More Correspondence with Baron Henley – Dear Colleages, January 1, 2014

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By on January 3, 2014 7:57 pm Leave your thoughts
Burt’s First Dear Colleague Newsletter of the Year – 2014



Dear Colleagues;

 1. Just delete this thread if you simply don’t have the time, but it is pretty amazing to receive this kind of analysis from a nationally known tech expert. Affinity bills itself as the largest in the U.S. I forward this with the hope you will discover your “inner nerd”. Baron was replying to my prior post.
 2. You may remember a similar geeky thread I turned into a blog post a year or two ago. It was a chat between Scott Curnutte, a loyal user of “Lotus Notes”, and Roy Lazris, designer and owner of Pathagoras document assembly program. His  Pathagoras application is based in Word and is marketed for “the little guy” to design his own forms. He and Barron have had some interesting exchanges through me. Thanks Baron for motivating me to learn more about Word paragraph numbering, style, and themes. I will return to Word with a better understanding of the features of Word.  Baron is the consummate, sophisticated, user of HotDocs. Regardless of whether you are a “Pathagaciser” or “HotDocs-er”, you really, really, need to master document assembly.
 3. Baron addresses below, and I respond from my perspective in dark maroon,  what should be critical questions each of us is trying to answer.  I agree with everything he says, BUT I annotate his comments below from the perspective of a sole practitioner, who has 30+ years of paper records, four employees, and some proprietary software that works well for me. If I were a larger firm or had practiced fifteen years or fewer, I think I would follow Baron’s every suggestion. As it is, I have to pick and choose.
 4. EVERYONE should evaluate the advice we get through the prism of practice size, level of tech savvyness, years of experience, etc. Thank you Baron for your contribution.
Burt


On Jan 1, 2014, at 7:38 PM,
“Barron Henley” bhenley@affinityconsulting.com> wrote:
 A couple of comments:
1. The URL for wunderlist is www.wunderlist.com<http://www.wunderlist.com
(link below is “wonder” rather than wunder); however, if you are looking for a killer task manager, www.Evernote.com<http://www.Evernote.comis generally recognized as the best one out there so make sure you try that as well (there is a free and a pay version).  Another very highly rated option is www.rememberthemilk.com<http://www.rememberthemilk.com.
Burt’s Response
 5. I confess to writing the last article on the fly but Googling “Wonder List” does locate the website and the App. Today I used it, and it is simple, and the same list appears whether you access it from iPhone, iPad, or Windows based laptop or desktop. I have tried and failed to use Outlook Tasks effectively. It just isn’t intuitive enough for me.  I read, and recommended to you, “Effective Time Management, Using Microsoft Outlook to Organize Your Work and Personal Live” by Seiwert and Woeltje. It has many useful tips, but so far Outlook tasks has not been “My thing”.
I also have tried hard with Evernote and am CERTAIN it is a solution to my problems. I took a 3-4 hour www.Lynda.comvideo class and wrote a blog article on it. Sorry, the search feature of my blogs is “temporarily – I hope” disabled. That’s a reason I am probably moving to WordPress. Mike Mellace from WV State Bar Office wrote me back and strongly recommended WordPress. I perceive Evernote as a research tool and information organization tool. Not aware that it is also a task list product, but I will check it out. Evernote also works from every device you have. I am NOT giving up on mastering it, especially since Baron thinks its “to do list” feature is a good one.
I agree that “Remember the Milk” is highly recommended, so I will try them all for this purpose. Keeping and prioritizing task lists, and calendaring, are essential skills for a trial lawyer.
 
