Software Programs That Skip The Software
Two products offer Web-based systems for billing and case management.
By Robert Ambrogi
AS SURELY AS autumn brings changing hues and cooler temperatures, it delivers a host of new products to the legal market. Among this year's offerings are two that use nothing more than a Web browser and an Internet connection to deliver unique systems for essential tasks -- billing and case management.
Because these products skip proprietary software in favor of any common Web browser, the user benefits by:
- Never having to purchase, install, maintain or upgrade special software.
- Being able to access the information from anywhere in the world.
- Avoiding special hardware requirements.
Billing is the bane of many a small firm. Tracking time and preparing invoices often take a back seat to the press of matters at hand. So what if someone else would do it all for you? Can't afford it, you say. Well, how about if it is free?
That's the idea behind TimeBills.com, a Web-based time tracking and invoicing service (http://www.timebills.com). It is absolutely free for up to five users. Each user beyond five costs only $3.95 a month. There are no strings attached, no advertising to plow through, no gimmicks.
The only extra charge is for paper invoicing. TimeBills will send your invoices to clients for free by e-mail or fax. If you prefer paper, it charges $4.95 for every three invoices.
TimeBills.com is completely Web based, requiring only that you have a recent Web browser. A drawback of this is that price and convenience take precedence over bells and whistles. If you need a billing program rich in features, look elsewhere.
Using Timebills.com is easy. Functions are arranged under five tabs:
- Account, where you set up general information, define your services and rates, and add clients or projects.
- TimeBills, where you track your time and expenses.
- Invoice, where you create and send invoices.
- Report, where you track all activity.
- Admin, where you add users and set company defaults.
Recording time is a simple matter of opening a new or existing TimeBill for a particular client or project. You can enter your time directly or track it with a timer (you need not stay online while the timer running).
To create an invoice, simply assemble all the TimeBills relating to your client. TimeBills.com takes care of delivery.
TimeBills allows you to view billing information in various formats and generate a variety of reports. Users can customize the layout of invoices.
With a service such as this, security is a critical concern. TimeBills promises that its servers are protected by a state-of-the-art firewall and are in secure facilities. It uses browser-level encryption to protect data traveling over the Web. Access to data is authorized and certified by VeriSign.
Among the litany of litigation-support products, Ringtail Solutions may be an unfamiliar name to lawyers in the U.S., but not so in its home country of Australia.
When the largest case in Australian history went to trial, Ringtail was in the courtroom, providing the lawyers access to all court documents, witness statements, briefs and the transcript in real time.
Later, when a Royal Commission convened to investigate a catastrophic natural-gas explosion, Ringtail was there again -- this time, with a twist. Because of widespread interest in the investigation, the Victoria Justice Department wanted the transcript available to the public over the Internet in real time.
Now, Ringtail is bringing its Lantern line of case-management products to the United States.
What distinguishes Ringtail's products from other case-management tools is that they require no software other than a standard Web browser. In addition to convenience, this brings versatility, allowing them to be used on an Intranet, an Extranet or over the Internet. Notably, the entire product line is designed to work well with a 28.8 K modem.
The various Lantern products are tailored to specific applications. Among the most impressive is Full Text, providing state-of-the-art textual analysis of transcripts, depositions and other documents, all via the Internet.
Full Text has all the features a lawyer would expect, allowing for complex searching, issue coding, threaded notes, links to case law, integrated access to evidence images, and e-mail integration.
Another Lantern tool is Real Time, which Ringtail says was the first real-time transcript service to be 100 percent browser based. This comes in a read-only version or in a "dynamic" version that provides a streaming view of the transcript embedded in the Full Text module, with all the features that offers.
Other Lantern products include:
- Case Book, an Intranet-based document management tool.
- Media, delivering live, streaming audio from a courtroom or deposition.
- Court Book, allowing integration of various elements of the court record with other Lantern products.
- Snap Shot, a tool for quickly copying a case file's images or documents to a CD-ROM for use offline.
Learn about Ringtail and sample demonstrations of its Lantern line of products via its Web site.
Robert J. Ambrogi , a lawyer in Rockport Mass., is co-editor of the Internet Newsletter, published by American Lawyer Media, in which an expanded version of this article appeared.