More Simple Legal Billing Software Advice For Lawyers
Bad billing habits are ultimately one of the key causes of lawyer job dissatisfaction, and simple legal billing software can fix these habits. Failing to send out timely bills (often caused by timesheet procrastination) directly results in higher receivables. Higher receivables lead to higher write-offs. Higher write-offs lead to less revenue. Less revenue leads to all sorts of financial stress – and extra stress is certainly not something lawyers need any more of.
With pressures routinely piling on from court deadlines and increasing client demands, there’s just no room for billing problems (which ought be largely administrative – almost secondary – in nature) to add to the stress burden.
Lee Rosen over at Divorce Discourse recently posted another terrific testament to the problems associated with letting billing practices slip. In “Are Your Receivables Out of Control“, Lee starkly itemizes the real, personal effects of writing down a big bill. He picks a sample write-down amount, applies a typical hourly rate, and reminds us of what that write-down means beyond just the obvious lost revenue.
“[Those] hours [translate] into two or three weeks of extra vacation I could have taken while remaining in the same overall financial position. I could have used that time to float around the Caribbean … or donated that time to charity.”
Then the killer: “[I]nstead, I spent that [time] helping someone who decided that I wasn’t worth paying.” Ouch.
Lee’s advice? Confront yourself with what you’re really doing when you don’t bill timely. Acknowledge that you’re essentially electing to grant free financing. (Even that’s assuming you end up being paid in full, which is often not the case.) At the same time, he suggests prioritizing the replenishment of your trust balances, getting meaningful retainers in accordance with ethical requirements. Most importantly: ask for the money. Being on the “client” side of the attorney-client relationship myself for so long now, it never ceases to amaze me how many lawyers – unlike most other vendors – rarely send timely bills. They frequently don’t realize that by failing to send a timely bill, it usually makes it more difficult for me to get them quickly paid in full. Stalling on a bill can result in it getting flagged by the client’s accounting team as “out-of-the-ordinary”, triggering extra levels of scrutiny, and almost always ending up in either delayed payment, a write-down, or both. A bill sent on time – in more “routine” fashion – can dramatically drive up the prospects for quick, full payment.
Overall, I think the thrust of Lee’s message, put bluntly, is: if you’re going to do free work, make sure you’re doing so on purpose.
Respectfully, we’d add to Lee’s recommendations a reminder that if timesheets and/or time tracking is contributing to billing challenges in your practice, then try a better option. With today’s easy-to-use, reliable, inexpensive options (such as our own “Bill as You Work” technology), time tracking can be relegated to a largely passive task. Not quite completely effortless, but almost – and also far less prone to error.
Improving your billing practices will not only help your revenue stream but can also put a major dent in reducing stress, and increasing overall job satisfaction.