Things to Look for While Choosing Billing Software for Your Law Firm

Managing bills is often a complex job for a law firm. The tricky thing while generating invoices for legal works is that the billing procedure will not be the same for every case. Though hourly billing is the common practice used for billing, depending on the prospects of the client, nature of the legal work, and the risks involved in handling the case, the billing methods differ, thus making it more complicated. So, in order to generate quick and accurate invoices, adequate billing tools are required for every law firm.Billing software is one such tool which serves the vital purpose for any law firm by automating the time tracking, billing and accounting procedures for all the legal works. It effectively saves time and generates error-free invoices.Essential features for effective billing software
With so many products in the market, each having different features, it is essential to know the important features that make the software effective. Below are the things to look for while choosing software for your law firm. Basic as well as advanced features are included for your convenience, having knowledge of these will help you in making the right choice.• Record work and track billable hours: Every attorney works on multiple cases in a single day. Recording the time spent on each and every case is essential to bill the client as well as to keep detailed record of the work performed on every project. A billing software with timer or a stopwatch feature helps to accurately measure the time spent on each case. So, while choosing billing software, look for the availability of timer option.• Should provide service specific bill recording: This again comes under tracking billable hours. Since legal billing varies for different billing procedures like flat fees, retainer arrangement, contingent and transactional basis, the software should also allow you to record billable time on all the above mentioned aspects or on any other user defined things.• Automated invoice preparation: The most time taking task in legal billing is the invoice preparation. If your billing software is effective in generating automated and accurate invoices according to the data collected from the billable time records, you can save significant amounts of time and money.• Custom bill formats: The invoice format for every law firm will not be the same. Even for a same firm, the invoice formats will differ depending upon the type of transaction. If you choose software that provides only few standard billing formats, it is not helpful. Therefore, before choosing billing software, make sure that it allows you to customize your bill design according to your requirements. Some advanced software solutions also offer built-in bill designing capabilities which enable you to design your own formats using some advanced tools.• Ability to maintain trust accounting records: Trust accounts are a separate form of accounts maintained for specific cases, in an effort to minimize the risk of non-payment. Trust accounting is a standard practice by most of the law firms which collect advanced client payments even before providing services. Maintaining accurate and separate trust accounting records is essential while you are accepting trust funds from your clients.Hence, choose billing software that includes the feature of managing trust accounts eases your work. Some advanced software solutions also offer features like – not allowing the firm to overdraw a trust account, and allowing the firm to set a criteria to apply trust funds either to fees or to expenses at the time of billing and preparing invoices.• Assist in budgeting: Choosing billing software that includes accounting is always an added advantage for your company. It helps you to avoid the hassles of re-entering the entire billing information for accounting purpose and hence reduces the error rate. It also avoids the need for purchasing other software that supports accounting. Billing software assists you with budgeting and also helps you to project your expenses without any errors.• Availability of report making application: It is often said that most of the billing software solutions for legal firms are not designed to generate reports. So, it is important for every buyer to check for report generating feature while choosing software. These reports help in determining target costs, forecasting similar cases, and defining best practices for managing specific cases to ensure best possible results.• Easy to use: Choose software that is simple to use. Any individual, even those who are technically challenged, should be able to use it. Moreover, the software should be compatible with your firm’s current software to ensure proper functioning.• Right vendor: Choosing a right vendor is the first thing to do while you are looking for reliable billing software. A reputed vendor always focuses on client retention and hence offers a best possible product. However, to get more efficient deals, try to approach a legal billing software vendor who specializes in offering solutions for your firm size.As every law firm has its own unique needs and requirements to meet professional and ethical requirements, it should have billing software that is able to support the firm efficiently.

