Billable hours are the life blood of any law firm. But for attorneys working on some projects, figuring out how to accurately bill their time can be a challenge. Some of them may guesstimate the actual number of hours they spent on a case while others use legal billing software. But all law firm billing software are not the same, so to ensure they get the most accurate one it’s necessary they do some research. There are a number of programs attorneys find very helpful for documenting their billable hours and making sure they accurately bill clients for the time spent working on their cases.
Legal Billing Software
With a little research it is relatively easy for an attorney to find legal billing software that works well. One such program is South Dakota Odyssey Case Management. This program is easy to use and gives the attorney all the necessary essentials for the law office to be able to track their billable hours spent working on specific projects. This can help to improve their bottom line by producing an accurate total of each staff member’s billable hours. This also benefits the clients by helping to ensure they do not overpay for the legal services they receive.
Use Detailed Billing Descriptions
In addition to using legal billing software, another way an attorney can ensure their billable hours are accurate is by employing detailed billing descriptions. By providing a clear description of the tasks performed and how long it took, the law firm can present the client with a well-drafted invoice. It should contain sufficient detail that anyone reviewing the document will be able to understand the nature of the work performed and its importance to the overall job. This description should be brief enough to be quickly read, but contain enough detail and specificity to make it easy to comprehend and fit into the context of the overall project.
Don’t Use Block Billing
Some law firms list an entire group of tasks as part of a block summary and bill for it as a single time entry. Many clients see block billing as a way for an attorney to hide the inefficient use of their time. Plus some courts do not accept block billing as they find it can hinder the accurate and effective disbursement of the fee owed to an attorney following a judgement. A more effective billing method is to itemize each activity the attorney performed separately and list the length of time it took. This makes it easier to account for the time spent working on a case.
Promptly Record Time
To ensure an attorney provides an accurate bill for the services they render, it’s in the best interest of all involved if they record the time spent on a task immediately after they complete it. This makes it easier to reconstruct the activities for any specific day, week or month spent on a project. This can prevent clients from claiming an attorney has padded their billable hours. Some attorneys say their law firm billing software doesn’t allow them to document their time the moment they complete a task. In those cases they should use some type of back up system.
Become Familiar With the Client’s Billing Policies
Billing policies can differ from one client to another. To improve the accuracy of their billing attorneys should make themselves familiar with the billing policies of each new client. These policies are often presented in the client’s engagement letter. The billing policies usually outline staffing limitations, guidelines for the budget, payment disbursement policies as well as timekeeping guidelines. When attorneys are cognizant of those rules at the beginning, they can better handle finance issues and time management as well as meet client expectations.
Consider Your Audience
When preparing a listing of your billable hours, it’s important to consider who will be reviewing the bills. That may include in-house counsel as well as accountants, third-party auditors and people at several levels at the client’s company. Therefore it is vital that when it’s time to record their billable hours attorneys should avoid using slang, abbreviations or overly complex legal jargon. The best course of action is for the attorney to take to assure accuracy is to use concise legal terminology understanding the timesheets may end up being reviewed by people who aren’t trained in the law.
Following there guidelines can go a long way towards helping attorneys to make sure that the listing of their billable hours are as accurate as possible.