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It seems like a notion so simple it might have come out of Yogi Berra's mouth: If you don't bill a client, you won't get paid. And yet, lawyers leave money on the table when they don't accurately record their time. This is especially true of solos and small firms, which don't necessarily have the resources to devote to ensuring accurate billing (even though, ironically, inaccurate billing hurts them the most).
To that end, we've decided to take a look at the best timekeeping and billing software under $60 per month.
Billing or 'Law Practice Management'?
The cloud/local war has basically come to a close, and the cloud has won. Between accessibility anywhere in the world, companion apps, and redundancy, there's no question any longer that law firms should be using cloud-based time tracking systems.
Instead, there's a new debate: Time tracking, billing, or "law practice management" software? Most time tracking and billing software combines the two functions into one title, like FreshBooks.
On the other hand, software like Clio or Rocket Matter promises not only to track your time and bill your clients, but manage your whole firm, including client trust accounts, document management, calendaring, and data analysis.
If you have an existing system for organizing all your firm's stuff, you may need just a time-keeping/invoicing solution. FreshBooks offers just that. It also lets you track expenses and run reports to see how you've been doing. (So do Bill4Time and QuickBooks.)
Whole-hog firm management software comes at a price. Clio charges $39 per user per month for a "starter" package, which includes all of the things you would want, including document management and calendaring. Rocket Matter demands $55.25 per user per month, and Practice Panther charges $29 per user per month (all prices assume an annual subscription).
FreshBooks, on the other hand, starts at $10 a month, but that gives you the ability to manage only five clients, and hopefully you have more than five clients (otherwise, you wouldn't really need billing software; you could just use Excel). So, you'll want a plan that lets you manage an unlimited number of clients -- which goes for $30 a month. QuickBooks, on the other hand, goes for $12.95 a month -- but it's not law-centric, so you might have to do some finagling to get it to behave with the legal accounting structure.
Just Give Me the Answer, Already
So, which is best? If you're in the mood for a full featured practice management system, Rocket Matter is for you. Perhaps $55.25 is a bit on the pricy side, until you consider that it integrates with Outlook or Gmail, handles client trust accounting, generates reports, and lets you securely share documents with clients. Heck, that's not even all it does.
On the other hand, if you don't need all that stuff, Bill4Time has a suite designed just for legal users, which includes ABA-standard task codes and client trust accounting. It runs at $50 per month for an "unlimited" plan. And if you're dead set on bare-bones billing and invoicing, without any frills, consider FreshBooks.