The episode offers 1.0 hour of General or 1.0 hour of Ethics CLE credit and it is course number 3694.
Did you know the Florida Bar offers its members over 70 free or discounted products and services? Check them all out, including its newest member benefit: TrustBooks. In part one of this two part series on member benefits, podcast hosts Christine Bilbrey and Karla Eckardt talk with Tom Boyle, CPA and TrustBooks co-founder, about what led him to develop trust accounting software tailored to lawyers’ needs. They discuss the importance of ensuring your accounting is compliant with current state bar rules and how TrustBooks helps lawyers avoid common pitfalls. Tom also shares details on how TrustBooks can seamlessly integrate with both Clio and LawPay.
The Florida Bar Podcast
Member Benefits Episode 1: Trust Account Compliance with TrustBooks
Intro: Welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, where we highlight the latest trends in law office and legal practice management to help you run your firm, brought to you by The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Center. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Christine Bilbrey: Welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, brought to you by LegalFuel: The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar on Legal Talk Network. We are so glad you are joining us. This is Christine Bilbrey. I am a Senior Practice Management Advisor at the Bar and one of the hosts for today’s show, which is being recorded from our offices in Tallahassee, Florida.
Karla Eckardt: Hello, I am Karla Eckardt, Practice Management Advisor at The Florida Bar and co-host of today’s podcast.
Our goal at The Practice Resource Center is to assist Florida attorneys with running the business side of their law practices. We focus on a different topic each month and carry the theme through our website with related tips, videos and articles.
Christine Bilbrey: On this episode in our series on Florida Bar Member Benefits, we will be responding to all the questions we get from attorneys about software and services that they need to run their practices more efficiently. They are often surprised to find out that the Bar offers its members over 70 free or discounted products and services such as professional liability insurance, several excellent practice management software programs, free incorporation, free legal research and more.
To kick off our series on member benefits, we are speaking with Tom Boyle. Tom is the Co-founder of TrustBooks. He is a CPA in North Carolina. He spent the first five years of his career working for two big public accounting firms, Deloitte & Touche and McGladrey & Pullen. In 2010, Tom launched his own CPA practice which focused on outsourced accounting for law firms. Then, in 2014, Tom co-founded TrustBooks, based on his experience of helping law firms manage their trust accounts.
Tom is considered a trust accounting expert. He regularly performs CLE presentations on trust accounting and writes articles for legal publications including ‘Lawyers Mutual’.
We’re excited to announce that TrustBooks is our newest Florida Bar member benefit.
Welcome to the show, Tom.
Tom Boyle: Great, thanks. Excited to be here. Excited to be the newest member benefit for the Florida Bar.
Karla Eckardt: We’re excited. Congratulations.
Christine Bilbrey: So, Tom, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what led to the creation of TrustBooks?
Tom Boyle: Happy to. So my background is in accounting, so I’m a CPA, but I’m in a family full of attorneys, I was doing the math the other day, I think I’ve got six attorneys in my sort of immediate family between siblings and my dad, my uncle, my grandfathers, saw a lot of attorneys. So sitting at the dinner table I feel like I’ve slept through or sat through enough law and order-type episodes where I sleep at a Holiday Inn, I’m going to wake up as an attorney one day, but I’m not. I’m an accountant and started my career in big four public accounting, as you mentioned, with Deloitte & Touche, and then McGladrey & Pullen and wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I have kind of always had that entrepreneurialism as part of my DNA, and so started something, maybe not too original but it was a CPA practice.
My angle was that I was going to work almost exclusively with law firms and so in 2010 I launched Boyle CPA, had a small team. We were doing the bookkeeping or outsourced accounting for small law firms, and from that discovered that there has not been a really great solution for the trust account.
And so, we were doing a lot of the same resources, the QuickBooks, the Excel spreadsheets that you find in the solos, the ten attorney law firms, and in the back of my mind I just kept thinking and there’s got to be an easier, better solution to help a lawyer manage their trust account.
I teamed up with my co-founder, Chad Todd, and the two of us kind of brainstormed, we’re both entrepreneurial, we’re both nerds that when we jump on a call, our minds kind of go to business and just brainstorming on, hey, what’s something we can work together on, and from those conversations we started kicking the idea around, well, here’s a pain point that I’m experiencing, in my CPA practice, it’s trying to easily find a solution to help attorneys with their trust account. Nothing exists, I’m kind of putting this hodgepodge of QuickBooks with an Excel spreadsheet, and then if they are using practice management software, so I’ve got three different tools and neither one of them are really perfectly designed, but that’s the best option and I’m not alone.
