Tips on Performing Data Migration
Attorneys and law firms are notorious for having antiquated systems. Law firms are paper-centric. Many firms, especially the larger ones, still rely on servers and desktop software. At our firm, we have made it our mission to bring them into the 21st-century.
What is data migration?
Data migration moves data from one system or software that is in need of an upgrade or a change, typically something more modern or cloud-based. Changing software sounds so simple, but in reality, it is not.
There are so many working and moving parts to this process that many law firms shy away from it. However, with the right firm on your side, the challenges with a data migration can be manageable and it will make a world of difference.
Data Migration Challenges
- Choosing a start date
- Opening balances
- Open accounts receivable
- Trust account balances (law firms)
- Historical data entry
- Advanced Client Costs (law firms)
Choosing a start date
This seems like the simplest step but sometimes what is so simple can prove to be the biggest challenge. I say this because any data migration will bring some interruption to the operations of a law firm. All of this can be properly handled with clear communication and buy-in from the firm as a whole. This means while not everyone’s input is needed, everyone’s understanding of why this is taking place is important. Conveying how this will help automate some of the day-to-day tasks and potentially alleviate some stress at the different levels is important. Be realistic with the timeframe when discussing this to the firm and maybe ask when they think a reasonable start date would be (ex: slower season, when the office is closed for renovations etc.)
Catching up the data
The most promising reason why most firms are afraid to make the change even though they know it's good for them is that they don't want to be behind in their work. And having the ability to continue working in their software and having our firm catch up with the data is always one of the areas that seem to give our client the most ease. If we have to re-create historical data, the client must understand the end result.
Open accounts receivable
Most Law firms and attorneys have detailed invoices. You will find detailed invoicing if you work with contractors and other industries as well. As you start to back-build the accounts receivable, it has to be a clear understanding of what any re-entered paid and unpaid invoices will look like. Define the process and inform them on how the re-created invoices work in any software that you are using that is specialized for your clients' industry.
Chart of accounts
One of the greatest opportunities to fine-tune and refine the data is one of the perks of switching systems. The chart of accounts is typically an area that we see is not well defined by the law firm or is ripe with old-school accounts that are no longer used. It's one of the first places we step in and work with a client to take their chart of accounts and move it to a new format which allows the data to flow and is easier to navigate and track for future reporting. Look at this step as an opportunity to fix the cracks in the foundation without having to knock down the whole house.
In our experience, we find that when we move a law firm from something that's antiquated to a modern system, it's an opportunity to implement some additional tools to use automation to its fullest possibility. Part of our data migration workflow is interviewing the staff to find out exactly what their tasks or duties are and to see if there's a place that we can automate, this is why communication with the firm as a whole is key. Hiring an accounting firm that specializes in the industry is a benefit. We study and geek out on new software and technology to do our job and the client's job with precision and efficiency. We design workflows to work precisely for the law firm's size and the practice area. That's customization at its finest.
Speaking of customization, the primary tool that we use is QuickBooks Online Advanced. This software allows for customization beyond the boundaries of what is baked in the software already. With custom fields, we can take a firm off of software that may not be working well, or have added spreadsheets to supplement what is currently not working. They would like to see one or two features in the new software that can incorporate and do away with supplemental items. With custom fields, we can design QuickBooks and our legal software, LeanLaw, which has that connected API to make the two platforms even more powerful for the law firm and data tracking. These two programs allow a law firm the ability to lower its tech stack, potentially save money, and be more efficient as a whole.
Our priority is to develop and tailor our process for a firm's successful data migration project. Data migration is tedious work however it can be an additional revenue source for your accounting firm when done well. We can tell you data migration projects have about 85% opportunity to become repetitive clients; even with staff in place doing the accounting work, most firms end up needing our firm to be that supportive outsourced accounting team. This reason alone is good to consider learning how to implement data migration or partnering with a firm that does. We are excited to be able to speak on this topic, How to Navigate a Data Migration Project at Scaling New Heights 2021.
We look forward to seeing you there!