From Baron
 
> 2.    There are many disadvantages to accessing your email ONLY from a webpage, www.outlook.com<http://www.outlook.comor www.gmail.com<http://www.gmail.com> or any other similar service) compared to using an email application (like MS Outlook (the program, not the website) or Mozilla Thunderbird) which downloads your email so you can do more with it.  For example, almost every legal case management program integrates with Outlook (huge advantage); without exception every document management program integrates with Outlook; and some legal accounting programs integrate with Outlook do as well (such as PCLaw which makes billing an email a click away).  In fact, just about every program that offers email integration integrates with Outlook.  The integration between Adobe Acrobat and Outlook is worth the price of admission alone.  There are also great Outlook add-ins for Outlook like this<http://www.outlook4lawyers.com/and this<http://www.copy2contact.com/.  Benefits of Outlook:  If you use an email program, you can read email when you’re offline.  You can save them as files more easily (msg or pdf).  Your email program can be linked to many other useful programs.  With Outlook, you get full integration between email, your calendar, tasks & contacts as well.  No, we don’t sell MS Office or MS Outlook and I don’t own stock in Microsoft.  It just happens to be the most comprehensive email solution for a lawyer, in my professional opinion.  Add hosted Exchange<http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/exchange/hosted-email-online-email-compare-exchange-online-plans-FX103764022.aspx, and you’ve got the ultimate solution.
 
From Burt
 
6. This is my most daunting challenge. Please read Baron’s para #2 above twice! It is critical to your future success. I mean that. You see, I have a billing system that I “invented” in the early ’80’s using Appleworks, then Microsoft Works, and finally, I had it programmed into Microsoft Office Access. It works! When I tried to hire someone to install one of these whiz-bang integrated practice management applications, such as PC Law or Abacus, the cost was $8000-$12,000. I was buying new hardware at the time and could not even think about it. But if I didn’t have 5000 closed files, most un-scanned, I do everything that Baron recommends here? And, for now, I will stay with my hosted Outlook even though it is a bit slow. After all, I can access it with my iPhone, iPad, Desktop, and Laptop.  Recently I forgot the phone, but my back up iPad accessed my calendar. Every time a colleague tries to call her office in the middle of a hearing only to learn her secretary is on the John, I am very happy I carry my calendar with me.
 
From Baron 
 
 3.    If you have MS Outlook (the program), you can use it to automatically download your free www.outlook.com<http://www.outlook.com> email
(see this<http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/outlook/outlook-connector> for instructions).  If you have a Gmail account and would like to pull that into MS Outlook, you can do that for free as well.  Just go here<https://support.google.com/mail/troubleshooter/1668960?hl=en> and select that you want IMAP.

 

From Burt



7.Glad to know I can do this. I probably should do a better job of being able to access my Gmail and Outlook e-mail from one source; for now I am almost exclusively hunterjb@hunterlawfirm.net. I have a Gmail account but do not prefer it. But, my son John B. Hunter IV who is quick tech savvy himself, swears by Gmail.

 
4.    QuickBooks (either shrink wrapped or online) is a terrible solution for law firm accounting compared to an accounting solution DESIGNED for lawyers.  QuickBooks would be good for a muffler shop or a company that sells widgets, but it is really lacking when it comes to legal.  For example, comparing it to PCLaw (a legal-specific accounting program from LexisNexis – see www.pclaw.com).
 
From Burt
 
8. Baron is right on, BUT, again, our small town accounting firm feels more comfortable with Quickbooks Pro. I don’t like its reports. It won’t handle billing, and it stubbornly will not provide a module taylored to lawyers, BUT I do not have the $10,000 or the time to change. Your situation may be much different. I hope so.
 
From Baron
 
a.    QuickBooks (“QB”) doesn’t allow you to tag information to a matter and organize it around a matter.  PCLaw (“PCL”), on the other hand, organizes everything around a matter because it’s designed only for law firms and its developers understand the concept.
 
b.    While QB can be set up to track trust fund balances, it is up to you to manually ensure you don’t overdraw the trust account for any individual client. Given the high penalty of this action, you probably don’t want to depend on manual checks.  By contrast, it is impossible to bring trust out of balance in PCL.
 