And so, Chad said, no, no, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m sure that something like this exists out there. So, I said, okay, go look for it, and he did and a couple days later he came back and said, you know what, I think you’re right, I don’t know that anything exists out there. This might be a real pain point to try and solve.
And that took us down the path, that was about 2014, of starting to have some of those conversations and that took us down the path of getting together and whiteboarding out what is eventually going to become TrustBooks. We mocked up I think 20 different pages to start TrustBooks, and from those 20 pages we took it to a designer, we took it to the developer, and TrustBooks was born, and really with the mindset of solving that pain point for small law firms of really that easy button, how do you put the easy button on the trust account that’s something that’s scary and overwhelming like managing a trust account, it’s something that you can get disbarred for. So it’s got just real kind of frightening aspect to it.
But, at least from my perspective, I knew it didn’t have to be that complicated. I knew if you just had the right tool in place, it could really be simple, it could really be easy and you could get to all the right reporting and features that you would need to be compliant with the State Bar.
So that was the start in evolution of TrustBooks. I am glad that I’m in a family full of attorneys because that is the reason why I started the CPA practice with a focus on working with law firms, it was an easy niche for me to talk to, it was in my comfort zone of already engaging with attorneys, it wasn’t anything that was uncomfortable to me. All my good friends are attorneys, so for me it’s been a nice kind of progression of starting the CPA practice and then continue to evolve and really be hunkered down in this legal community and legal tech community.
Karla Eckardt: So, you’ve touched upon the hodgepodge of tools that were being used or that you would use when helping attorneys with their trust accounts, but why is it important to use software like TrustBooks that is specific for attorney trust accounting as opposed to your standard accounting software, we won’t name names, but —
Tom Boyle: Sure. The reason why is, you’re kind of the elephant in the room of the accounting software, right? Won’t name names, but it is a player that is designed to be for all industries. So if you go into the accounting software, and this is pretty much all accounting software where it’s not focused on this specific niche of legal accounting and then within legal accounting your trust account. There are nuances that you have to follow for the trust account to make sure you’re following your State Bar rules.
When you use just kind of off-the-shelf accounting software because it doesn’t have built-in features that are designed specifically for the trust account, you just open yourself up to being susceptible to doing things like deficit spending or putting in accounting transactions but not having to — not being forced into maintaining client ledgers. There’s a bunch of workarounds but it’s not intuitive, it’s not part of the DNA of the product, so you’ve got to put in a ton of workaround in the struggle that you find is if you’re an attorney or if you’re in a small law firm and maybe you don’t have that expertise in the accounting software, rarely, rarely have I found that attorney that went to law school and loves doing accounting.
So it’s not why they went to law school, it’s not why they’re practicing as an attorney, they are wanting to be an attorney but they’ve got this very important component of running their law practice of managing their trust account. And so, we use the kind of standard accounting software and you have to, one, be an expert in that accounting software, so that, two, you can make sure you put in all the right kind of manipulations to get it to work for trust account, so there’s this inherent kind of barrier to having to know in-depth the accounting software. Then you have to have a really in-depth knowledge of the trust rules.
And so every state has got little bit different trust rules, they can be involved, they can be intense. So, it’s having to kind of combine this real deep understanding of the accounting software so that you can manipulate it to get it to work for a trust account, and then two, having to real have an in-depth understanding of the trust rules so that you are setting up this accounting software and designing it so that it can work for you.
So those are the real big challenges, and again, when you’re an attorney and the last thing you want to be doing is accounting, it’s just part of the practice that usually falls to the very bottom of the list, it’s usually the — hi geez, I don’t want to do this, you get the grumbles, you get the procrastination, and then it end up having this domino effect where it can be a real challenge to even get started.
Karla Eckardt: Right, and even if you’re familiar with standard accounting software and you are “an expert” in it, as an attorney why bother, it’s time-wasted if there are other solutions out there like TrustBooks, you’re wasting your time setting up these workarounds and trying to make this software work for you when in fact you could be billing time instead of doing your accounting. So that’s just another tidbit of why you should use trust account-specific software.
