No lawyer needs a degree in Accounting Law to understand the importance of being paid on time. A law office is a business, and should be run with business-like precision or all the clients in the world will not make ends meet. Modern technology like apps and older programs like legal billing software can be a good solution for a law firm looking to update its accounting books into the 21st century, but there are additional habits one can develop around time-billing to make the entire process go seamlessly from start to finish.
If you fill out your timesheet at the end of the day, chances are you would have already forgotten times or steps from the morning. One of the most important time-billing habits any lawyer can get into is to enter the times into the legal billing software as soon as the activity is done – not when the day is done. It only takes an extra minute or two at most when done punctually, versus being a long, time-consuming task at the end of the day.
Your legal billing software should have spaces for entering what you did and a brief description of the task. The more specific the entries, the easier it will be to document the what, where, when and why if there are any questions regarding the time usage later. (See #3). Some lawyers and clients perceive the billable hour as an excuse for not being productive with time, so this is the time and space to prove how effective one can be in each segment of time. The best descriptors will explain what you were doing during that span of time, and why you were doing it. If doing research on a statute of limitations, mention the statute and how it relates to the case in the fewest words that still convey the importance of the activity. Anything too short or too long can cause confusion over what was actually happening during the time-billing session.
3. Be Familiar with Client Guidelines
The law firm billing software does not just exist to get a law firm paid. It also gives every lawyer in the firm the chance to show how much they care about the client’s goals, rules, and requirements by entering information correctly and being specific about how their client “spent” their money. When a law firm demonstrates consistently that they understand and can adhere to time-billing guidelines, then they have the chance to build a long-term, loyal base of clients who will generate additional revenue in future both through personal engagement and referrals. Not only will inaccurate entries or those which go against the billing guideline codes cause dissatisfaction, even if the client remains with the firm all future time-billing submissions are likely to receive tighter scrutiny and less wiggle room.
4. Choose the Right Billing Software for Your Law Firm
Any habit is more easily formed when it does not take too much time or effort to get into. There are a range of options when picking out legal billing software, many of which offer an integrated program where time can be entered, sent to accounting, and reviewed by clients all in a smooth, step-by-step performance that cuts down on errors and speeds up the time-billing process. Some subscription-based services will offer monthly plans that are affordable for smaller law firms, and discounts for larger firms with deeper up-front pockets who can pay for several months in advance. When the program is easy to understand and works with the firm, instead of being an irritant during a busy day, it is more likely to be used and accepted by everyone. That is why good time-billing habits are often helped by the right software to back it up.
The Legal Information Institute is a non-profit group that believes in making the law understandable and accessible to everyone. They use technology and the internet to make it so you do not need a fancy law degree or an advanced diploma in legal project management to understand what the law is and how it may apply to projects, businesses, and life.