Every lawyer in Texas is now eligible for free access to trust accounting and billing software, thanks to an exclusive partnership announced today between the State Bar of Texas and the law practice management company Smokeball.

Under the partnership, all members of the State Bar of Texas — some 111,000 lawyers — can sign up for free access to Smokeball Bill, Smokeball’s trust accounting and billing software for law firms.

The goal of the partnership is to help lawyers — particularly lawyers in solo and small firms — maintain compliance with requirements for managing their client trust accounts.

“Equipping all Texas attorneys with this innovative software will empower them to efficiently manage their trust accounting compliantly and spend more time practicing law,” said Trey Apffel, executive director of the State Bar. “This offering supports all Texans, allowing them to benefit from the power of technology.”

Learn more about Smokeball at the LawNext Legal Technology Directory.

Texas is a mandatory bar state, which means that all licensed lawyers there belong to the State Bar, an administrative agency of the state judiciary that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system.

This makes Texas the second state bar to provide all its members with free access to trust accounting software, after The Florida Bar last year announced a agreement with Nota, a legal financial management company, to provide free trust accounting software to all 110,000 of its members.

And although this is Smokeball’s first product partnership of this kind with a state bar, others are in the works to offer free trust accounting and will be announced at a later date, it says.

The bar will begin notifying members of the new benefit today and will highlight it during its annual meeting starting Thursday.

Promoting Compliance

While lawyers in firms of any size are eligible for the Smokeball software, the need is most acute among solo and smaller firms, Ruchie Chadha, president of Smokeball U.S., told me during an interview in advance of today’s announcement.

Many smaller firms still rely on manual processes for billing and trust accounting, which not only leads to delays and inefficiencies, but which can sometimes be the cause of accounting and compliance errors that result in malpractice claims, she said.

“At Smokeball, we’re always looking for ways to help serve the legal community,” Chadha said. “This is a way for us to help tackle that challenge head on and provide a service for attorneys so that they can efficiently, effectively, and compliantly manage their billing and focus on the work that they want to do.”

Smokeball Bill is a software product that provides tools for sending and collecting invoices and for simple accounting. Emma Raimi-Zlatic, director of strategic partnerships and events at Smokeball, said that Smokeball Bill includes features that allow lawyers to customize and send invoices to their clients, track their time and expenses, monitor accounts receivables, and accept online payments, in addition to its features for trust accounting and reconciliation.

Lawyers can use it as a standalone product, regardless of whether they are subscribers to the full Smokeball practice management suite. But lawyers who want a full practice management suite can take advantage of an affinity relationship between Smokeball and the Texas bar that provides discounted pricing for bar members on the full Smokeball practice management software, Raimi-Zlatic said.

Texas bar members can learn more about Smokeball’s free product offering or sign up to take advantage of it at www.smokeball.com/texasbill.


Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.