Tom Boyle: Sure, 100%, and I’ll give you a scenario that this is a real life scenario that happened to me in my CPA practice. It was — and it happened on a Friday, of course all things happen on a Friday. I was the only one in the office that afternoon and one of my clients called me up and said, hey, can you send me the client list in the trust account? I said, Bill, sure, no problem. I open up the QuickBooks file and I look at that balance sheet and I hit the panic button. I look at the balance sheet, I see we had set up different chart of accounts, sub-accounts for each client and I won’t bore you in getting into too much of the accounting jargon, but basically I’d set up where all my clients would show up on the balance sheet and I look at the balance and I had three clients with a negative balance and panic fear the — the just set off, right?
So I went in and for the next, I think six or seven hours that was completely consumed my day, I went to try and figure out what had happened with my client’s trust account in this accounting software, and we are the experts, right? I mean, I’m the CPA, I’ve got a team of accountants, we’re QuickBooks-certified, and it’s so easy because we had set up a memorized transaction and one of my staff had just forgotten to update one of the sub-accounts on that memorized transaction. So a few entries that gotten recorded to the wrong sub-account, luckily we were doing this redundant system where we had an Excel spreadsheet that was backing it up, and so I was able to reference the Excel spreadsheet. I was able to unravel it.
The good news is that nothing was truly in the negative. It was just trying to find this kind of shortcut in the system to record transactions and that shortcut because we weren’t super-diligent with making sure that everything got updated caused one of these balances doing the negative. But, I mean, we are the experts, we’re the ones that are supposed to be know the software inside and out, and it still happened to us and it was a true six or seven-hour panic fest on my side because the last thing that, I mean, I would have been fired on the spot if I had gone back to my client and said, oh yeah, by the way we messed up, we brought three of your clients into the negative that would not have been a fun conversation. Luckily, it was fixed and it wasn’t the case, I didn’t have to have that conversation but, ah, it was not a fun Friday afternoon at all.
Christine Bilbrey: Well, so you’re a CPA so I feel like I can ask you this without offending you, we have people that call in and they’ll say, no, no, no, I can’t use law practice management software because my accountant told me I have to use QuickBooks because he can extract, he or she can extract the reports that they need to handle this for me and do the reconciliation.
So does TrustBooks — okay, so it’s a two-part question; one, can you produce the reports that those people would want to hand to their accountant that are not in QuickBooks, or two, if you’re doing TrustBooks and it’s doing everything for you, do you still need the accountant to handle your trust account at all or should they just be doing your taxes and your operating account?
Tom Boyle: Great question. This is something that we run into all the time. So I’ll preface it that — so I’m speaking into my own people, right? Accountants. We kind of like the systems that we’re comfortable with. So that is what we’ve seen is the biggest reason for what you just described of accountant says that I can’t do this and needs me to use this software. We’ve seen it more of a — they are comfortable in what they know and sometimes it’s a challenge to open them up to different software, so that’s kind of one side of it.
Your other part of the question is, TrustBooks will absolutely take the place of QuickBooks for your trust account. So, I make that distinction because we’re there for the trust account, so we are there to handle all of your trust activity and everything that you would need to do to reconcile and get the right reporting and maintain client ledgers and keep compliance with your State Bar, our software will handle that.
Aand so you do not need to double-up any of your data entry, time management, it’s not introducing a new product, a new software, that will increase the amount of time, it’s going to introduce a new product that’s going to save you a lot of time.
We regularly have our users tell us, I went from — we’ve got an example, we’ve got one of our users in Iowa, he’s using our product and his testimonial that we got on the site has said, he went from four hour doing reconciliations that took him four hours a month to doing a reconciliation four minutes.
Christine Bilbrey: Wow.
Tom Boyle: That seems extreme but that’s what he says. So, it is something that does take the place of having to manage your trust account and your trust activity in any other software. So you don’t need to use the QuickBooks or use another accounting software, what we’re doing in TrustBooks will 100% manage your trust account and get you to the right reporting, get you to the right reconciliations that you need to be compliant.
Christine Bilbrey: Excellent.
Tom Boyle: Well, there’s something else, I don’t know if I answered all of that a 100%.
Christine Bilbrey: Well, I guess like you can extract reports from TrustBooks if that was something you wanted to hand over to your accounting professional.
Karla Eckardt: Or just not use an accountant.
