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Smokeball

Smokeball is desktop-based law practice management software for Windows-based law firms. Its robust document and automation features are tightly integrated with Microsoft Word and Outlook.

Smokeball Rating:
4.1/5

Features

  • Customer Experience & Support - 9/10
    9/10
  • Pricing & Value - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Security - 10/10
    10/10
  • Innovation & Future-Proofing - 8.25/10
    8.3/10
8.7/10
Comments Rating 4 (4 reviews)
Details

Rating Breakdown

Our Rating: 4.3/5

Our rating is based on our subjective judgment. Use our resources—including our rating and community ratings and reviews—to find the best fit for your firm.

Community Rating: 4/5 (based on 4 ratings)

The community rating is based on the average of the community reviews below.

Composite Rating: 4.1/5

The composite rating is a weighted average of our rating and the community ratings below.

Smokeball is desktop-based law practice management software for Windows-based law firms. Its robust document and automation features are tightly integrated with Microsoft Word and Outlook.

Smokeball Highlights

Robust document management, organization, and productivity. Smokeball’s marquee feature is document assembly and automation. It comes with a variety of forms and letters pre-installed. Smokeball can help you set up additional templates, or you can build them yourself. Smokeball also keeps all files and matter information–including emails and billing information–all in one place for better organization of your cases and tasks. Smokeball also has a task management feature that has the ability to attach files to specific tasks, build workflows for repetitive processes, and even generate a document from a template attached to an assigned task.

Automated time tracking. Due to the tight Microsoft Word and Outlook integration, Smokeball’s Activity Intelligence feature can keep track of what you are doing as long as you are working in Smokeball, Word, or Outlook. If you bill for time, you can convert tracked time into billable entries manually or automatically. If you bill by flat fee or contingency, Smokeball converts tracked time into profitability and productivity analyses broken down by practice area, matter, and staff member.

Smokeball Billing. Smokeball billing is tightly integrated with the Smokeball practice management system. It creates and delivers invoices, tracks trust accounts, creates billing reports, and integrates with LawPay, Quickbooks, and Xero to create full firm billing suite.

Offline access. Because Smokeball installs locally on PCs, you can keep using it even when you are offline.

Cloud backend. Instead of requiring your firm to set up and maintain a server, Smokeball uses the cloud to make your data available to everyone in your firm. This way, you can access documents from any computer with Smokeball or through the Smokeball mobile app so you can view and save documents on the go.

Smokeball Pricing

Smokeball’s pricing information is available upon request. To learn more about their pricing options, you will need to reach out for more information.

Features

Website
www.smokeball.com
Starting Cost
Custom
Apps
  • Android
  • Windows
  • iOS
Installation
  • Hybrid
Core Features
For law practice management software, the following are essential features, and you should therefore expect to see a check in every box in this section.
Case/Matter Management
Matter management is the defining feature of law practice management software, of course. However, some software is targeted at specific practice areas and may implement case management in different ways in order to manage information specific to those practice areas.
Client/Contact Management
Managing clients and other contacts is a core feature of law practice management software.
Task Management
Basic task management includes creating tasks with due dates that can be associated with cases/matters and assigned to different lawyers. Some products stick to pretty basic task management, while others offer enough features to make any Getting Things Done devotee happy.
Calendar
As with email, this feature means a full calendar client, not just an integration with Outlook or Google Calendar.
Timekeeping
Timekeeping is a core feature of practice management software, essential for lawyers who bill by the hour but useful even for those who don't.
Additional Features
Conflict Checking
An actual conflict checker is more than just a search box. This applies to software that actually has a conflict checking feature. Implementation varies, but at a minimum you should be able to search the entire database for matching names. It should check for conflicts accurately and intuitively, allow for a lateral hire to input their conflict database into the system, work quickly when new clients call, and comply with the rules of professional conduct for checking conflicts.
Email Client
Does it include a full email client? (Alternative solutions that don't amount to an email client, like plugins for Outlook or Gmail, do not earn a check for this feature. See software integrations, below.))
Document Management
Basic document management allows you to add documents and associate them with your cases/matters.
Document Assembly
Loading your firm’s document templates into your law practice management software can save time and ensure consistency. This check means basic document assembly suitable for form letters, invoices, etc. For advanced document assembly, you’ll probably need additional software.
Secure Client Portal
Basic Bookkeeping
This means basic checkbook register–style bookkeeping, which is more limited than full accounting. You should be able to keep track of your operating accounts and reconcile your balances, but you may still need full accounting software.
Trust Accounting
This means you can track your client trust accounts, including expenses and payments. It is normal to see trust accounting without basic bookkeeping or full accounting, in which case you will need something else for accounting.
Full Accounting
Some software includes full double-entry accounting features, making additional accounting software unnecessary.
Billing & Invoicing
Does the software allow you to send bills or invoices?
Online Payments
Payment processing is increasingly offered either as an included or add-on feature, especially with cloud-based law practice management software.
Software Integrations
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Family Law Software
  • InfoTrack
  • LawPay
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft Word
  • QuickBooks Online
  • RingCentral
  • ScanSnap
Open API

Things You Might Want to Know

Windows only. If you use a Mac, you will have to run Windows using virtualization software like Boot Camp, Parallels, or VMWare Fusion in order to use Smokeball.

