By Cathleen Prichard, Law Firm Automation, Inc.
What to choose, what to choose! When it comes to purchasing a new back office/front office for your firm there are a lot of things to consider, a lot of choices to be made. I would like to present a few things to consider as you make those choices.
There are costs involved with implementing a new software – costs that range from the cost of the down-time for your office, cost of training, cost of conversion and finally the cost of the product itself. What you need to have is a good, tried and true product with great support. No one wants to pay exorbitant costs for training and support, but great product support is difficult to find, especially for a great product. Is there any type of long-term support/maintenance agreement available? What type of integration do you need? Do you want the billing program to be a complete back-office solution (billing and accounting combined)? Is your firm bookkeeper comfortable with the existing accounting solution and you only need new billing? How much activity does the firm have within the Trust account? Do you write very many checks from Trust? Is your Trust account managed in accordance with your state bar requirements?
Software Technology, Inc., the makers of the Tabs3 and PracticeMaster suite of products have been getting it right for many, many years – since 1979. Their integration for front office and back office functions all in the same product is unmatched. The integration between the accounting modules and the billing application of this suite of product can’t be beat, and when integrated with their PracticeMaster case management program you really can “touch it once” and be done. A client set up in Tabs3 is automatically set up in PracticeMaster; a name or an address change in either one is automatically reflected in the other. With the matching accounting package you have a completely integrated product. PracticeMaster even has some basic document management features incorporated into the software and integrates with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Internet Explorer, Adobe, Windows Explorer, Hot Docs and Word Perfect.
This complete package is not available from any other vendor targeting small to mid-size firms, other than LexisNexis (PC Law). Firms that had BillingMatters have been pushed into PC Law, since LexisNexis purchased TimeMatters/BillingMatters; this product did not include accounting. Abacus started to bring in billing and accounting into their offering, but the program has since been sold and maintenance/support costs have skyrocketed. There are many offerings for stand-alone billing software, and a lot of bookkeepers are pretty comfortable with QuickBooks. But QuickBooks is a checkbook software, and not an accounting solution; I have seen many people think that they know how to setup this software and make a complete mess out of things. I have also seen small firms that want to cut corners/save money and produce invoices from QB. While you might be able to generate an invoice you just don’t have the necessary features and functions in QB.
Of all the software vendors/applications the technical support from Tabs3 is by far the best I have seen. The software company is wholly owned by the founding owners; these owners have no plans at all to sell their product to one of the larger companies. The technical support department is well-trained, and the support in NOT OUTSOURCED! If you need to contact them please do so before 5:00 pm CST, as they are located in Lincoln, NE. Any firm that has repetitive issues, or where the technical support department feels that there is a great need the firms are often referred back to their original reseller, or if that person is not available the reseller with the best skillset is notified – whoever covers the geographic area of the firm.
There is a network of resellers/consultants around the US that sells and supports the program, and there are “President’s Circle” consultants. These PC consultants have proven track records of excellent customer service/support, follow-through etc., and this list is updated annually – these people/companies re-qualify every year to be considered a PC consultant. There is a listing on the Tabs3 website, and you can find resellers and PC Resellers here: http://www.tabs3.com/resellers/resellers.html. A free trial version of the software is also offered and it is a fully-functioning program. It has a few limitations, which prevent someone from running their firm with this trial copy, but it does not time-out. Any data entered can be migrated over to the purchased version very easily if desired. Of course, custom conversions are available for this product, either from Tabs3 or other 3rd-party companies.
About the author: Cathleen Prichard is the president and owner of Law Firm Automation, Inc. out of Kirkland, Wash., and works mainly with firms in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii, although remote access allows the company to work “anywhere” remotely. Her company has been assisting small to mid-size firms since 1983. Ms. Prichard began working with this company in 1998 and bought the company from the founding owner, Ray Steiner, in 2002. Her very strong bookkeeping and management background have been vital. Law Firm Automation, Inc is a President’s Circle Reseller for the Tabs3 and PracticeMaster products, and has been such since the PC program was implemented by Software Technology around 2001. Also supported are Pensoft, Worldox, Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Kurent by Tabs3, ProLaw and soon adding Centerbase. Currently there are 2 employees, Cathleen Prichard and Kathryn Matos.