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    Using Automated & Paperless Prebills to Eliminate Headaches

    by Misbah Siddiqui

      Who loves billing week? Okay, very few. But, if more people embraced law firm automation in their billing, the pain wouldn't be so bad.

      For law firms, getting invoices out the door requires a massive, coordinated effort across multiple departments at the firm. That’s why at Rocket Matter, we’ve spent the last 14 years tailoring our legal billing software to eliminate pain and headaches from law firm invoicing.

      When we introduced our Bill-As-You-WorkTM and Batch Billing capabilities, we saw some law firms reduce the time it takes to get their bills out from two days to thirty minutes. Later, when we introduced electronic invoicing and payments, we added another major accelerant to collections, with firms reporting same-day payment.

      Introducing Paperless Prebills

      Now we’ve introduced another major efficiency for law firm billing with a feature we call Paperless Prebills.

      Paperless Prebills gets rid of the need to print out a stack of mocked-up invoices for attorneys and other timekeepers to review for accuracy. Instead, the invoice verification takes place electronically, in one central location, and is tied directly into the Rocket Matter invoicing platform.

      Additionally, Paperless Prebills allows the billing department to prevent (or allow) additional changes to matter invoices when they are going through the invoicing process. This ability to “lock down” a matter keeps everyone at the firm on the same page and prevents accidental time entries from slipping onto an invoice and out to the client.

      Finally, you don’t even have to manually run prebills. Rocket Matter has taken law firm automation to the next level. With our new scheduler, you can configure your prebills to run automatically, making your life a whole lot easier.

      An overview of law firm finance, including prebills, by the ABA
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      Getting Your Paperless Prebills Underway

      Law firms have been able to run prebills in Rocket Matter since our inception. With our Paperless Prebills, however, you don’t initiate prebills from the invoicing workflow. Instead, you trigger the workflow on the matter billing screen or the batch billing screen, which we’ll see later.

      From Matter Billing or Batch Billing, the button “Generate Prebill” takes you to a new prebill dashboard:

      A close up of the Rocket Matter prebill screen. You can run these on a schedule for law firm automation

      We also introduced a new navigational element, “Matter Prebills,” which takes you to this same screen.

      You can perform a number of bulk actions on your prebills, including adding three law firm billing process statuses: pending, on hold, and approved.

      • Approved status means you've determined prebills are ready to go out.
      • Pending means the prebills are ready for review or are in the process of being reviewed.
      • On Hold means someone indicated that this matter is not ready to be billed.

      This allows you to filter by status as you work through your virtual “stack” of bills.

      You can also filter by Client, Matter, Custom Fields, Primary Attorney, Billing User, Originator, or a Date Range.

      When we click on a matter name in a prebill grid, we navigate to a details page, where we can work with the law firm billing information before it goes out to the client.

      We can quickly fix any errors, if a billable time has issues with description, time, or if a LEDES code is incorrect or missing. You can apply a discount, either as flat amount or a percentage. And you can add an additional billable activity if you missed something.

      RELATED: ABA Article on Healthy Billing Practices

      Better Staff Communication for Law Firm Billing Revisions

      Here’s a scenario we want to avoid:  a legal administrator or billing staff prints a stack of prebills. The attorney goes through them, red pen in hand, and marks up all of the changes. The legal administrator inputs all of the changes then updates the attorney to approve the final changes.

      What if this was all paperless instead?

      A major part of Paperless Prebills is the inline commenting between staff members. For example, on a billable time entry, someone on staff can ask someone else to improve or clarify or otherwise make changes:

      Instead of printing prebills, in Rocket Matter law firm users communicate inside the application

      A dialog ensues right on the billable item itself. Instead of printing paper, marking it up, and shuttling it back and forth, we have a much more efficient and smooth interaction.

      Additionally, Rocket Matter users get notified via Communicator that they need to take a look at a billable item.

      Electronic invoice markup and communication is a major part of Paperless Prebills. Replacing a paper process is always critical as we strive to eliminate waste. And when we eliminate waste, the firm ultimately becomes more profitable. To understand more about the relationship between eliminating waste and profitability, please see our free eBook Lean Law Firm Basics.

      We’re always trying to make the legal invoicing process more efficient. One process we want to eliminate is the heavy duty task of going through a stack of marked-up paper prebills:

      1. Look up the matter of the marked-up prebill
      2. Navigate to the matter in your legal billing software
      3. Make changes to the line items in question.

      Instead, as discussed above, it makes more sense for the back-and-forth conversation to take place on the billing screen. And when you have to make changes, instead of looking up each matter and making changes, Rocket Matter makes this much easier.

      Instead of navigating to each and every matter, you can edit all billable items from the Prebill overview screen. You can even add or replace LEDES codes!

      Let the Law Firm Automation Get Cranking

      Remember, you don't need to even start the prebill process manually. With Rocket Matter, you schedule your prebills to start when you want.

      Once your prebills are approved, you’re ready to move on to invoicing. From the Prebill Summary screen, you commence the invoicing process. For those familiar with Rocket Matter, when you click the “Invoice All Approved Prebills” screen, you’ll see a familiar selection of choices before you create your law firm invoices.

      Imagine that you completed your law firm invoicing using Rocket Matter’s Paperless Prebills and electronic invoicing and payments. You didn’t print one piece of paper. You didn’t shuttle prebills around the office and you efficiently corrected all invoices.

      Last but not least, because you use Rocket Matter and fully embrace law firm automation, your invoices were automatically emailed. No printing, folding, stuffing, addressing, stamping, and mailing.

      And if you’re like many of our law firms, you’ll even get paid the same day you send the invoices!

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