Managing a legal practice can be very stressful and time-consuming. As an attorney, you likely would rather spend your working time practicing law. The time capture, accounting, invoicing and administrative tasks are a necessary evil.
Optimizing bottom line revenue relies on maximizing the recognition and capture of billable time, and efficient clear invoicing that is easy for the client to understand, and even easier to make payment.
Automated time tracking and billing tools are very affordable and easy to use. In fact, they often cover their cost in a short period of time. With that in mind, here are 7 ways firms are finding improves the accuracy of the process and the cash flow from legal services invoicing.
1. Capture Time As It Happens
Attorneys know that the main problem when sending a bill is the lack of clarity on what the bill was for. So capturing time as it happens with more detailed descriptions can help quite a bit. This step reduces ambiguity and creates a record with date and time stamps that are accurate. Tracking time as it happens is made easier through a cloud-based practice management and billing system. However, attorneys and law firms can enhance this ability through a mobile app that integrates with the firm’s legal practice management and billing software. Cloud software gives attorneys the ability to work anywhere, anytime. Mobile apps give professionals time-capturing and voice-to-text functionality, making capturing detailed descriptions a whole lot easier!
On the flip side, attorneys who typically capture time at the end of the day or end of the week may use generic descriptions to save time. Such generic descriptions on an invoice can seem like duplications to clients, resulting in questions and slower payment.
2. Review Time Regularly
To remove duplications, professionals and their firms review bills before they send them to their clients. For some firms, this process can take a few days because the firm billing is done monthly or quarterly. Reviewing bills monthly makes it harder for professionals to recall what happened and may result in crediting back clients for hours that were not clearly described.
Legal practice management and billing software makes it easier for professionals to review their entries more frequently by reducing the time it takes to go over them. Reviewing time entries more frequently – maybe at the end of the day or at the most end of the week – makes it simpler for professionals to catch discrepancies or fix ambiguous entries quickly and efficiently.
Monthly billings also become more efficient as less time is needed to review the entries.
3. Higher-frequency Billings
Because of the long time it takes for billing review, firms may opt to bill less frequently, such as on a quarterly basis. Make it a priority to generate invoices as close to the date of service as possible. Many firms bill monthly, but a weekly invoicing process might bring better results. In addition to the reduced cash flow, a less frequent billing cycle accentuates challenges to getting paid faster. Clients who get bills quarterly struggle to recollect the work that was done, causing them to ask more clarification questions. Further, when firms are aggregating billings for three months, the client may receive a bill that is larger than it was expecting, resulting in further discussions about the work leading to that higher invoice.
Using legal practice management and billing software that reduces the time attorneys spend to review gives firms the ability to bill more frequently, resulting in getting paid faster.
4. Send Final Invoices on Matter Completion
The more time that passes after an attorney resolves a matter, the harder it will be for the attorney to remember what happened. Following the steps outlined earlier and utilizing legal practice management and billing software provide attorneys the flexibility to bill immediately after a matter is resolved. The faster invoicing will reduce the number of questions from the client and help the firm get paid faster.
5. Send Bills to Your Clients via Email
More clients are going paperless, so sending a paper invoice creates a burden for them that can be easily avoided by using a legal practice management and billing solution that integrates with email software. Firms that can send bills electronically save on postage costs and deliver invoices immediately, resulting in faster payments. As a bonus suggestion, email the invoice to the accounting department and the person who authorized the legal services. This reduces the time the accounting department takes to get the charges validated.
6. Add Electronic Payment Links on the Invoice
Many clients prefer electronic payments because they are simpler and quicker than sending checks. It’s always a very good idea to give clients this option upon receiving their invoice. Legal practice management and billing software can easily add an electronic payment link on the invoice for expediting payments!
7. Assure that Client Accounts Stay Up to Date
You may experience overdue client payments and collection headaches. Be sure to review an aged invoices report every month, so you know the payment standing of each client. Have a system in place to notify the legal team when a client account is overdue. Create standard verbiage for emails to send to clients who are overdue. Consider charging a market rate of interest for accounts that are overdue.
The goal for legal practice management and billing solutions will always be to help you streamline and accelerate payments. Start by finding the best cloud-based legal practice management and billing solution for your firm, get it and start using it today. You will be amazed with how well it manages your work!