Law firms require unique accounting software that does more than general bookkeeping. Law firm bookkeeping software also must handle client trust accounts (CTAs), including interest on lawyers’ trust accounts (IOLTAs). In addition, time and expenses need to be meticulously tracked by client and matter to bill the client accurately. We reviewed numerous accounting software options to identify the best all-in-one solutions, as well as some law firm integrations for popular bookkeeping programs.
Top 5 Accounting Software for Law Firms 2020
- PCLaw: Best overall all-in-one law firm accounting software
- CosmoLex: Best for law firms wanting an all-in-one cloud-based accounting and practice management solution
- LeanLaw: Best law firm integration for QuickBooks Online users
- TimeSolv: Best integration for law firms that use Xero
- Zola Suite: Best for law firms seeking a less expensive all-in-one cloud-based solution
To calculate the cost of each alternative, provide the number of anticipated users.
How to Choose Your Legal Practice Accounting Software
The accounting software for your legal practice must include trust accounting. While it’s possible to perform trust accounting in general-purpose accounting software, it’s difficult, time-consuming, and prone to errors because every trust transaction requires multiple entries.
For that reason, I recommend law firms use either law firm-specific accounting software or general-purpose accounting software with an integration that provides trust accounting. Here are some of the features you should consider:
- General accounting: A good accounting system will allow you to import and reconcile banking transactions, track unpaid bills, print checks, record fixed assets and long-term liabilities, and print financial statements.
- Trust accounting: The software must provide a way to track both aggregate client funds in your client trust account and the amount of those funds owed to each client. The software also must provide a list of trust transactions by client. Finally, you should be able to perform a triple reconciliation easily between the client trust account, client ledgers, and bank statement.
- Billing system: The billing system must track time and expenses by client job and service code. Billing rates should be allowed to vary by service code and employee. Employees should be able to track and report time and expenses while away from the office. Finally, the billing system should generate professional looking invoices that can be printed or emailed.
- Practice management: You also might like practice management features integrated with your accounting and billing systems. Common features include client portals, secure communications, document management, calendars with integrated time tracking, and matter dashboards with links to all relevant parties, documents, time, expenses, and invoices.
PCLaw: Best Overall Law Firm Accounting Software
PCLaw is a great choice if you want an all-in-one software solution for your law firm and prefer desktop software over cloud-based solutions. PCLaw, developed by LexisNexis, provides general and trust accounting, billing, matter management, and time tracking. PCLaw is not only among the powerful software reviewed, but it is also by far the least expensive. You can visit its website to schedule a free demonstration.
PCLaw | Time Matters Pros
PCLaw | Time Matters Cons
Remote time tracking with PCLaw Go
No integrated payroll system
Popular software used by more than 130,000 legal professionals
Difficult to share books with an external accountant
Least expensive software reviewed
No month-to-month subscriptions
Cloud hosting available for an additional fee
- $468 per user, per year
- Trust accounting: Accounting for client trust accounts complies with all laws and provides automated tools for three-way reconciliation.
- General accounting: Performs all basic accounting functions, including tracking unpaid bills, without the need for QuickBooks or other accounting software.
- Time Tracking: Tracks time by user, matter, and task. Users can also transfer billable time to invoices.
- Manage matters: Organizes documents, calendars, time tracked, and client information by matter.
- Practice management: Integrates with Time Matters by PCLaw (for an additional fee) to provide additional practice management features.
- Annual maintenance plan: Subscriptions include unlimited customer support, product releases, training, and on-demand resources.
For more information on how PCLaw can help manage your entire law firm, read our PCLaw review.
CosmoLex: Best All-in-One Cloud-Based Accounting Software for Law Firms
Cosmolex is right for your firm if you want cloud-based software that provides business accounting, trust accounting, client billing, and law-firm practice management tools. Cosmolex is an affordable solution because it eliminates the need to subscribe to QuickBooks or any other business accounting software. Cosmolex offers a free 14-day trial with no credit card required and 90-day money-back guarantee.
Cloud-based program can be accessed from mobile devices
No integrated payroll system
Free login for external accountant
Multiple user discount only available for 10 or more users
Includes LawPay to receive online payments for no monthly fee
Reviewers report accounting features are less user-friendly than QuickBooks
Free unlimited customer support
- Monthly: $89 per user
- Annual: $948 per user
- Call CosmoLex for tiered pricing for 10 or more users
- General accounting: Accounting features include tracking unpaid bills, importing and reconciling bank transactions, and printing checks.
