Trust Accounting & Billing | 4 min
April 27, 2023
It goes without saying that law firms cannot survive if they are not billing their clients accurately and regularly. However, healthy billing practices cannot be achieved if law firms use manual or paper-based timekeeping practices that must be entered into multiple systems, leading to data-entry errors and missed potential revenue. Therefore, law firms need to implement instant timekeeping and legal electronic billing software to eliminate the challenges of manual time entry and financial processes to improve productivity and profitability for their practice.
In this article, we will cover legal timekeeping and billing definitions, best practices, and benefits.
Legal timekeeping is the process of lawyers and law firm staff keeping track of the time spent on case-related tasks. Firms that bill hourly can use these timesheets to generate invoices and bill their clients for the work completed. Even for firms that do not bill hourly, they may still track time spent working a case to keep a record of how staff members spend their time and identify top-performing staff members and identify inefficiencies.
Legal timekeeping best practices include:
Standardizing the time tracking process: Ensure that all law firm staff use the same tools and processes to track how they spend their time. Senior staff members should lead by example in maintaining healthy timekeeping practices.
Building in review time: If timesheets need approval before the billing and invoicing stage, make sure time is allotted every week or month (depending on your firm’s need) so that billing and invoicing aren’t delayed.
Tracking fixed-fee matters: As mentioned above, it is important to track fixed-fee matters to maintain complete records of all the work being done. Additionally, it allows firms to understand inefficiencies better or if they are charging clients the appropriate amount for the time and resources it takes to complete the work.
Tracking every task: Many legal professionals only track time spent on tasks like completing documents, sending correspondence, and reviewing files. However, time should be tracked for phone calls, in-person meetings, and travel to and from meetings or court appearances. Even if it isn’t billable, it helps partners and attorneys understand how to improve their productivity throughout the day.
Utilizing instant timekeeping tools: When legal professionals try to track their time after the fact, they often are forced to estimate the time, which means they are missing out on thousands of dollars over time. Attorneys can use legal instant timekeeping software to help improve their time records.
The main benefit of legal instant timekeeping software is that law firms never miss a billable minute. All the work legal professionals complete is automatically captured in the software system to be used for billing and reporting. As these records are collected over time, law firms can also make adjustments based on top earners and workflows that impact productivity to ensure that staff members are recognized for their work and that adjustments are made to ensure operational excellence. Additionally, as the system collects and stores these records, law firms have a central and secure location to pull records for billing disputes or audits quickly and easily.
Legal electronic billing is the process of using software to digitize and automate billing and invoicing for lawyers and bookkeepers. Legal billing software eliminates the need to manually create invoices based on timesheets and instead auto-populates invoice details that can be edited, adjusted, and sent electronically.
Law firm billing best practices include:
Setting expectations with clients at the start: Ensure that clients are aware of billing rates and fee structures from the very beginning of the engagement. It is also helpful to get a fee and billing agreement signed to help mitigate any disputes or questions later in the client engagement.
Billing consistently and frequently: Clients are likely to pay smaller invoices sent regularly instead of being billed a large amount at once. As instant timekeeping practices become the standard for law firms, they can send more frequent invoices to maintain a consistent cash flow.
Being clear and concise: Use clear and concise billing codes and descriptors that use plain language instead of legal jargon. It will make it easy for the client to understand their bill and eliminate the back and forth so that the law firm gets paid faster.
Standardizing billing codes and templates: All staff members should use the same billing codes and templates to eliminate the time needed to generate bills and review them before being sent to a client.
There are many benefits to implementing . The first is that firms improve productivity, especially if instant timekeeping capabilities are also available in the billing software. As less time is spent requesting manual timesheets from attorneys and manually entering data, attorneys, and bookkeepers can do more work in the same amount of time. Additionally, law firms send accurate invoices as time is captured in real-time versus estimates that can lead to missed billable time. Electronic billing also simplifies the payment process for clients as invoices are received faster and more efficiently instead of waiting for a bill to arrive through certified mail. Online payment options also mean that firms receive payment faster than waiting on checks or cash to be received and deposited into the correct account.
While manual and paper-based time tracking and billing processes may have sufficed in the past, law firms must adopt more modern approaches to compete with larger firms and establish a strong relationship with their clients. The instant timekeeping and legal billing software functionalities available within LEAP can eliminate the inefficiencies and errors law firms experience with manual processes while improving productivity and profitability. On average, LEAP users see an increase of 30% in their revenue. It also improves client satisfaction as they will have more transparency about how and why they’re being charged with convenient electronic payment options for smaller bills instead of paying larger lump sums at once.
Support your law firm’s productivity and profitability today.
Learn how the instant timekeeping and legal billing capabilities available in LEAP can support your law firm’s productivity and profitability today.