A Better Hedge With Gold and Silver

The financial markets are back to their news event driven, schizophrenic selves. The European Union concerns remain even after Greece’s recent election. Cyprus is on the short list for coming defaults. Spain has formally asked for a bailout. Meanwhile, here in the U.S. the Federal Reserve has just expanded Operation Twist by another $267 billion. The expansion of Operation Twist goes into effect two weeks after we discussed the steepening of the U.S. interest rate futures yield curve. The increasing volatility of the stock and bond markets make the buy and hold mantra a much tougher proposition to follow. However, the full, “risk on, risk off,” nature of all hard asset classes makes alternative investments just as volatile.This volatility has extended to the precious metals markets. Those who’ve bought gold as a hedge against falling equity prices, dollar depreciation and higher interest rate expectations have been disappointed as both equities and gold have declined in what has morphed into a deflationary environment. The European situation appears as though it will drag on forever. China is doing what it can to provide a soft landing for their slowing economy. India is forecasting much lower growth as well as a stalemate in political reform. Consequently, we’ve seen the S&P 500 decline by nearly 7% since the March highs. Meanwhile, the gold hedge has lost slightly more at 7.5% over the same period. Ugh.It is time to rethink the idea of hedging portfolio risk through outright ownership of alternative asset classes. A deflationary environment negates the negatively correlated price structure we expect out of the gold vs. Dollar and equities relationship. This becomes especially tricky when the long-term outlook becomes increasingly inflationary as the direct result of government and banking policies being enacted both domestically and globally.A top in the silver market preceded the recent decline in the gold market by five months. This also coincided with the peak in the gold versus silver ratio, which priced gold at 32 times the price of silver. Silver was trading at just under $49 per ounce while gold was at $1560. The last time gold was that cheap relative to silver was 1981. The recent high for this spread was 80 during the height of the financial crisis in October of ’08.Commercial traders also appear to be moving to a silver biased position. Commercial traders doubled their net positions when it appeared that the metal markets were building a saucer base and the markets’ participants had favorable expectations of the first Greek elections and Eurozone resolution. However, as June approached and Greece was unable to form a coalition government after the first round of elections and Spain’s interest rates began to climb on the open market, it became clear that, “risk off” was the correct play. As expected, commercial traders shed approximately 16% of their gold. The shift to silver became obvious when the Commitment of Traders Report showed virtually no change in their corresponding silver position. This places them squarely in camp of, “silver to gain on gold.”Silver is far more volatile than gold. Silver will appreciate more in a, “risk on,” environment and will also decline more in a, “risk off,” scenario. It is the added volatility of the silver market that allows us to price it competitively. The highest price gold has reached may be 80 times the price of silver but, a more realistic number is somewhere just north of 60. In fact, there have only been 17 months out of the last 96 that gold has closed at a value greater than 65 times the price of silver. Therefore, the current ratio of 58 places the spread well within the value area.Thus far, we’ve discussed the gold and silver relationship on a 1 to 1 basis. The ratio that we’ve been using is based on an ounce of gold and an ounce of silver. However, the futures markets do not trade single ounce contracts. Therefore, we must construct a spread that equalizes the contract sizes and meets the goal of owning silver and selling gold on an ounce for ounce basis. The least common denominator in the futures market is 1,000 ounces. The NYSE Life exchange offers a 1,000 ounce silver futures contract, which is the smallest listed silver contract. This can be paired with 10 contracts of the standard COMEX, 100 ounce gold futures contract to create a spread owning 1,000 ounces of silver and selling 1,000 ounces of gold. This spread will help ensure inflation protection as well as safe haven concerns and diversification away from the equity markets while limiting the schizophrenic effects of a, “risk on/risk off,” news and political environment.

Healthcare IT: An Emerging Sector

The importance of healthcare IT companies have grown manifold after the new healthcare Act emphasized on the importance of technology in healthcare and made mandatory the use of certain software and technology in the health sector.However healthcare IT is a relatively new industry and most companies are start-ups. The Affordable Care Act may have given the industry but the success of a healthcare IT company will depend on a lot of other factors.- Healthcare is an amalgamated market of various small sectors particular diseases, cures, healthcare providers, information technology, healthcare software, insurance, etc. Each of these is a separate industry in itself and what works for one may not work for the others. Companies will have to develop separate ideas and business plans to deal with each of these sub sectors.- Healthcare IT is neither healthcare nor IT. Healthcare IT companies need to understand their domain completely. The regulations are stricter and the guidelines different. Companies will have to be careful about the regulatory bodies, rules and laws that can vary from state to state.- Since the federal government has already given guidelines about the software and technology that needs to be implemented, the product will remain more or less the same across companies. However it is the additional features and innovations that will transform your product from ‘nice to have’ to being a must have. And it is this change that will make all the difference- Though the use of certain healthcare technology is mandated, the customer should be convinced that his business will benefit more financially by using the product from your stables than without it. It is important to make the customer understand that investment in healthcare technology could be costly but the returns would be even more profitable.- In the healthcare industry it is foolish to assume that consumer will wake up one day and start taking better care of him. The growth of your healthcare IT company depends on the brilliance of the product and the creativity in marketing in it.- Word to mouth publicity is a critical aspect in marketing healthcare IT.- Involve those who will ultimately use your product- healthcare providers and doctors. Talk them about the problems they face with the current technology and then develop a product that is easy and simple to use and does not alienate them.- Working in the healthcare industry is not only financially fruitful but socially rewarding as well. Enjoy the experience of working for something that benefits not only you but the entire community as well.Healthcare IT is an emerging but an important sector. It is just the beginning. Healthcare technology and regulations are evolving and changing by the day. Healthcare IT companies need to be on their toes to respond to the newer demands of the health domain.