Many tasks eat into a law firm’s billable hours — including the billing process itself. Whether it’s writing descriptions for invoices, waiting for the right attorney to review the bill, or following up with overdue notices, billing takes up valuable time.
But there are a few things you can do to expedite your billing process and put your hours to better use. Start by using the steps below to standardize your billing.
Have a billing policy
The first step in standardizing your billing is having a policy — and making sure your clients have access to that information. This helps clients know what to expect. And it helps create consistency across the firm.
Use a template
Having a template for your bills leads to greater consistency and saves time. It also sets clear expectations for your clients. They know what to look for and where.
Make your bills clear and descriptive
Clear and descriptive billing sounds obvious, but many attorneys struggle to find the right balance on their invoices. If the description of hours is too short and vague, clients may call with questions or be reluctant to pay. But long descriptions also take up attorney time and can make the bill confusing for laypeople to read.
Strike a balance. For most meetings or research, you can describe the key points in five or so words.
Track time as it happens
It’s so easy to lose track of the details of your day if you wait to write billable time down. Instead, use a time tracker so that you don’t lose segments here and there.
Better yet, use a time tracker that’s integrated with your billing and accounting. It’ll save you time and make sure you’re getting paid for your hours.
Remember that billing policy you’re going to create? Don’t forget to follow it — especially when it comes to sending out regular bills. It’s much easier for clients to pay consistent, monthly bills than to have to scramble to pay one large bill that comes out of nowhere.
Have a plan for regular follow-up
Speaking of policy, it helps to know how you’ll handle any needed follow-up with clients on their bills. Know who’s going to answer questions if a client disputes or doesn’t understand a charge.
And have a plan for overdue billing reminders. Many practice management systems offer automated reminders so that you don’t have to be the one spending the time — and energy — on follow-up.
Every firm’s needs are different. But having a standard policy that emphasizes consistency and leverages automation will preserve more time for other tasks, such as billable work.