My timekeeping and accounting solution

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My wife commented yesterday that it has been a long time since she heard me complaining about my timekeeping and accounting software. It’s true. I hadn’t realized how much less frustration I have since I ditched Time Matters and Billing Matters Plus for good. Instead, I am using a combination of spreadsheets and simple but powerful accounting software.

As a timekeeper, TM/BM+ was full of features. So full, unfortunately, that it was difficult to learn and time-consuming to use. The timekeeping was fairly straightforward, but the accounting backoffice left even my accountant shaking his head in confusion.

My current system has three parts. First, I have a time and expense spreadsheet. This is what I keep open on my desktop every day, filling in the blanks as I work. It is quick, lightweight, and simple. Each file also has a more complex spreadsheet with time, expenses, and a funds register. At the end of each month, I sort my log by file number, then date, and simply copy and paste the billing records into the appropriate file’s spreadsheet. All in all, this takes only a few clicks per file at the end of the month. I keep the funds register updated as I go, but those usually are not too active in my files.

Finally, I use GnuCash for my accounting. GnuCash is a double-entry accounting program. Unlike Billing Matters Plus, it lets the user decide how the transactions will look. I was always frustrated with not being able to see the full transactions in BM+ unless I ran a GL or GJ report. I don’t like software that doesn’t trust me.

GnuCash also lets you track customers and issue invoices. Since I work on contingency or flat fee, I don’t really need to use that feature.

So that is what I have been using for timekeeping and accounting lately, and it has worked smoothly and kept me happy for at least six months. In the end, I found that the simplest option worked best for me. I also want to be able to see how it all works, and my spreadsheets and accounting software let me do that.

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  • Jerod Tufte

    I’d love to see a post on what, if anything, you use for simple document generation. I am a linux guy at heart but I’m using TM8/BM8 primarily because I can generate a variety of common documents based on fields in matter records and linked contact records. I would greatly prefer to rely on gmail/gcal for mail and calendar (and I largely do) but I don’t want to maintain contacts in two places and can sync the two. I don’t like TM’s instability or it’s sluggish behavior, but I’m not sure OpenOffice would give the needed document generation capability based on certain matter fields.

  • Sam Glover

    I don’t use anything for document generation except some OOo documents or templates. As a litigator, the caption and signature block are the only things that do not change during the course of a case. I don’t find auto-generated letterhead worth the time it takes to set up, since all I have to do is copy and paste the address from Outlook or Evolution.

    As for syncing contacts, both Plaxo and ScheduleWorld/Funambol have plugins for nearly everything. I would bet you can sync with Time Matters, as well.

    Of course, since Time Matters seems to work in Wine (and definitely works if you virtualize Windows), you could still use Linux!