Tom Boyle: Yeah, so we’ve been talking this concept internally here at TrustBooks of TrustBooks simple. So whenever we talk and one of our big messages that our current users understand that a 100%, so whenever we say that we’re going to introduce a new feature, we say, alright, this new feature, it’s going to be TrustBooks simple. And what that means is with using TrustBooks we have designed it so that whatever you see in typical accounting software we’re going to be the 180 at that. So, typically, you’ve got a ton of features, you’ve got all these different accounting jargon and accounting aspects like payroll, taxes, inventory sheets, we strip all that away and we do this very, very intentionally.
It’s been a challenge to build a product that is very disciplined to not do a feature creep. And so the reason why we are very intentional though that is we want TrustBooks to be the easy button, it’s just like flipping on your iPhone. You turn on your iPhone and you just know where to go, you don’t need to spend two days reading a manual and figuring out how to work in iPhone, you just hit the On — you hold the button it goes on and you know exactly how to use the iPhone, you know where to go and it’s super-intuitive and easy.
Same with TrustBooks. We’ve got a top row that says, if you can create a client or enter a client information, the client name, matter name, perfect, you’ve created your client list. Next is, all you have to do is worry about money that goes into the account, that’s entering a deposit, and money that goes out of the account that’s processing a payment.
We do all the backend stuff. So, really we can boil down how simple trust accounting can be by fitting it in those buckets of saying, let’s mirror the workflow and the cash that’s going to go in and out of your trust bank account, and let’s say, alright, we first need to set up a client that’s straightforward, we’ve got a client name, matter name, if that’s all you want to put into TrustBooks, that’s simple.
Next thing is money goes into the bank account, that’s a deposit. Money leaves the bank account, that’s a payment, and it’s that simplicity that I think really wins with our customers because again they don’t need to hire somebody, they don’t need to take a five-hour course on how to use the product. We can in 15 or 20 minutes just jump in, show them it and they understand exactly where they need to go in TrustBooks.
Christine Bilbrey: And that’s a huge relief because if you’re saying debits, credits, double entry, that their eyes have already glazed over, or they’re so terrified and we do get people there like they think that the Florida Bar is draconian when it comes to enforcing this —
Karla Eckardt: Oh man! They think we’re in their trust account.
Christine Bilbrey: Yeah, they sleep over this and I know that you’re in North Carolina, and guess what, North Carolina is stricter than Florida because we don’t do spot checks. It’s my understanding the last time I talked to the North Carolina that they literally are going out and —
Karla Eckardt: Random audits.
Christine Bilbrey: Random audits of their attorneys, which is — sounds way scarier, but what are some of the most common reasons that a law firm, whether they’re in North Carolina or Florida, what are the reasons they find themselves non-compliant with their State Bar rules? What are the biggies?
Tom Boyle: The biggie that we see is the three-way reconciliation. So, of all the kind of issues the one that we see is the most common pitfall is this three-way reconciliation.
What it is doing is it’s trying to reconcile your bank statement, to your trust ledger, to the sum of your client ledgers. So those are the three components, they get matched and reconciled together, and in our experience this is by far the number one issue, like you mentioned North Carolina has that random audit process, and you’re right.
You want to scare an attorney, you say, your judicial district was selected for random audit this quarter, you’re now susceptible to be in one of these 60 or 70 attorneys that’s going to be proactively audited and the State Bar is going to come out and ask for all the records over the past twelve months, that that gets an attorney’s attention, big time.
But one of the helpful things for us is that from those random audits they submit the results of those random audits and North Carolina like Florida has this three-way trust reconciliation requirement. North Carolina is a little different, it’s a quarterly requirement, in Florida it’s a monthly requirement. But, we were seeing that I think two — I’m going to — I’m going to maybe get my quarters wrong, but there was a quarter in 2017 where 47% of the attorneys submitted or selected for this random audit, failed to do a three-way trust reconciliation.
Karla Eckardt: Oh no.
Tom Boyle: So that’s a big, big number, that was North Carolina, so not Florida, but I think these stats at least in my experience they can get extrapolated from State to State to State, especially if there’s not maybe as strong as a overseer like being subjected to a random audit, being subjected to a random audit. We’ve seen it gets the attorney even more in-tune with what are the trust rules and regulations and making sure that I’m following the trust rules and regulations. But the three-way reconciliation definitely a big one and the reason why we see such non-compliance with it — in my perspective, in my experience it’s been two things.
