When I started my solo practice, I knew that I wanted a time & billing and practice management solution. I had been studying the various options for years and I knew that, if I were to establish my own practice, I would use Tabs 3. Thus, when I went out on my own, this was one of my first purchases.
One of the benefits of Tabs is that it is reasonably priced. Thus, I was able to afford it in the beginning. Tabs comes with different components. I went with Tabs 3 (time & billing) PracticeMaster (practice management), Accounts Payable (writing checks), and General Ledger (accounting). By using each of these components, I could handle all of the administrative functions for my firm within one suite of programs. Best of all, the programs all integrated with each other. This meant that I had to enter the information only once and it would populate throughout the other components as needed.
This solution worked great for me. The software was rock solid. Updates were rolled out at a reasonable rate and the annual maintenance fee was reasonable. In sort, the software was working great for me until I hired an assistant.
Once I had an assistant, I had to figure out what to do with the software. We both needed to access it, but that was problematic, given that I often work somewhere other than my office. If I always worked in my office, sharing the database would not have been I problem. I could have left it on my computer and just given her access to it, or vice versa. However, I was often somewhere other than the office. This meant that, for stretches of time, one of us would not have access to the data.
Because access at all times was a necessity, I opted to move my Tabs installation to the cloud. Basically, I paid someone to host Tabs for me on a virtual server. This worked ok. I worked with it this way for two years. However, I was never happy with the solution. I did not like accessing the data through a virtual terminal. After a while, I realized that I was losing time by not entering it contemporaneously because it was inconvenient.
After reaching this conclusion, in mid-2016 I decided that I was going to ditch Tabs and move to a cloud based solution. I spent the next several months checking out different cloud solutions. I found that none did everything that I wanted. However, I did find several I liked. At the end of the day, I opted to go with Rocket Matter. My plan was to finish out 2016 in Tabs and start fresh with Rocket Matter as of January 1, 2017. I determined that this would make accounting and taxes much easier if all of the information for the entire year was in one location.
In selecting Rocket Matter, I felt a little like I was going back to my roots. In 2008, I did a written interview with Larry Port about Rocket Matter. You can find that blog post here.
The data migration from one system to another was easier than I expected. A significant reason for this, of course, is that I am a sole practitioner and I was moving only my active cases. Obviously, the more cases that are involved, the greater opportunity that there is for problems. In my case, however, the migration was simple, and took little time.
Once the information was migrated, I started using the new system. Rocket Matter is easily accessible from any web browser. This makes it very easy to use. It also makes it easy to load and just leave open in a browser on one of my monitors. Additionally, Rocket Matter includes apps for both my phone (Android) and my tablet (iOS). This means that I can easily add or access information in Rocket Matter from either of these devices. By having the service immediately available from all of my devices, I am able to easily capture time.
That being said, all is not perfect. First, I miss the tight integration between all the components of my system. Now, I have my practice management and time & billing in Rocket Matter and all of my back-end accounting is in QuickBooks. Rocket Matter will export information to QuickBooks Online. However, this is far from the tight integration that I had in Tabs. This is the feature I miss the most after having moved to Rocket Matter.
The other drawback that I have noticed is that the reporting feature is not as robust as what I had with Tabs. With Tabs, I was always able to extract the information that I wanted. Sometimes it took me a while to find the right report. However, I was always able to find one. With Rocket Matter, however, the number of reports is much more limited. On the plus side, when I have needed to find information, customer support has been available to help me find a way to get the information I want.
Despite the fact that I really miss the integration with the back-end accounting aspect of running my firm, I am thrilled with how easy it is for me to access the services Rocket Matter provides. I like that I don’t have to pay for a hosted server. And I love that the cost for Rocket Matter is less than what I was paying for the hosted server.
In sum, I am happy with the switch and wish I had made it before. Although Rocket Matter is not as full-featured as Tabs 3, the convenience and accessibility outweigh any drawbacks. If you are considering a cloud-based solution, I urge you to try the different services that are available and see which one works best with the way that you work.
A version of this article was originally published in the Illinois State Bar Association Committee on Legal Technology‘s newsletter.