Law firms have a number of specialized billing needs and it is important to find a billing software solution that caters to these needs. When reading time billing software reviews to find the right product for your practice, be sure to look for these critical features.
- Matter-Based Billing: Most businesses bill by client, but a law firm has to bill by matter. Large multi-disciplinary practices might have a dozen or more different billing schedules depending on matter, and even a solo attorney may bill differently depending on the kind of work done. Your need to be able to set up different billing models for each matter and yet also be able to see all matters belonging to a client.
- Retainer Management: Law firms use retainers to facilitate getting paid. Unfortunately some attorneys collect an initial retainer and then lose track of things until the retainer runs out. Attorney time and billing software has to be able to not only pay invoices from a retainer, but must be able to track retainers so that as the balance gets low the attorney can contact the client for additional funds.
- Trust Management: Attorneys often deal with trust accounts, and trust management is so intertwined with daily operation that dedicated legal accounting software should have escrow functions built in. This should be a full suite of tools including account management, fund tracking and bank reconciliation.
- Flexible Billing Options: Law firms use three basic billing models: the billable hour, flat fees and contingency fees. Your billing software should support all three billing models, even on different matters for the same client. Small firms might operate on only one model but support for all three gives the practice the option to expand their billing options in the future.
- Multiple Rates: Professionals typically have a standard billable rate but law offices often use tiered rates. A single attorney might bill different rates depending on the task being performed. The software should make it easy to enter these different rates so the client is billed correctly. Attorneys should also be able to specify a local rate for matters that have been negotiated separately from the normal rate table.
- State-Compliant Reports: Attorneys are subject to tight scrutiny and need to be able to produce paper trails to support their actions. The software must be able to produce reports required by the state bar or other regulating agencies. For example most states require three-way reconciliations for all trust funds and practices that can’t produce them are going to have problems.
You can choose from many billing solutions so be sure you buy the software that truly meets your law practice’s needs. Stick to dedicated legal practice management software rather than trying to make do with generic solutions.