Law Office Computing
Small Firm Bookkeeping Made Easy-QuickBooks Pro 2002
One of the most frequent questions I get "What law office accounting software
should a small firm use?" For years I have used QuickBooks Pro from Intuit.
Intuit has made its business by taking the accounting out of small business
management and substituting instead a simple, computerized, record-keeping model
that only requires the entry of information through a checkbook motif.
I have used QuickBooks Pro for years and it has allowed me to at least provide my accountant with reasonably accurate information regarding my financial affairs. But the older versions were not always easy to use. Even QuickBooks Pro 99 which adopted new and more powerful features was sometimes difficult to use. The procedures necessary to print and format checks, for example, were sometimes maddeningly obscure. Changing information in regard to clients and suppliers was not always easy to do, and the process of list management which is central to the operation of the program was not always clear and user friendly. QuickBooks Pro 2002 solves all of those problems and introduces some exciting new advantages. That is why it recently won an Editor's Choice award from Cnet Software, one of the most objective reviewers on the Internet. Go to http://www.cnet.com/software and read the review. The setup of the program for use in a law office is extremely flexible and automated, utilizing the Wizard approach popularized by Microsoft. It took me about 20 minutes to set up a law office accounting program using the Wizard.
One of the most impressive things that Intuit has done is to open QuickBooks code to Third-party developers who have spent many hours integrating their applications with QuickBooks. Data for critical activities can be shared between other applications and QuickBooks without entering it twice. The most popular practice management program, Amicus Attorney, has built the necessary links to completely integrate their programs with QuickBooks 2002. With the combination you can have a full featured practice management and accounting system for just a few hundred dollars.
If you don't care to spend the money for a practice management application, QuickBooks Pro 2002 now has an easy-to-use, built-in time tracking mechanism that is functional and easy to use. It is much improved over earlier versions. It does not do what many of the high-end time and billing programs do, but it does run over a network and it does provide the basic information necessary to create a bill for legal services. Once you see the improved QuickBooks Pro 2002 timer you may decide that is all you need to maintain electronic time records because the program allows you to create custom billing templates with ease. QuickBooks Pro 2002 integrates completely with Microsoft Word and will launch it automatically, formatting documents with basic customer information and financial data. The integration of Word into the program also allows for the creation of a library of pre-written and pre-formatted business letters that can be completely customized for your needs through the use of the letter writing Wizard.
One of the most useful features is the ability to write a wide variety of reports which are are the foundation of accounting. The program contains more than 100 reports, that will almost any need. If there is something not built into the program you can get almost anything you need from the QuickBooks Web site where there are additional report template created by Intuit and by QuickBooks users.
The first widely successful business software program at the dawn of the personal computing era was a product called VisiCalc, a spreadsheet program. Since that day, spreadsheets have remained one of the most exciting and powerful business management tools. The Microsoft Excel spreadsheet is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, of the current spreadsheet products. QuickBooks Pro 2002 provides complete integration with Microsoft Excel, as well as all of MS Office applications, allowing the export of a QuickBooks Pro 2002 report to an Excel spreadsheet with all of the formulas and formatting remaining intact. What shows up on your screen looks like, and is, a normal spreadsheet and is subject to all of the various manipulations, what-if scenarios, graph creation, and additional reports that are built into the Microsoft Excel program. Anybody who uses spreadsheets to work with financial data will be amazed at the ease with which the QuickBooks software is able to produce a spreadsheet version of information.
QuickBooks Pro 2002 has a number of other very attractive modules that now make it possible to automate cash flow reports, print deposit slips, and track cash back on deposits, keep track and pay owners and contractors for time spent on projects and jobs, and track IRS form 1099 information for independent contractors. QuickBooks Pro 2002 is designed to run on a network and allow multiple users to access the program from multiple computers.
All in all, it is a very impressive suite of business services for a relatively low price. QuickBooks Pro 2002 sells at retail for under $250. But there are various rebates and special offers. If you want to take advantage of the rate of exchange with Canada go to http://www.discountquickbooks.com or check Amazon.com for one of the best US prices. The QuickBooks software has long been the most popular general purpose accounting software for small business. With the introduction of the enhancements described above and an increased capability to set up the software for use in the law office, QuickBooks Pro 2002 gets my hardy recommendation. It is extremely easy to use and provides very thorough accounting information. Its integration with the Excel spreadsheet software is, to my mind, a home run. You need look no further. There are many sources of information and help on the Web but QuickBooks uses a very full Help file that will get you up to speed in New York minute.