- Credit card payments: LawPay is fully integrated into CosmoLex so you can receive credit card payments from clients, and the accounting will be automatic. LawPay’s monthly fee is included with your CosmoLex subscription, but individual transaction fees still apply.
- Revenue distribution: Revenue distribution can be automated by specifying revenue share percentages by employee and role for each client matter.
- Trust accounting: Payments and deposits are reflected automatically in client ledgers that display retainer balances for all client-matters in real-time. Your trust account can be imported, and a triple reconciliation performed with a single click. Users can also easily print trust reports showing detailed transactions, summaries, or the balance by client or matter.
- Billing: Your time and expenses can be tracked on the mobile app. Time can be entered manually or tracked with built-in timers. Multiple invoices can be generated for unbilled time and expenses with a single click.
- Practice management: The calendar tool ties tasks and meetings to specific client-matters and alerts you if time has not been tracked for a prior event. Emails are also filed automatically in client-matter folders.
- Client portal: Communicate with your client in a secure messaging system that is automatically stored by client-matter. Clients can upload documents and make online payments.
Read our review of CosmoLex for more information on how the convenience and power of the platform’s cloud-based solutions can improve profitability at your law firm.
LeanLaw: Best for Small Law Firms When Integrated With QuickBooks Online
If you like QuickBooks Online but need a legal accounting system that complies with trust accounting rules and will perform a three-way reconciliation, the LeanLaw QuickBooks Online integration is your answer. QuickBooks Online is already our best overall small business accounting software, but LeanLaw takes it one step further and converts it from general bookkeeping to a very capable legal billing and accounting system.
LeanLaw will integrate with any version of QuickBooks Online, except QuickBooks Self-Employed. If you’re not already a QuickBooks Online user, you can compare QuickBooks Online editions or visit QuickBooks Online to take advantage of 50% of normal subscription rates for the first three months.
Access to network of independent LeanLaw Accounting Pros
Separate subscription to QuickBooks Online is required
As easy to use as QuickBooks Online
Few law firm management features
Simple, compliant trust accounting
No client portal for communication and document sharing
Cloud-based program is accessible from anywhere
No features to manage matter documents, contacts, or communications
- LeanLaw Core: $35 per month, per user or $360 per year, per user
- LeanLaw Pro: $50 per month, per user or $540 per year, per user
LeanLaw requires users to also subscribe to QuickBooks Online. LeanLaw will integrate with any of the following QuickBooks Online editions:
- QuickBooks Simple Start: $12.50 per month for 12 months, then $25 per month for one user
- QuickBooks Essentials: $20 per month for 12 months, then $40 per month for three users
- QuickBooks Plus: $35 per month for 12 months, then $70 per month for five users
- QuickBooks Advanced: $75 per month for 12 months, then $150 per month for 25 users
- Trust accounting: After creating a client trust account in QuickBooks, LeanLaw tracks deposits, expenses, and transfers to your operating account by client so that you can print a client ledger at any time. You can easily perform a three-way reconciliation at the end of the month.
- Track time: Time can be tracked by matter by using timers or inputting hours.
- Billing: Hourly, flat fee, and hybrid billing are supported. LeanLaw Pro provides the use of LEDES billing codes.
- Invoices: Invoices created in LeanLaw are recorded automatically in QuickBooks.
- Online payments: You can receive credit card payments online, by telephone, or in person by subscribing to QuickBooks Payments for an additional fee.
- Advanced reporting: LeanLaw Pro allows you to view advanced reports, including client origination and revenue by attorney.
- Highly rated: All 53 reviewers in the Apps section of the QuickBooks Online website rated LeanLaw a perfect 5 out of 5 stars.
Learn more about how LeanLaw can convert QuickBooks Online to powerful law-firm accounting software by reading our LeanLaw review.
TimeSolv: Best Integration for Law Firms Using Xero
TimeSolv converts your Xero bookkeeping software to powerful law firm software. TimeSolv is cloud-based, making it easy to track time and expenses from anywhere. It provides both the required trust accounting with three-way reconciliation as well as tools to help manage your client matters better. You can evaluate the software with a 30-day free trial and six-month money-back guarantee.
Integrates with Xero, QuickBooks Online, and QuickBooks Desktop
Requires separate bookkeeping software like Xero
Compliant trust accounting
No customer relationship management
Includes time and expense budgeting
No integrated calendar and task management
Free dedicated account manager
No client portal to upload documents
TimeSolv is available in Pro and Legal editions. However, the Pro plan does not include trust accounting, so I don’t recommend it for law firms.
