that time is never billed.

  4. Bill predictably

    Your billing cycle should be predictable so your clients are prepared to pay for your services.

  5. Protect your data

    Have a regular backup procedure in place for electronic data, and know whether or not the backup was successful.

  6. Manage your email

    Create different folders for various categories, and create rules to automatically filter those emails to their appropriate folder.

  7. Plan for interruptions

    Plan for you and your clients to meet crucial deadlines days in advance so unavoidable interruptions do not devastate a matter’s progress.

  8. Email statements to clients who request them

    If a client tells you that paper statements just get lost in a junk pile, believe them.

  9. Schedule your resources

    Create separate users in your firm-wide calendar for office resources (projectors, laptops, etc.), so you can schedule them for meetings.

  10. Invest in training

    Find a trainer who understands your specific needs so you don’t waste billable time. 

  11. Use what you pay for

    If you purchase software that includes free technical support, use it! Don’t waste an hour of billable time trying to figure out something that technical support could answer in less than a minute.

  12. Automate frequently used documents

    Use automated document assembly for your frequently used documents. Set up a template, and let your practice management software fill in the blanks.

  13. Make time for billing

    If you take the time to keep on top of your billing, you’ll soon find out that you will get paid faster.

  14. Get to know your local practice management advisor

    Most state bar organizations employ practice management advisors who are there to help you succeed! Keep in touch with them and learn from them.

  15. Manage your documents

    Use document management software that automatically names and stores documents in the right place, and makes them easy to find.

  16. Integrate and automate

    You will save data entry hassle and your work life will be happier if your software communicates with each other.

  17. Make sure your office technology is up to date

    When it comes to office software, make sure you’re always using the most recent version so you get the most benefit from the latest innovations.

  18. Keep a short list of good lunch venues

    Know 3-5 venues in your town that provide the right atmosphere for client and networking meetings. Get to know their owners and keep their contact information in your practice management software.

  19. Keep an eye out for great blogs

    Many attorneys blog about their solutions to inconveniences you deal with every day. Subscribe to daily or weekly updates to stay informed.

  20. Use law firm specific trust accounting software

           Over-the-counter software is not always designed to handle the rules of tracking client trust accounts. Don’t risk a suspension by using cheap work-arounds.

By Guest Blogger: Tabs3 Software

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The GPS for every legal matter - Catch us at CodeX Lightning Round & Booth 512

The GPS for every legal matter

Every legal matter is like a journey - it has a beginning, middle and end.  What if every lawyer had a co-pilot to help plan and navigate their legal journeys? A co-pilot that could automatically map out matter specific budgets, timelines and risk?

 " This [would] bring a level of discipline into in-house legal budgeting that hasn't existed before, making GC budget proposals credible and improving relations between in-house legal departments and senior management."                                                                                                                                                                                      Former GC Corporate,                                                                                                                                                           Salesforce.com

Along the legal journey wouldn't it be great if all teams, inside and outside, had up-to-date status on the matter? What if the team could be alerted when tasks take longer than expected, deadlines are missed or costs run over budget? Or if everyone had the same data and tool to analyze the impact of a change in scope and make more informed decisions about altering the plan?  Than the matter would be easier for everyone to manage. The teams could avoid painful budget overruns and arguments. All would be equipped with the tools needed to make adjustments on the fly to keep in alignment with business objectives.

One of the biggest problems facing corporate counsel and law firms today is estimating what a specific matter should cost based on client objectives.  Unfortunately many legal matters routinely run over budget. It's estimated that budget overruns add up to $40 billion a year worldwide.   

We've all witnessed how easily a matter can veer off course. Early in the matter the client has an understanding of the risks, desired outcomes and business objectives. The lead corporate counsel discusses these with the partner in the law firm. The partner communicates to a senior associate who then assembles and informs the team at the firm. Depending upon the size and scope of the matter, multiple firms may get involved. As more time and staff contribute to the matter, it's more difficult keep everyone in alignment with business objectives and to track task plans and budget.

External factors and miscommunications easily lead to matter scope changes that do not get accurately analyzed. The in-house lawyer doesn't have the time or the tools, and often isn't fully informed of the changes in scope until it's too late. No one has time to run what-if scenarios and analyze the impact to risk, cost, timeline.  Tasks and costs quickly get out of alignment with business objectives.

Take for example a patent infringement matter. The client may have a number of potential outcomes and goals. If the plaintiff is a competitor or patent troll the corporation may have a settlement limit in mind, or desire to pursue cross licensing. If the patent impacts a product line within a division of a larger company, the GM of the division may want to settle quickly to avoid distracting the operating team. If the suit is attacking the core IP of the company, the CEO may want to send a message to the marketplace to back off, but avoid a lengthy suit that impacts sales and brand.

In theory the business objectives will drive the size and scope of the matter plan, budget, timeline and resources required. The firm will identify multiple lawyers to support the case. More than one firm may be required. The corporate lawyer supporting the business on this matter has little visibility or time to dig into the details of who does what.

If the business objectives of the client are to stand their ground and send a message to the market, the matter will have a larger budget and more risk than if the objectives are to settle quickly and avoid distraction. But how much more should it cost? How many lawyers and what level of expertise are appropriate, for how many weeks or months or years?

At Align one of our key goals is to make it easier for in-house lawyers to negotiate costs with law firms and keep everyone on the same page. To make it easier to negotiate lawyers need better matter specific estimates such as budget, timeline and risk. We crowdsource legal experts with 20+ years of experience in a practice area or type of commercial transaction to build the models that underpin Align. The models estimate matter metrics based on business objectives, scope and other client driven factors.

A GPS uses transportation models built by experts combined with real-time data to estimate journeys. Align uses matter models built by legal experts combined with real-time data and business objectives to estimate matter specific metrics. Like a GPS Align will continuously update the timeline, flag issues and show the impact of taking alternative routes and side trips (think expanded matter scope and deposing additional witnesses).

One of the things I love about Align is that the user never types in tedious data. The product displays options, the user selects options and the model builds out the details. The lawyer gets matter specific estimates based upon business objectives and other factors such as jurisdiction.

Sound to good to be true? Please visit us and we'll show you Align. We are located in the CodeX Start-up Showcase (512) in front of the Grand Ballroom. email align@alignmatters.com or text 415.317.1537.

 

By Guest Blogger: Deborah Baron, Align Matters