NextChapter is the bankruptcy preparation solution Balena Law Firm LLC is riding into the future. Why NextChapter? I am always concerned about your experience in the office. Part of that experience is the efficient preparation of your petition. The other part is your delivery of information to make that happen. My choice enhances each of those parts. This is a new step forward. Let me tell you how I got here.
First There Was MacForms
When I started as a bankruptcy lawyer my office ran on Apple iMacs. The only program for bankruptcy petition preparation for Mac was MacForms. It had an easy user interface, but it lacked the ability to create the entire bankruptcy petition package as a single PDF. Each form and schedule had to be printed separately. This took a little more time but it wasn’t so bad before the advent of ECF (electronic case filing). With ECF each document had to be uploaded separately. This was extremely time consuming and ultimately unworkable.
There Is Always New Hope
A Macintosh alternative for bankruptcy filing continued to be a moving target. There was a program called New Hope. The software was Bankruptcy 2000. It was developed and maintained by a man who formerly lived in Shaker Heights, Ohio. It began life as a Mac program. He switched over to Microsoft Windows as Apple lost dominance in business software. The program still had a Mac feel. I switched to this program and at the same time began converting my office to Windows. New Hope was excellent software, but is fell down on the implementation of ECF. Long after I gave up and moved on it dropped from the market entirely.
Plan For Your Best Case
The industry standard for bankruptcy software is Best Case. Ultimately I made the switch. I was with them 5 years. Best Case had the look and feel of an old DOS (Microsoft operating system before windows) program. It by far has the best implementation of ECF filing. It is crisp and efficient. The problem with it was it is a solidly Microsoft based program. The way it works properly is physically in the office on a one of the networked computers. Their customer service experience WAS ONCE the best.
Over the last few years Best Case has been bought and sold. The most recent owner bought not only this, but also other competing products. Most of those have shut down. Kill the competition, raise the price. The most recent release updated the look of the platform so at least you don’t feel like you are using a program in the 1990s. They added some bells and whistles which for me are nothing I use. In the final analysis I was unhappy paying more and more each year for the same old. Customer service grew less effective with each acquisition. A call back model is now used by customer service. The return call never came when promised. Basic ECF uploads began to omit important components.
To be fair at one time Best Case offered an online preparation capability and may still have a mostly useless debtor portal. The online package was an add-on to their base product and cost an additional $99 per month. In my opinion for the cost of the base product it should be free. I know of no attorney who purchased or used these options. They claim to be developing a cloud solution, but each year at the NACBA convention they say it will be ready next year. I ran out of next years. If this is the year, they’re too late to keep my business.
It’s a Jubilee When You File Your NextChapter
One morning at bankruptcy court I tried logging in to my office computer to work on an amendment to a bankruptcy filing. My office server ran one of those pesky Microsoft updates and restarted. No one was in the office to enter the password. I started to wonder why there wasn’t a cloud-based bankruptcy software solution. I decided to put together a team to create one myself. Back at the office I began my search online. I discovered two groups beat me to the punch, Jubilee and NextChapter.
My Best Case subscription had 6 months left. I dug in to evaluate each platform. Each permitted a free download test drive. Fastcase claims to have a contender, but try as I might I never gained access to their demo. NextChapter offered to buy out the remainder of my Best Case subscription. Each is cloud based. Jubilee is based on the Windows program LegalPro. NextChapter was built from the ground up by bankruptcy Virtual Assistants and young software engineers. Their unique feature is any item of data needs entered only once. It then auto-populates throughout the petition. This is what takes the most effort to learn. Can you believe doing less can be so hard? For years we have been entering the same thing over and over throughout the schedules. Bad habits are hard to break.
As with any new technology pricing is steep, but remember Best Case costs more and more each year for no innovation. If I decided on price alone Jubilee win. They came close, but in the end I went with NextChapter. I use the pro version with the chapter 13 plan and debtor portal. Why?
- Fun, clean interface,
- Entering each item one time,
- Easy to use client portal. No more mind numbing written questionnaire.
- Stunning customer service, and
- They are in Columbus, OH (let’s give the locals some business).
I am no longer forced to depend on a Windows computer in my office. I work anywhere. Before, I could only print in my office. Now I can download and print anywhere I have a printer. Recently I filed a case first thing in the morning from home using an iMac. I am no longer dragging the Windows ball and chain.
Even though I like Windows 10, I prefer working using my MacBook. NextChapter is not limited to Windows or Mac. A Chromebook works too. If you can access the internet you can access your debtor portal. You can use your:
- Desktop computer
- Windows, MacOS, Linux, ChromeOS, iOS or Android.
The Federal Courts courts adopted ECF early in the game so bankruptcy lawyers tend to be more tech capable. I was confused by the fact bankruptcy software took so long to embrace the cloud. New dogs are now teaching new tricks. I used to say if I had internet, I was in business. Now when I have internet I am in business and I can do everything.