Billing Matters, the LexisNexis law office billing and accounting program, was killed last week. This was circulated Thursday and appeared in the TechnoLawyer newsletter.
"Effective September 1, Billing Matters® will be placed in maintenance mode. During maintenance mode, LexisNexis will continue to resolve known issues and provide technical support in accordance with our standard practices, but no new features or functionality will be added. Billing Matters will continue to be released in conjunction with new versions of Time Matters until Billing Matters is sunset on 12/31/2013. Existing users of Billing Matters will continue to have access to update versions of the software and access to technical support through the purchase of an Annual Maintenance Plan until 12/31/2013. Finally, integration and conversion capabilities between Billing Matters and other LexisNexis applications such as Juris® and PCLaw™ will be strengthened to allow customers ample time to move to appropriate applications."
"LexisNexis announced a long sunset period in order to provide customers time to plan appropriately for the transition of their billing system without having to make an immediate decision. We respect the investment you have made with the purchase and on-going maintenance of Billing Matters and will provide migration options with details in the near future."
Sr. Director – Community Management
LexisNexis Practice Management
Let’s do a quick history lesson so you can understand why it’s so hard for me to make recommendations about line-of-business software.
- In 2004, LexisNexis acquired Time Matters, case management software that had been focused on law offices. In the next few years, LexisNexis attempted to reposition Time Matters as a solution for other businesses besides law firms, although more recently it appears to have abandoned those efforts and refocused Time Matters on law offices.
- In 2005, LexisNexis acquired PCLaw, a billing and accounting program for law offices.
- LexisNexis continued to market PCLaw but seemed more excited by its announcement of new program Billing Matters, a fully integrated companion for Time Matters that would do billing and accounting for law offices. It seemed unlikely that LexisNexis would fully support two competing, overlapping programs but it swore that both products were dear to its heart and would live forever.
- Even worse, LexisNexis enhanced and promoted the halfhearted case management features that had been added to PCLaw on top of its core billing and accounting functions. By that time it was completely impossible to figure out LexisNexis’ product lineup; PCLaw partially overlapped Time Matters and almost completely overlapped Billing Matters.
- In 2007, LexisNexis muddied the water even more by rebranding all three programs as if they were all equal members of the same product line. LexisNexis also put any questions about their judgment to rest when it chose these hideously awful, short-lived names for the programs: Lexis® Front Office powered by Time Matters®, Lexis® Back Office powered by Billing Matters®, and Lexis® Back Office Powered by PCLaw™.
- The names quietly changed back to Time Matters, Billing Matters, and PCLaw, where things rested until last week when LexisNexis unceremoniously threw Billing Matters into the dumpster behind the building.
How should I advise the small law office looking for software to do case management, billing, and accounting? One of the considerations has to be the expected lifespan of the software. Law offices continue for a long time. I know from bitter experience that switching from one program to another is wrenching at best and disastrous at worst. Years of accounting data cannot be converted from one system to another without enormous effort and expense, and there is a huge risk of error and downtime. Case management programs accumulate data ranging from calendars and address books to full-blown document management. The case management program – case calendars and phone notes and timekeeping – is the component that faces the lawyers. This may be hard to believe but occasionally – every so often – lawyers are just the teensiest bit resistant to change. If the vendor drops the program or goes out of business, the law firm might not make it through the transition.
There are companies that have been in business for a long time – Abacus and Orion are examples. But in this economy it’s impossible to be confident about fringe players whose financials are a complete mystery.
But the big players seem even more prone to treat products lines almost frivolously, disposing of them when the market doesn’t work out the way they planned. Oh, they’re more or less gracious and support the product for long enough to plan a transition, but that’s small comfort.
So there’s PCLaw, the last man standing in the LexisNexis line for small law office billing and accounting. Will it still be standing five years from now? Timeslips is next to it – quirky, buggy, unloved, but it’s been around forever and seems impossible to kill. West offers ProLaw, which just doesn’t work for a small office without an IT staff; at the least it requires people dedicated and patient enough to learn its quirks. Or do we turn to Abacus, Orion, TABS, or one of the other small stalwarts?
Tough to get crystal balls working when things change this fast.