No matter what size a firm is or what practice areas they cover, a lack of proper time tracking or billing procedures can quickly create a cash flow issue. Thankfully, modern practice management creates a solution to the challenges of accurate, timely billing. Through the power of the cloud and technology built specifically for the legal industry, lawyers can make billing easier than ever before.
Modern practice management for today’s law firm means using leveraging technology to provide work from anywhere mobile access and constantly improving, legal-specific tools aimed at addressing the unique needs of law firms. When it comes to legal billing, law firms can apply modern practice management to reduce lost billable time, use automation to handle tasks and stay current and compliant.
For firms who want to see their practices thrive, the following modern practice management legal billing tips can help make you as efficient and compliant as possible:
Docketing and Disbursements
Lawyers need to keep track of more than just their billable hours to make sure the firm is maximizing its profit. Non-billable activities should also be tracked to determine how much time is being spent on cases and if the firm is generating as much profit as you think. Keeping track of all time can help determine if rates, whether hourly or retainer, should be increased.
Hard costs, or those related to cases that will be reimbursed by the client, also need to be tracked accurately and invoiced. These costs need to be attached to a particular matter to make sure they’re billed for and ultimately reimbursed, otherwise the firm stands to lose these funds. Streamlining this type of cost recovery by using integrations between other programs to import these transactions into your billing system makes it less likely you’ll forget to enter them in.
The responsibilities that come along with managing retainers and their corresponding trust accounts can be difficult to keep up with, especially as the number of clients and retainers grows. Using technology significantly reduces the amount of time someone has to spend tracking retainer amounts, getting replenishments from clients and making sure client ledgers never are overdrafted.
With legal billing technology, law firms can set up features that automatically take care of these tasks. Use these programs to see available retainers and amounts at a glance and implement evergreen retainers, automatically sending clients a notification that their retainer needs more funds once it hits a certain minimum that you pick.
Certain programs even have built-in tools to help you prevent trust accounting mistakes such as an overdraft of an individual client ledger. When there are multiple retainers pooled into a singular account, this can be easy to do, but legal-specific billing can avoid these issues.
Invoice Generation and Delivery
Manually completing invoicing is a time-consuming task – from individually putting time onto invoices to sending them to clients one at a time, this process can range from hours to days depending on the number of clients you have. With modern practice management that has built-in legal billing, you can use batch invoicing to pull in matter time and batch printing and emailing to send them all at once. If you wanted to eliminate printing altogether you can send these electronically, saving you from having to put invoices in envelopes and the cost of postage.
Another bonus is the option to use a message template. Depending on the client type or the status of the invoice, you can create ready-to-use templates so you don’t have to figure out what to say every time. Simply click and send!
How people expect to be able to pay for services has changed in recent years. The majority of customers today want to be able to pay online and use credit cards, and that goes for legal bills too. Offering online payments as an option for clients is a way to make the process of working with you even easier and to help your cash flow at the same time.
As another benefit, online payments can be very helpful for retainers too. For clients who are ready to get their cases moving, these payments mean they don’t have to wait for a check to be received in the mail and then deposited.
Another time-saver for you: online payments can often be pulled directly into your accounting program, which means less work on your part when it comes to keeping your records up to date.
Not every client is going to pay their bills on time, but you don’t want to spend valuable time trying to get paid for the work you did. Trying to go through your books every week to see what’s overdue and then reaching out to clients one by one is a process no lawyer with a modern practice should spend time on.
Just like with billing, these types of tasks can be automated with the right billing tool. Automatically send out a reminder notice to clients who are coming up on their due date and then send past due notices once the payment deadline passes. Similar to batch invoicing, you can create custom templates and messages for these notices.
A modern lawyer needs modern tools to support them in making the most of their time. Save countless hours and help keep your firm compliant by leveraging today’s ever-advancing technology.
Learn more by watching our complete webinar: Redefining Modern Practice Management-Legal Billing.