I first talked about the tools I use for law practice management in April 2008. It seems like a good time to do update my list.

Since the last update, my firm has gained one attorney employee and three independent contractors, but the software I use to manage my practice has been flexible enough to survive these transitions. The most-significant change is the switch from GnuCash to Quickbooks for bookkeeping. I ran into trouble with reports in GnuCash that caused me to have to file a rather expensive amended tax return. Quickbooks has been smooth sailing for a full tax season, though, and I am glad I switched.

I also added Basecamp for project management. Basecamp allows me to keep track of everyone working on a case without requiring them to use or install any software themselves. We use it on complex cases, as well as cases involving substantial collaboration with co-counsel.

  • Calendar: Google Calendar/Google Apps. Gcal makes calendar sharing easy, and it syncs with most popular calendar software, so sharing calendars is a piece of cake. I like the Google Apps suite in general even better now that I have an Android smartphone.
  • Tasks/to-dos: Remember the Milk. Randall uses Gcal and my work planning template to keep track of his to-do list, but I still prefer Remember the Milk. Aaron and I use it to share a Lawyerist-related to-do list, and I have lists set up for my MITs (most-important tasks), as well as various GTD lists (do now, waiting, later). We check in about once a week to do work planning, and we use Basecamp when more complicated cases call for collaborative task management.
  • Contacts: Gmail/Google Apps. Gmail’s contacts manager has not changed much since February 2009, which is a shame. I still wish for an easy way to share contacts with other members of our Google Apps account. But hey, it works, and I do not really need anything more complicated.
  • Email: Gmail/Google Apps. Gmail rocks.
  • Word processing / document creation: OpenOffice.org. We have not used Microsoft Office since 2005. Not missing it.
  • PDF creation: Acrobat 9 Standard. Acrobat came with my ScanSnap s1500, and it works great.
  • Timekeeping & billing: Freshbooks. Nothing else comes close to the ease of use and convenience of Freshbooks. It is especially good for working with independent contractors, since they can bill directly to my Freshbooks account.
  • Bookkeeping / accounting: Quickbooks. After the aforementioned tax fiasco, I decided to switch to Quickbooks. Accountants find it easier to work with, and so far, I agree. Plus, it can create accurate reports, something GnuCash apparently had trouble with.
  • Backup: Dropbox and external hard drives.

The tools we use emphasize simplicity, portability, and paperless-ness. We use mostly cloud software so that we aren’t tied to a single operating system or location. All we need to be productive is a web browser. Or, for that matter, a smartphone.

I would love to hear what you are using to manage your solo law practice. Here is a template you can copy into the comments box:

  • Calendar:
  • Tasks/to-dos:
  • Contacts:
  • E-mail:
  • Word processing / document creation:
  • PDF creation:
  • Timekeeping & billing:
  • Bookkeeping / accounting:
  • Backup:

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kinregerp/4457001909/)