Apps. There are mobile apps for both iOS and Android. The mobile apps allow you to view matters, see your daily digest, see your calendar (and those of your colleagues, if applicable), tasks and to-do list, and also add documents to a matter.

Setup. After you sign up, a representative will schedule a call with you. They will guide you through the install process and remotely install and configure the software for you. Here’s what’s included in the onboarding process:

  • Installation.
  • Installing add-ins for Microsoft Word and Outlook.
  • Setting up your letterhead template.
  • Configuring user preferences.
  • A consultation call to learn more about your firm and its needs.
  • Two online training sessions covering basic and advanced features, and additional feature-related training you request.
  • Dedicated account management from their “client success team” for the life of your subscription.

In short, the setup process is fairly time-intensive, but if you need hand-holding you will probably appreciate the attention.

Migration. Except for your contacts, there is no way to bulk import information from other practice management software into Smokeball. For contacts, you can provide a CSV file to Smokeball during your onboarding experience. The tight integration with Microsoft Outlook also includes calendar sync.

Template setup. There are three ways to get up and running with document assembly: (1) use the pre-installed templates, which include public court and administrative forms; (2) give your documents to Smokeball, which will turn them into templates for you; or (3) set up your templates yourself.

Task permissions. While it is convenient to be able to view the tasks of everyone at the firm, there is no way to restrict permissions if you don’t want everyone’s tasks to be shared with everyone else at the firm.

Invoicing included. You can track your time in their interface—either automatically or manually—and use its billing features to transform your time entry into finalized invoices and send invoices.

Backup. For storage and backup, Smokeball uses Amazon S3, a cloud-storage service with a high level of security, uptime, and backup capabilities.

Security. Smokeball isn’t as forthcoming as we would like about security. It shares very little on its website or in its documentation. What they do say is that it uses “bank-grade security, encryption, firewalls, and data backups” to keep your client data secure. We learned that it uses 256-bit SSL encryption for all data traveling between your computer and their servers and all data while at rest. For what it’s worth, most of the cloud-based practice management software options in our directory use 256-bit SSL encryption.

Ai (Activity Intelligence). Ai is a tool to help you keep track of what’s happening in your firm on a day-to-day basis. Activity Intelligence allows you to add activities to client bills or simply review your and your team’s productivity.

Who Smokeball Is For

This software is a great fit for small Windows-based firms that rely on document assembly and automation and like some extra hand-holding during setup.

4 Smokeball Community Reviews

  1. Avatar Ryen S. says:

    The premium software package for the fictional attorney

    Does my review and title seem harsh? Yes? Good. SmokeBall is just bad.

    First, you can’t install it yourself. Instead you have to call the company, allow them full remote access to your computer and they will install it for you – a process I find highly suspect in the era of cloud computing.

    Second, your data isn’t locally stored or easily ported to another software solution. Let me phrase that more simply: IF YOU’RE NOT THINKING ABOUT THE FACT YOU MIGHT HAVE TO SOMEDAY MOVE TO ANOTHER PRACTICE MANAGEMENT PLATFORM, YOU HAVE FAILED AT CHOOSING WHATEVER PLATFORM YOU’RE CURRENTLY ON! This is a mistake my firm made before I was hired, but I hope they will appreciate the lesson when I’m gone. SmokeBall is happy to email you 200GB of zip files to be unpacked and sorted at your leisure, but your billable can never be retrieved and ported to another platform. Yeah, let that one sink in.

    Finally, SmokeBall really only integrates with Microsoft Office. So, unless you’re only going to use the Office Suite in terms of notes, tasking, email, and calendaring the functionality of SmokeBall is pretty restrictive. Similarly, as far a as mobile solutions go, they’re not even worth talking about.

    Big takeaway: If you’re looking for a practice management solution that only works with Office, with data that SmokeBall won’t ever let you own – no matter what your professional obligations are, that is tied to one standalone computer with limited mobile functionality, then maybe SmokeBall is for you. Otherwise, look for a platform with an actual attorney as a spokesperson.

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  2. Avatar Scott S. says:

    Magic

    Started using it 18 months ago. I reclaimed 2-3 days per month that I used to spend doing the bills and managing the billing process. The auto-time tracking feature is the most remarkable development ever. If your fingers are on a keyboard, Smokeball is capturing your time. Most days, billing for me now means 3-5 minutes of editing the auto-time data. Billing and editing is easy to use. Also robust practice management features and cloud storage. My entire electronic pleading file is now on my phone.

    It’s not perfect, it needs some more reporting tools. But it is the most amazing, flexible and robust solution I’ve encountered. I can’t recommend it enough.

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  3. Avatar Robert T. says:

    Kept their promises

    I have a not super complicated EP practice, and I went with Smokeball because of their promise to tightly integrate with Office 365 and provide excellent document assembly. It also has some automated timekeeping feature, where it tracks the emails, documents, and memo’s created out of Smokeball – making it easy to complete your timekeeping later in the day. I’ve been very, very happy.

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  4. Avatar Sheldon M. says:

    Excellent Email Integration

    Extremely satisfied. Smokeball has an excellent layout, helpful support and the desktop elements makes it faster than web-based programs. Additionally, Smokeball allows you to link emails to matters directly in Outlook as well as to directly upload and save documents to/from matters. I don’t think any other practice management software offers this level of integration.

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