Legal.online, October 1999, Col. No. 57Copyright 1999 Robert J. Ambrogi
By Robert J. 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 solutions to essential tasks -- billing and case management.
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 you could get someone else to 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. 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 want them to send a paper invoice, they charge $4.95 for every three invoices.
An added plus is that you do not have to purchase, install and continually upgrade proprietary software. TimeBills.com is completely Web based, requiring only that you have a recent Web browser (versions 3.0 or higher of Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer).
And because it is Web based, you can access your account information from anywhere in the world.
One drawback to Timebills.com is that price and convenience take precedence over bells and whistles. If you need a time and billing program rich in features, look elsewhere.
Using Timebills.com is simple. 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 an existing Time Bill or creating a new one for a particular client or project. You can enter your time or use a timer to track time elapsed. You need not stay online while the timer running, although you do need to log back on to turn it off.
If you use Microsoft Outlook or a Palm Pilot, you can import contacts and appointments into TimeBills. It sets up accounts for each contact and adds the appointments to client accounts as time to be billed.
TimeBills creates an invoice by assembling all the time bills relating to your client. It then delivers the invoice to the client by e-mail, fax or postal mail.
TimeBills allows you to view billing information in various formats. For example, you can view TimeBills by day, week, month or year, or by client, project or type of service. Likewise, you can view invoices by client or project or by payment status.
Users can customize the layout of invoices. You can also generate a variety of reports on accounts receivable.
With a service such as this, security is a critical concern for a lawyer. TimeBills promises that its servers are protected by a state-of-the-art firewall and are located in secure, guarded facilities. TimeBills 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 direct access to all court documents, witness statements, briefs and the transcript in real time.
Later, when Australia's Longford Royal Commission convened to investigate a catastrophic natural-gas explosion, Ringtail was there again -- but this time, with a twist. Because of the 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 U.S. It is already putting its expertise to work in Courtroom 21, the court-technology showcase sponsored by William and Mary School of Law and the National Center for State Courts.
What distinguishes Ringtail's products from other case-management tools is that it requires no software other than a standard Web browser. This has several clear advantages:
- There is no proprietary software to purchase, install, maintain or upgrade.
- There is no special hardware required.
- It can be used on an intranet, an extranet or over the Internet.Lantern is a line of products that provide solutions for specific case-management applications. Among the most impressive is Lantern Full Text, which provides 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.
Notably, Full Text and other Lantern tools are designed to work well with a 28.8 K modem. It achieves this in part through a frame structure that reduces the quantity of data moving between your computer and the server.
Another Lantern tool is Real Time, which Ringtail says is the first real-time transcript service to be 100 percent browser based. This is available in a read-only version that includes a simple search mechanism 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 for use in case management and due diligence.
- 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.You can learn all about Ringtail and sample demonstrations of its Lantern line of products via its Web site, http://www.ringtail.com.au.
Copyright 1999 Robert J. Ambrogi