One, it’s this kind of relying on the accounting software like a QuickBooks where you think that you’re doing — you are doing a reconciliation, you’re going into QuickBooks and doing a reconciliation and it can be QuickBooks or other accounting software, you go in, you do this reconciliation, what you’re doing is a two-way reconciliation. You are reconciling your bank statement to your trust ledger. So those are two of the components, and that’s kind of your standard reconciliation that you see in accounting software.
If you are only doing that in the accounting software and you’re not bringing this third component of showing all of your clients with their balance and making sure that that sum ties into the trust ledger or that then ties into the adjusted bank statement balance, then you are not meeting this three-way reconciliation.
So we’ve seen it where it’s kind of this may be an ignorance-type play or it’s a false security of relying on your accounting software, doing a reconciliation there, but it’s not meeting that third component.
So that’s one thing of this false security, false confidence that, yes, I’m doing a reconciliation but you’re relying on a product that doesn’t build in that client list with balances just automatically as part of the reconciliation. So that’s definitely a big reason why non-compliance.
The other one around the three-way reconciliation is just relying on, is not knowing the rules, simply just not knowing the rules or relying on support staff to know the rules and putting your confidence in your support staff or outside bookkeeper and they aren’t as in-tuned with law firms and the trust requirements, and again, saying, yep, I’m giving you a reconciliation but it’s failing to meet that three-way reconciliation requirement.
Karla Eckardt: And in Florida if you are not familiar, which you should be, but for your benefit you want to make sure you go over chapter 5 and the record-keeping requirements specifically are going to be 5-1.2, right? 5-1.2, sounds about right.
Read Chapter 5 because it goes over all of this, it’s a very short chapter and I feel like our members are often intimidated because if you look at the rules regulating the Florida Bar there are a lot of chapters, but the trust accounting one specifically are very short, and once you take the time, easy to understand which then makes TrustBooks even sort of even more intuitive when you understand what TrustBooks is doing and how it’s making the reconciliation process, so easy with one button.
Tom Boyle: Yep. And one thing that I failed to bring up kind of comparing let’s say TrustBooks to the accounting software that’s out there, when you do reconcile in TrustBooks, every time you reconcile a three-way reconciliation automatically gets generated.
So there’s no extra steps that we put on our users, it’s just kind of — again, it goes back to that easy button, it’s building a product that’s designed to meet one specific thing and that’s managing a lawyer’s trust account, and with that, that laser focus we can build a reconciliation process that says, alright, let’s reconcile, that’s pretty straightforward, it’s matching things from your bank statement to the activity that’s recorded in TrustBooks, now you hit the Save and Reconcile button, and when you do that, this three-way reconciliation automatically gets generated.
So, it puts that peace of mind that as long as I’m going through the reconciliation process that I know that I’m going to be able to generate this three-way reconciliation, and then it gets saved in your account so you’ve always got the ability to reference it, you’ve always got the ability to pull it back up and show that yes, you reconciled, and the last page on that is really important, because it breaks down and shows your entire client list with their balance as of that reconciliation date, and just the — I kind of go off in tangents and Chad always tells me to stop being so CPA, nerdy and speak in normal language that non-accountants understand.
The reason why that three-way reconciliation is so important and the reason why the Florida Bar cares about it and all these other Bars care about it, is it does two things. If you can generate that client list with the balance and tie that into your bank statement then the two things that it kind of proves and gives the Bar real confidence around is one; if you’ve got the entire client list with their balance, then it proves that you’re maintaining client ledgers. So that’s another pitfall, that’s another thing that we’ve seen can be a common out of compliance, is not maintaining client ledgers, which means that every single transaction that goes in and out of your bank account, in and out of your trust bank account, has to be associated with a client. So at any given time you know exactly how much money you’ve got on a client by client basis.
Christine Bilbrey: Do you print checks through TrustBooks so that all the information gets loaded into the right places inside the program?
Tom Boyle: Absolutely, yep, so you’ve got the ability to print checks, and again, it’s part of our just workflow, you don’t even know that you’re maintaining client ledgers. When you go and enter deposit, our first step is to select the client. Same with the payment; the first step when you select the payment, our process of payment is to select the client.
So it’s just kind of the workflow without even knowing it by design when you do a deposit or payment, behind-the-scenes you’re maintaining client ledgers, and you’re making sure that every single transaction there’s no way to record a transaction in TrustBooks that doesn’t get associated with a client.
