Law firms using QBO are often frustrated. We get calls regularly from law firms of all sizes telling us, “QBO does not work.” When we probe with specific questions about what is not working, we hear that they are in the wrong version of QBO for what they want to do. Many do not even know there are different subscription levels!
For most of us, if we do not understand the difference in value between subscriptions levels of a product, we opt for the least expensive. Particularly if we know little about the service or features being provided.
Law firms are no different. Lawyers typically view accounting as a necessary ‘evil’ of having a firm. In their eyes, accounting is very simple. It is the same as their online bank account. Vendor payments are reoccurring on either their credit card or ACH. The same credit card is automatically paid when the statement comes out. They take credit cards as a form of invoice payment and see the funds automatically deposited into their bank account.
From their perspective, what’s the big deal? It’s all automatic. Even QBO reinforces this belief with the bank feed allowing the action ‘Add’ for each entry without stopping to think about where the transactions end up.
Legal firms just don't see QBO (or accounting as a whole) as a valuable tool for accomplishing their firm or personal goals. Unfortunately, as accountants and bookkeepers, we are actually furthering this belief by not showing and explaining the useful value of the buried information QBO can provide.
If you read the marketing literature Intuit shares, it is industry agnostic. When a lawyer reviews Intuit's marketing literature, they may stop reading at bullet point #3 when the feature that is essential to their law firm doesn't show up until bullet point #6. Or they called a sales number and were told they needed the most expensive version because the salesperson was doing their job.
Let’s boil this down to the must-have for law firms; they must have the ability to track expenses & sales by client. So whether they are using a legal time & billing app, a legal practice management platform, or another add-on for their client billing, if they are reconciling the bank accounts in QBO, they need to be able to track expenses & sales by client.
QBO offers four versions - SimpleStart, Essentials, Plus and Advanced.
Of these versions, the need to track expenses and sales by clients eliminates the two least expensive options. SimpleStart and Essentials can not track expenses or income by the client.
For example, we have seen clients trying to use Essentials. They need to run a report to tell how many advanced client costs they have paid on behalf of a client. When you talk with the firm, they tell you they put the client’s name in the memo field. Then want us to create a custom report filtering by the client in the memo field. We all know how creative a client can be when not seeing the field they want and using what is available. These workarounds just don't work.
So, what about QBO Plus & QBO Advanced? The decision between the two depends on which bells and whistles the firm wants or needs.
Let me start by saying many of the ‘goodies’ in QBO Advanced can be purchased as add-ons to QBO Plus, but why? To save a few dollars a month. I would argue the more apps connected to your QBO account, the more you are asking for potential issues. Not to mention the firm feeling like they are being nickeled and dimed. Have you ever heard ‘please just tell me the price?’
In my opinion, QBO Plus is a solid choice for a law firm of any size.
QBO Advanced has two features that we often see firms wanting or needing - the ability to do file backups at will or on a set schedule and the custom reporting using custom fields. One feature in QBO Advanced that Intuit pushes as a significant advantage over QBO Plus is the number of users in QBO Advanced. We have never seen a firm, even those with 15-20 partners, use more than four or five users with three accountants.
So, why are law firms so often frustrated with QBO? In our experience, the primary reason is simply that the firm has subscribed to the wrong version.
If you are niched, consider creating a QBO version comparison sheet for your firm. List the benefits of each version you have seen from your experiences. Be specific, your knowledge of what their firm needs is well received and demonstrates your expertise.