Modernizing your law practice management software is an enticing — and strategic — end goal. Whether that means moving your firm’s data from a server to the cloud or upgrading to an all-in-one law firm management and growth platform, you can significantly enhance efficiency and client service with modern software.

But all the features within law firm management platforms mean nothing if you find yourself questioning the accuracy of your firm’s data. Christopher Holmes, Chief Operating Officer at Hackett Feinberg P.C., knows this reality all too well.

Modernizing law practice management

In 2020, Chris led the charge to modernize his firm’s operations. A long-time user of Timeslips, Hackett Feinberg was eager to upgrade from an on-premise server to a cloud-based solution.

The firm decided on practice management software that seemed to fit the bill, as it offered the integrated practice management documents, email, and accounting capabilities Chris and his team wanted.

“The goal in moving to that system was to have a modern platform that would better serve our clients, be user friendly, and improve our firm’s efficiency,” he says.

When your legal software’s data integrity fails

After three years with the software, Hackett Feinberg learned its limitations. Primarily, the firm encountered data integrity issues in its accounting, where a deposit would have a date different from other deposits made the same day, throwing off the firm’s bank records.

In other instances, the system showed that clients’ payments were due, even though they had been paid.

“These issues were alarming, and they made us wonder what we might be missing,” Chris says.

The firm recognized other limitations, too, namely a lack of robust, customizable, user-friendly reporting.

“The reporting dashboards were not useful,” Chris says. “They were templates that couldn’t be customized, weren’t based on user roles, and they didn’t have proper user-based restrictions.”

Converting to Centerbase’s law practice management platform

Eventually, it was time to explore other options.

“I got a demo of Centerbase and saw the difference immediately,” Chris says.

Centerbase’s advanced reporting and customizability now give Chris the information he needs.

“I love that I can customize our dashboards by user roles, so we can have a managing partner dashboard, a new associate dashboard, etc., with information that’s relevant to them, and they can do what they need to,” he explains.

He especially appreciates not having to enter data and calculate compensation manually, thanks to Centerbase’s Production and Origination report. “I can let attorneys know their compensation on a daily basis if I need to,” Chris says.

Prioritizing data integrity during implementation

Chris particularly appreciated Centerbase’s focus on data integrity during the onboarding and implementation process.

Centerbase has been in communication with us during the entire data conversion process, working with us to overcome the limitations of the data available from our prior software.

Christopher Holmes, COO, Hackett Feinberg

Centerbase’s proprietary implementation methods deliver accurate data imports by mapping and validating the firm’s data, ensuring it is accurate, organized, configured to fit the firm’s needs, and ready to use on day one.

Chris also likes that his team has an organized implementation process to follow with clear expectations, accountability, and target dates for completing tasks. Additionally, thorough live and online training give them the support they need.

“I’ve been part of software conversions before with larger law firms, and Centerbase’s implementation process brings back those previous positive experiences. The Centerbase team has been great and very helpful. They are magicians,” Chris says.

Strategic financial planning is essential to ensure firm stability and growth. Modern law firms need precise financial data to target opportunities to improve their bottom line and set them up for success, all of which can be accomplished with industry-leading law practice management software (LPMS).

Here are five steps to optimize your law firm’s financial planning.

1. Review your law firm’s financial statements

Take the pulse of your firm’s financial health by reviewing your financial statements from your LPMS. Automated, detailed income statements and balance sheets save time and reduce the risk of errors associated with manual data compilation. Reviewing financial and performance reports can help you identify areas of concern so you can take proactive measures to address potential issues.

The most accurate records are found in an LPMS that integrates timekeeping, billing, and accounting data all in one platform. Integration helps firms avoid double-entry recordkeeping between multiple software applications and ensures data congruency across the entire system: if you enter data once, it populates everywhere.

Leading LPMS platforms also integrate general ledger firm accounting and trust/retainer accounting in one platform. For example, Centerbase’s accounting tools double-check all of your client and firm accounts and complete a three-way reconciliation of your trust accounts, comparing your bank balance to your trust ledger to the sum of your individual client ledger balances, keeping you compliant with IOLTA best practices and state bar requirements.

2. Evaluate your law firm’s financial goals

Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the financial objectives you set for the firm in the previous year. Review your progress against goals, examining aspects such as unexpected expenses, marketing outcomes, and shifts in advertising costs. A detailed analysis enables informed adjustments to your business strategy for the coming year and helps you adapt to changing market dynamics.

Your LPMS likely has features for setting and tracking financial goals that allow you to monitor your fiscal performance in real-time. Leading LPMS platforms give you easy access to key metrics with customized dashboards and reporting that allow you to quickly evaluate whether you are meeting their financial objectives and make data-driven adjustments.

3. Update your law firm’s budget

After scrutinizing whether you met last year’s goals, it’s imperative to update your firm’s budget for the upcoming year. Consider any changes in the business landscape, including new expenses or variations in revenue. Smart resource allocation and accounting for unforeseen expenditures are critical to maintaining financial stability.

Your LPMS can help you create, manage, and update budgets seamlessly. Top platforms integrate with other financial tools that allow you to adjust budget allocations based on changing circumstances, ensuring that your budget accurately reflects your firm’s financial priorities.

Understanding incoming and outgoing cash and taking preemptive steps to address potential cash flow challenges are imperative. LPMS makes it easy to track client payments, invoicing, and expense management in real-time so you can take a constant pulse on your cash flow. This data can help you negotiate extended client payment terms and manage expenses more effectively.

Identifying opportunities to reduce costs is integral to enhancing net revenue and overall profitability. Law firms can explore various strategies, including adopting more cost-effective solutions and streamlining operational processes. Your LPMS can identify areas where you can optimize costs. Check your software’s expense tracking features to analyze spending patterns and identify opportunities for negotiation with suppliers. A detailed breakdown of expenses can help you make informed decisions on cost-reduction strategies.

4. Find ways to boost your firm’s revenue streams

Finding new ways to boost your firm’s revenue can be difficult, but data from your LPMS can highlight the way. LPMS with robust profitability reporting tools can help you track profitability at the individual, practice group, office, and entire firm levels to pinpoint how to improve your firm’s financial performance. Based on your results, you may want to expand your firm’s service offerings, target new client demographics, or revisit pricing structures.

LPMS with advanced automation features, such as automated time capture, can help ensure that you are maximizing your attorneys’ billable hours. This software can also help you accelerate invoicing and follow up with slow-to-pay clients, improving your revenue stream.

5. Seek professional guidance

Engaging the services of a professional accountant or financial advisor provides valuable insights and ensures that financial decisions are grounded in expertise. Your LPMS is a collaborative platform where financial professionals, such as accountants or financial advisors, can access relevant financial data. Centerbase offers accountants a free login to help with end-of-year audits.

Run your law firm like a business

Strategic financial planning ensures modern law firms run like a business. Following these tips and optimizing your use of your LPMS can position your firm for sustained growth and profitability.

Check out Centerbase’s robust accounting and financial management features to learn how we can help you strengthen your law firm’s financial performance.