- TimeSolv Legal Monthly Cost
- 1 to 4 users: $34.95 per user
- 5 to 14 users: $29.95 per user
- 15 to 100 users: $24.95 per user
- More than 100 users: Custom pricing
- TimeSolv Legal Annual Cost
- 1 to 4 users: $377.52 per user
- 5 to 14 users: $323.40 per user
- 15 to 100 users:$269.52 per user
- More than 100 users: Custom pricing
Your firm will also need bookkeeping software to integrate with TimeSolv. I recommend integrating TimeSolv with Xero Growing Edition, which is available for $30 per month for unlimited users.
- Trust accounting: TimeSolve allows multiple trust accounts, tracks client ledgers, and simplifies monthly triple reconciliations. You can transfer funds between matter ledgers for the same client.
- Time tracking: Time can be tracked from mobile devices or a desktop app with built-in timers.
- Payroll: Xero provides payroll processing for an additional fee.
- Expense tracking: You can create an expense transaction from your mobile device and attach an image of the receipt.
- Invoicing: Templates can be created to generate invoices quickly. You can split invoices among customers, batch process invoices, and collect payments online.
- Budgeting: Management can track time and expenses by matter and compare them to budgets in real-time.
- Matter management: Matter details, such as contacts, budget, invoices, documents, and trust balances, can all be viewed in one place.
- Customer support: Unlimited free training and support, upgrades as they become available, and a dedicated account manager are provided to all users.
Read our TimeSolv review for more information about how it can upgrade your Xero bookkeeping software to perform trust accounting and other law-firm specific tasks.
Zola Suite: Least-expensive All-in-One Cloud-based Solution
Zola Suite is right for legal professionals looking for a less expensive, cloud-based, all-in-one solution and willing to give up a few more advanced features. Zola Suite Core will save you $20 per month, per user, compared to either Zola Suite Enterprise or CosmoLex. You can start with the Core plan and upgrade to Enterprise if you decide you need the extra features. Zola Suite offers a 10-day free trial.
Zolo Suite Pros
Zolo Suite Cons
Access the cloud-based program with mobile apps
No integrated payroll system
Accept credit card payments with no monthly fee
No free access for your external accountant
Core edition is inexpensive for all-in-one cloud-based software
Cannot manage unpaid bills and vendors with Core edition
Free unlimited customer support
Core edition limited to importing two bank accounts
Zola Suite Pricing
- Zola Suite Core: $69 per user, per month or $708 per user, per year
- Zola Suite Enterprise: $89 per user, per month or $948 per user, per year
- Zola Suite Enterprise Plus: $99 per user, per month or $1,068 per user, per year
Zola Suite Features
- Trust accounting: Retainers, invoices, and expenses are posted automatically to client trust ledgers that can be viewed or printed. Three-way reconciliations are easy to perform.
- Trust check protections: Checks designated as trust checks must have a client-matter number selected, cannot be drawn from the operating account, and cannot result in an overdraft of the client-matter trust ledger.
- Time tracking: Time can be tracked using a timer on a desktop or mobile device, or hours can be input directly. You can designate whether nonbillable time should be shown on the invoice when entering time.
- Rate card: Rate cards are used to assign custom rates for any user, or to set a discount to apply to rates. Rate cards can be assigned to clients or individual client matters, which is not available with Core.
- Split billing: Invoices can be generated to multiple clients for a single matter for Enterprise Plus only.
- Consolidated invoices: A single invoice can be used to bill a client for multiple matters for Enterprise Plus only.
- Productivity reports: Available reports include realization rate, billable hours, and billed and collected fees, which is not included in Core.
- Remote training: Remote training is available annually for Core subscribers. Enterprise and Enterprise Plus subscribers receive unlimited remote training.
- Lead management: Leads can be tracked and then converted to client-matters if they become a client, which is not available with Core.
- Matter management: Zola’s Matter Dashboard shows all contacts, communications, time and expenses, documents, invoices, and client trust ledger for each matter.
To learn more about the different editions of Zola Suite and how the software can help your law firm, please read our Zola Suite review.
Law firm bookkeeping software is unique because it must perform a three-way reconciliation of client ledgers, trust account, and bank statements. Beyond that, good law firm software should provide easy ways to manage client matters. We’ve provided you with great all-in-one software alternatives as well as integrations to turn your existing QuickBooks or Xero software into law firm accounting software.