As an attorney the last thing you probably want to spend your time on is billing and invoicing clients. Many attorneys would rather do work they were trained for in law school. There are some best practices, however, which if used regularly can make billing and invoicing less of a challenge for you, and easier for your client to understand, and most importantly, pay.
DESCRIBE YOUR WORK
Try not to use vague and passive sounding descriptions like: conference call with client. Instead, use action oriented descriptions like: conference call with client to discuss defense strategy in XYZ matter. Give your client enough information so that he/she can remember and appreciate the work you did.
DON’T LUMP HOURS IN ONE TOTAL
If you wrote a memo, attended a conference and appeared in court for a client, don’t lump the bill into one total of 10 hours. Break down the hours by the services provided. It will be much easier for your client to accept and pay a large bill if he/she can better understand how your time was spent.
PROOFREAD THE BILL
A poorly written description of services, especially one with careless typos, does not convey to your client the sense that the bill was carefully prepared and is correct. Sloppy billing practices may also cause your client to question the quality of the service you provide.
TRACK AND RECORD YOUR TIME DAILY
Daily tracking and recording of billable hours takes discipline, but will pay for itself many times over. Your bills will have better descriptions, and estimates of hours worked will be more accurate. If you delay recording your time, your estimates of time worked may be too high or too low. You don’t want clients to feel they are being overbilled, or not bill clients for work you performed.
RECORD ALL TIME WORKED
If you worked 8 hours on a brief for a client, don’t bill 6 hours because you think the brief should have been written in less time. Report the time you actually worked without being judgmental. The billing attorney at your firm will adjust the bill if he/she thinks it is out of line.
In addition to following these tips and other best practices for billing and invoicing, a law firm should have an automated accounts receivable system to facilitate the process. The automated accounts receivable software should have the following functionality:
Set up important emails including reminder notices to be sent automatically, so you don’t have to worry about sending them.
You don’t need to waste time setting up a customer invoice over and over again. With invoice presentment capability each invoice can be created with your own logo and personalization.
Sometimes a client needs to be called about a past due invoice. With communication notes you can pull up past communication notes and account information in one spot, making these calls less stressful and time consuming.
ONLINE BILL PAY
Make it as easy as possible for your client to pay. With one click on a link your client can pay online, avoiding the hassle of cutting and mailing a check.
Automated accounts receivable software which includes these important features is available from Anytime Collect, a leader in the field with a track record of assisting law firms with billing and invoicing. These tips can be reviewed at www.americanbar.org