From Burt
9. I agree with this. It’s a stressful job for my Dear wife of 45 years, and office manager Nancy, to move between our QuickBooks Pro for accounting and payroll and our Access based database for billing.
 
 From Baron



c.    QB billing statements/invoices are difficult to customize (and look awful IMHO); and it is difficult to show hours spent on each billing line item.  PCL can do all of this.

 
From Burt



10. That’s why we don’t use QB Pro for billing.

 
From Baron 



d.    QB does not keep track of write-ups or write-downs and therefore cannot produce reports on the variance.  PCL does this.

 
From Burt



11. As our dog Duffy says to my heartfelt instructions: ??

 
From Baron
 
e.    QB does not allow you to assign specific bill templates to specific clients while PCL does.
 
f.     Do you need or want subtotaling on your invoices – time vs. expenses, subtotals by timekeeper, or totals by activity? You can manually insert subtotals on a QB invoice but it cannot be done automatically. PCL does this automatically.
 
 g.    There is no ability to create a timekeeper summary table at the bottom of invoices, a popular feature with many law firms.  PCL does this, of course.
 
 h.    You cannot show trust account balances and transactions at the bottom of a QB invoice.  PCL does this.
 
 i.      If you bill clients for soft costs (things for which you don’t write a specific check like copies), there’s no direct way to track and bill customers. PCL offers several ways to do this.
 
 j.     While QuickBooks has a batch billing capability, you can only use this if you are going to bill the clients exactly what is on the bills automatically.  There’s no ability to edit as you go. QuickBooks also does not have a pre-bill capability. If you generate bills and include time and costs and then choose to remove those entries from the bill or undo the bill, the entries do not return to billable status.  PCL offers all of this.
 
 k.    QB users cannot choose to allocate payments to expenses, fees or specific timekeepers. If the client pays part of the invoice balance the payment will be allocated proportionately across the items on the invoice.
 
 l.      There is not an easy way to set multiple rates for each employee and have them automatically picked up depending on the client.  PCL easily does this.
 
 m.  If you have a need to sort the entries on the invoice in QuickBooks in a particular fashion you must either type them in or choose them one at a time, there is no sort capability. There is also no easy way to show the timekeeper who did the work on the invoice.  PCL easily handles all of this.
 
 n.    QB does not easily allow one to show past balances, transactions and a new total at the bottom of invoices.  PCL does this.
 
 o.    QB does not have split billing or consolidated billing capability.  PCL does both of these things.
 
13. Remember; I agree with Baron but do not have the resources to follow his advice; thus, if I were just starting out, I might let Paul Boland to convince me to give Outlook.com or Quickbooks.com  or something similar a try. Just because you are new and/or poor,  it does not follow that you don’t need to be connected, integrated, tech savvy, and “in the Cloud”.
 
 p.    Productivity Reporting – PCL has stellar productivity reporting; QB has virtually none.
 
q.    PCL offers electronic billing (LEDES format) while QB does not.
 
r.     PCLaw offers full financial reporting (as good as QB).
 
 s.    PCLaw manages client costs much more easily because of matter centricity.
 
 t.     PCLaw offers remote time entry functionality.
 
 u.    PCLaw offers FULL case/practice management functionality while QB does not.
 
From Burt
 
12. Lest I am misunderstood, I agree with Baron. My writing and input to such discussions is aimed at someone similar to or less than I in “tech savvyness”. If you can do what Baron recommends or pay him or his service reps to do it, please do so.
 
 5.    If you’re not having a good first day of 2014, see http://emergencycompliment.com.  😉
 
 
 
Thanks again to Barron!
 
 
Barron K. Henley, Esq., Partner
Affinity Consulting Group

1550 Old Henderson Rd., Suite S-150

Columbus, OH 43220
Main 614.340.3444
Direct 614.602.5561
www.affinityconsulting.com http://www.affinityconsulting.com/
 
 
 

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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