Law Firm Finances Simplified: Selecting legal billing software
If getting paid for the legal work you perform is important, then you already know why legal billing software is an indispensable tool. However, now that generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT have burst upon the software scene, legal billing systems can seem mundane since they are practical and reliable rather than an exciting new category of software. Yet the importance of this software has not diminished and remains a key element of the infrastructure that supports modern profitable law firms.
These platforms do more than streamline the billing process. They also promote accountability and ensure compliance with ethical standards, all while improving your firm’s financial management. But with so many options available, choosing the right tool for your firm’s needs requires thoughtful and strategic implementation.
Choosing legal billing software
The last time I wrote about this category of software was in July 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic. Since then, a lot has changed. New products have been introduced, while other legal billing tools have expanded their platforms and now fall under the law practice management category. If you require robust software that is designed to manage a legal case from start to finish, including client intake, lead management, calendaring and secure communication along with document, matter and financial management, then you need law practice management software with legal billing included.
If, however, you’re seeking software that will streamline your law firm’s billing, invoicing and financial management while also possibly including time-tracking and online payment processing features, then you’re in the market for stand-alone legal billing software. Below, I’ll provide an overview of this category of software, key factors to consider when purchasing it and an overview of the main products available in the market.
But before we dive in, it’s essential to understand that the tools listed below are cloud-based. Whenever you entrust your law firm’s data to a third party, as you do with cloud computing, you have an ethical obligation to thoroughly vet the technology provider that will be hosting and storing your law firm’s confidential client data. This duty includes obtaining information as to how the data will be handled by that company, where the servers on which the data will be stored are located, who will have access to the data, and how often and when it will be backed up, among other things.
Keep in mind that legal billing software tools, whether stand-alone or integrated into law practice management software, are not all the same. Some are very basic and primarily assist with invoicing, while others include features like time-tracking, accounting, online payments, financial analytics and more.
For that reason, before you begin your research, you must have a thorough understanding of your firm’s goals and needs. There’s no point in paying for more functionality than your firm requires. Only after you’ve made those assessments should you begin to consider your options.
When reviewing the tools available, make sure that you fully comprehend the feature set, the cost structure and whether software integrations are available. For example, would you be able to easily edit the invoices as needed? Could you customize them to include your firm’s logo? If your clients require them, are built-in LEDES billing codes available? Is trust account reconciliation included? What types of financial reports could you run?
Once you have determined your firm’s needs and your price point, it’s time to take a look at the software programs on the market—and don’t forget to take advantage of any free trials that are offered! Below, you’ll find a roundup of some of the more popular legal billing software tools to consider.
Legal billing software options
There are many stand-alone cloud-based billing software programs to choose from. However, lawyers’ needs are very specific, especially when it comes to trust accounting. For that reason, I will only highlight legal billing software designed for the unique needs of law firms.
First, there’s LeanLaw. This legal billing program is built on top of QuickBooks Online and includes trust accounting and online payments. The cost has increased since I wrote about it in 2020. LeanLaw Core, which is for firms with one to four users, starts at $40/user/month when billed annually and includes access only to essential legal billing features. LeanLaw Pro is for firms of all sizes. Pricing starts at $55/user/month when billed annually and provides access to additional features such as LEDES billing, custom fields and matter-based accounting.
LawPay Pro is the newest entrant in the space. Its price includes access to online payment processing from LawPay, customizable invoices and trust ledger reporting. The cost is $19/user/month for an annual subscription. (Note I am employed by AffiniPay, the parent company of LawPay Pro).
Next, there’s Time59, which is designed for solo practitioners. The cost is $199/year for unlimited users and data. LEDES invoicing and trust accounting are available, as is the ability to accept online payments.
TimeSolvis another option, and the company now provides two software products to choose from, TimeSolv Legal and TimeSolv Pro. Both offer pricing that decreases as the number of users increases. According to the website, TimeSolv Pro costs less, starting at $29.95/month/user for one to nine users (for groups of 25 or more users, there’s an annual plan that costs $21.80 per user). TimeSolv Legal, meanwhile, starts at $43.95/month/user for one to nine users (for groups of 15 or more users, there’s an annual plan that costs $37.95 per user). TimeSolv Legal includes more features than TimeSolv Pro, including conflict management, trust accounting for multiple trust accounts, LEDES billing codes, and ABA task and activity codes.
When researching legal billing software, there are many options available that are designed to meet the varied needs and budgets of law firms. From online invoicing to financial reporting, these tools offer more than just convenience—they are a strategic investment in your firm’s future success. Aligning your firm’s goals with software features that meet your firm’s specific requirements will ensure you not only optimize billing processes but ultimately also increase efficiency. This will allow you to provide the best client service possible with the end result being increased profitability and growth.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based attorney, author and journalist, and she is senior director of subject matter expertise and external education at MyCase, a company that offers legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com and Above the Law; has authored hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on X (formery Twitter) @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.