Karla Eckardt: Right, and again, it’s important because again to remind our listeners, you have a fiduciary responsibility when you are maintaining trust funds, these are not the firm’s funds, these are the client’s funds. So if a client calls you up and asks how much of my money do you have, you need to be able to very quickly tell them, I have X amount. I don’t know, it’s not an acceptable response to a client. I mean —
Christine Bilbrey: Or let me check with my accountant and get back to you, that’s horrifying, yes.
Karla Eckardt: Right, that is horrifying. So, again, the client first aspect of TrustBooks that makes it compliant is, is how every attorney should treat their trust account, whether or not they use TrustBooks, the client comes first and it is not your money. So, again, it’s great that you pointed out that that’s something built into TrustBooks and it’s one of those features — speaking of features, it is my understanding, and tell me if I’m wrong, but that there are maybe some customized or additional features that are specific to our members, so to Florida attorneys. Can you speak about that?
Tom Boyle: Yeah, definitely. So, when we were going through the process of working with Terry and his group at the Member Benefits Division of the Florida Bar and with y’all and the whole team there, one of the sticking points was TrustBooks looks great, but we really like to have this one additional feature, and we take that to heart and we love to listen and we love to figure out ways that we can improve TrustBooks to make it as specific and meet the requirements as on point as we can, and so one of those, the main one was the ability to save bank statements with a reconciliation.
So it’s not something that we have done in the past, it’s not a feature that we had in TrustBooks in the past, but it’s important to the Florida Bar, it’s important to if you’re a Florida attorney that you’ve got the ability to easily get to your bank statement and have it saved with your reconciliation, and so yet that’s one thing that as we’re going through this process, as we’ve been working through the details of how do we make sure TrustBooks meets the needs for Florida attorneys as best we can, one of the real pushes was, hey, can we add this ability to save a bank statement in TrustBooks? And we said, absolutely, we’d love to figure out a way to customize it and do that.
So we have developed that, we have — I think this week we are rolling out the actual final touches on it. It’s been a pretty cool project to see one that I’m excited about because we love to customize. There’s a couple other states where we’ve got some unique customizations for and so anytime that we can make sure that TrustBooks is as tailored as best we can for specific State, that’s a win for us because it means that we’re really meeting the needs for those Bar attorneys.
So that’s the biggest one, it was the ability to allow Florida attorneys to upload their bank statement and save it inside of TrustBooks. It also does something else that’s pretty neat and something that we kind of care about and that’s the ability to kind of go paperless. We want TrustBooks to be your spot that you can go to, log in whether you’re in your office, you’re at home wherever, you’ve got access to your TrustBooks account and you can kind of see everything you need, you don’t need a paper file system, everything is just going to be saved digitally right there in TrustBooks. So it’s super, super-easy on kind of going towards that paperless environment.
Christine Bilbrey: And I want to jump in just to clarify things for Florida Bar members. So, to be compliant with the rules the reason we’re asking you to save those bank statements is because if you look in the details of the rules not only do you have to have a copy of every check that you’ve written on your trust account, you’ve got to have a picture of the back as well and some banks were still not doing that, so you’d get your bank statement there on the back pages, there’d be all these photographs of the checks you’d written. We have to see who endorsed the check, where it went. So it’s got to be front and back.
The other thing is, people would say, oh, well, I can just access my online account any time and show you that —
Karla Eckardt: Nope.
Christine Bilbrey: Yeah, we need if you look in the rules, you need to maintain these documents for a minimum of six years from the time that the matter was concluded and if you go to your bank right now and check, they probably go back 120 days, six months tops and that’s not there, it’s going to be lost and I know that people have gotten audited and they had to go pay their bank a lot of money and like go through microfiche or something. So you are required to have that in your possession, it is perfectly acceptable to have it stored digitally, and so once you’ve entered that if your bank has given you the front and back of the checks and it’s stored in TrustBooks, you’re compliant for that part of it.
Karla Eckardt: Right, so thank you for adding that, because again, it was such a push point for us because a lot of people just were not maintaining those records for the six years because they just assumed their banks would and that just wasn’t the case.
Christine Bilbrey: And we don’t jump in and endorse products, but I have to say I met Tom years ago at a Clio Conference and there was the CEO of the company, I didn’t know that at the time, but I wandered up at the Expo Hall part of it and I have got a demo from you, and I was so impressed, and I have to say I love Trust Accounting. I’m one of those weirdos, I should have been an accountant and when members call I’ll spend hours on the phone helping them find —
Karla Eckardt: She will, I always send them to Christine when they need very personalized.
Christine Bilbrey: I just love it. So I know now that if you sign-up, if people start using your product, I’m not going to get any of those phone calls, but we do have lots of people —
Karla Eckardt: She’ll be sad, she’ll be sad.
Christine Bilbrey: But we have people that are — so I have to say, on our legalfuel.com, we have the old Excel spreadsheets that technically —
Karla Eckardt: People ask for but — yeah.
Christine Bilbrey: Yeah, we don’t want you to do that, they’re there, but — okay, so that brings me to the next thing and I’m going to put you on the spot. So people are terrified, if you’re a solo or a small firm you’ve got to count every nickel because you’re trying to be efficient.
Karla Eckardt: It’s not your money.
Christine Bilbrey: Yeah, so a lot of people are like, I just can’t afford this whole thing. I’m like trust accounting, stand alone, you’re right, did not exist out there. How much is TrustBooks and what kind of discount are our members going to receive from you?
Tom Boyle: We have worked with the Florida Bar to add in a special discount, special promo and we’ve got two subscription plans. Our first subscription plan, which is kind of the basic, it’s the DIY plan where you’re in complete control, you’re entering the day-to-day activity and you are responsible for doing your own reconciliations. So you’ve got access to the full software and you’re in control. We have given Florida attorneys an extra discount, so normally it’s 390 a year plan or we have a monthly subscription, but the discount is on the annual plan.
We’ve actually given it three months free on an annual plan, so it’s $351 for Florida attorneys as members of the Florida Bar for that annual plan. If you wanted to do it on a monthly basis, it’s $39 a month on a monthly plan. So that’s our DIY plan.
The next one is our Team plan. Our Team plan combines the software which you have still full control full access with a service component, that service component is our team coming in at month end and actually doing the reconciliation for you. So our users in that plan are still responsible for maintaining the day-to-day, week-to-week activity, but then at month end if they want that extra assurance or if they just want to extra support and say, you know what, I’d feel more comfortable if TrustBooks team, so we’ve got a team of trust accountants, we’ve got CPAs on our team. So if they are the ones they’re actually doing the reconciliation reviewed by a CPA we’re giving a $15 per month discount on that to where it’s $114 a month on the Team plan; so normally it’s $129 a month, we are bringing that down to $114 a month. So those are our two subscription plans, the DIY and the Team plan.
Christine Bilbrey: And I also want to commend you, I looked at your landing page if you go through the floridabar.org and click on Member Benefits, when you find TrustBooks under the Practice Management section of the Member Benefits, if you’re freaked out by all the three-way talk even the reconciliation and all of that you’re freaked out by that, the TrustBooks team has done an amazing job of simplifying kind of our Florida Bar rules, it’s like this lovely little —
Karla Eckardt: TrustBooks is the easy button for everything.
Christine Bilbrey: Yeah, there is this — even if you’re not signing up for TrustBooks but you’re curious, go, look at his cheat sheet that he’s set up to tell you the important things you need to be doing, monthly and yearly. I was very impressed by that your team did a good job on that.
Karla Eckardt: No, no, we are excited, I mean, we’re grateful because it’s something we talk about every day. We get calls about trust accounting every day. So to be able to point our members to TrustBooks and to that landing page with all the resources and the explanations of what they need to be doing it’s just a weight off our shoulders.
Tom Boyle: That’s awesome and thank you for that, that is — again it kind of goes back to something that’s important for us, we want — there’s not too many people — Christine, I think you said that you do love reconciliations, I’m with you, I’m in the same boat, so —
Christine Bilbrey: I do.
Tom Boyle: I do, it’s putting together this giant puzzle and there is black and white so you can get to a final point and that is so exhilarating you’d like, yes, but I think 00:37:48, right?
Christine Bilbrey: It’s so clean and satisfying.
Tom Boyle: Exactly, exactly, but one of the things that we really want to do and we mean this is that we want to be a resource for attorneys. If they’re using TrustBooks, awesome, if they’re not, then we still want to be that trust accounting resource, that guide, that kind of expert in the field so that we can give them added resources. You’re right that we did this landing page specifically for Florida. We created content specifically for Florida. So it’s not just a generic article, it’s not just generic landing page. We invested time, we invested effort to make sure that this speaks specifically to Florida attorneys and thank you for noticing that, that means a lot to the team here, definitely a lot of kudos to the team here.
Christine Bilbrey: Oh, I do have one clarification because we get this phone call all the time. On it, it reminds them that they are going to have to certify once a year that they are compliant with the Florida Bar trust account rules and so you list that in there, but then people think they have to file something with us, that is on your fee statement —
Karla Eckardt: Yes.
Christine Bilbrey: So if you want to tweak that, that would save us a whole like probably two dozen phone calls this year that says yearly you will mark that you are compliant on your Florida Bar fee statement, that is a big deal.
Tom Boyle: Got you.
Karla Eckardt: Right.
Christine Bilbrey: Okay.
Karla Eckardt: And I have another little tidbit because while TrustBooks is a standalone software program, it does integrate with some of the popular practice management software programs out there, what are those programs?
Tom Boyle: Yeah, perfect question. So, we do, we have two integrations, very proud of both of those integrations. First is with LawPay. So we first integrated with LawPay probably two or three years ago. I remember meeting Amanda and her team at the ABA Tech Show probably three years ago. We were in that startup Ally competition and their inaugural sort of Ally, competition with Bob Ambrogi and we met the LawPay team, we went to work onto an integration. So that one I love it because it’s so simple, right, again it’s this TrustBooks’ simple mentality of we pull in all credit-card activity from LawPay, all you have to do is assign it to the right client.
Once it gets imported into TrustBooks, you hit “Import” and it’s taken care of. The one unique thing that LawPay has told us that we do and I’m not sure any of their other integrated partners do, and Christine, you’ll love this, because it gets back to the reconciliation is that we mirror the same way that LawPay makes a deposit on your bank statement, we mirror that same process in TrustBooks.
Again, I will make this brief because it is accounting jargon, but LawPay does a daily batch. So if you had let’s say two credit card transactions that went through today, in a couple days from now they will group those two credit card transactions and just make one lump-sum deposit on your bank statement. In TrustBooks we mirror that same process so that at month end when you do a reconciliation, it’s super, super-easy to say, all right, here’s that lump-sum deposit on my bank statement, it’s going to show up in TrustBooks that same way.
We’re going to make sure that each transaction gets detailed out, so it’s hitting the right client ledgers, but then we kind of group them on the same page, so it gets a grand total that’s going to make it so-so easy to match up to your bank statement.
So that’s one of our integrations. The other one is with Clio. Clio is practice management, huge practice management player and we’ve integrated with them for past couple of years now and again a super nice, super-easy integration process where you kind of use Clio in your day-to-day, you’re able to import your clients, able to import any trust activity from Clio into TrustBooks and then TrustBooks helps you dot the i’s cross the t’s, so that that month end process of doing a reconciliation and getting to the right reports is all kind of finalized in TrustBooks. So it’s a nice one-two combo there as well.
Christine Bilbrey: And I want to interject LawPay and Clio or also Florida Bar Member benefits, you can get a discount on those as well.
Tom Boyle: It’s awesome.
Christine Bilbrey: So, thank you so much, Tom Boyle, for joining us today!
Tom Boyle: Oh, I’m happy to be here. Thanks so much for the invite. This is great. Thank you so much!
Christine Bilbrey: So, if our listeners have questions, if they love trust accounting or they hate trust accounting or they want to get more information from you, where can they go to find that?
Tom Boyle: I’ll throw out a few. So the landing page, the trustbooks.com/florida, that’s a great resource. You can go to our homepage, trustbooks.com. My personal email, I’m going to throw out my personal email, because I love hearing from folks.
Karla Eckardt: You are brave.
Tom Boyle: I know, I’m brave, right? But, that’s good. We’re an open book, so we love to engage with our customers. It really — it’s just part of who we are. My email is [email protected], so real simple [email protected].
If you want to shoot the team at TrustBooks and email or you have a kind of a general inquiry, you can always reach us at [email protected]. So, real easy ways to engage with us and we like to — we like to hear from attorneys and from users and people checking us out or even if they just have a generic question on trust accounting.
Christine Bilbrey: Perfect. Thank you.
Karla Eckardt: Thank you. Thank you.
Christine Bilbrey: If you like what you heard today please rate us in Apple podcasts. Join us next time for another episode of the Florida Bar Podcast brought to you by LegalFuel, the Practice Resource Center of the Florida Bar on Legal Talk Network.
I am Christine Bilbrey.
Karla Eckardt: And I’m Karla Eckardt. Until next time, thank you for listening.
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