Law firm billing is the lifeblood of every practice — and it’s also a thorn in the side of almost every attorney. I get it. You didn’t go to law school to become a bill collector, yet here you on a Friday night, chasing down unpaid invoices. You also didn’t go to law school to become a time-input officer, yet here you are on Monday morning, hunting down associates who failed to log their hours into a legal billing software.
Staying on top of your thorny billing tasks is hard enough in a physical office. If you run a virtual or hybrid firm, hunting down hours and piecing together invoices can quickly become overwhelming.
Thankfully, the heavy lifting can mostly be managed by legal billing technology. Your firm can bill from anywhere and get paid at any time, no matter where your team (or clients) are located.
Every member of your firm has likely felt the frustration of inputting time. Attorneys get busy and forget to submit their hours; paralegals add info to a spreadsheet and their computer crashes, taking their data (and your money) with it.
Remote and hybrid firms feel an extra pain point: A lack of in-person visibility. In the past, desk-side chats and over-the-shoulder glances helped attorneys and partners feel tuned in to their teams. (Side note: Unlike Smokeball’s Law Firm Insights, these tactics don’t actually measure productivity.) Today, firm leaders feel a sense of lost control.
So, how can leaders (respectfully) monitor their staff, while also making it easier for them to enter their hours in the system? Look for legal billing software that offers automatic time tracking features. Artificial intelligence works in the background, tracking what each team member is working on, for how long and for which client. That billable time is automatically populated in the related client’s invoices, ready for review and online submission. Your associate no longer worries about recreating their time, and you gain visibility into individual daily billings.
Once you input your time and invoice your client, the payment waiting game begins. But in the era of electronic payments, “The check’s in the mail” is no longer a valid excuse for past-due payments. If you run a remote or hybrid law firm, offering online payment options is especially vital to your success.
Clients prefer options for electronic payments, whether by credit card or ACH transaction. Wire transfers are wonderful, but most clients prefer to pay their attorneys via credit card. If your hesitation around accepting credit cards lies with the processing fees, you’ll be pleased to learn most states now allow you to surcharge and pass those fees on to your client. Thanks to our LawPay and QuickBooks integrations, Smokeball users can send invoices and accept credit cards and other online payments, all while ethically managing trust and operating accounts within our legal billing software.
In addition to simplifying the process for clients, online payments increase your law firm’s billing flexibility, putting more money in your firm’s pocket. If clients are unable to pay their entire bill upfront, or have reached their credit limit, payment plans allow your firm to skirt the risk of nonpayment. The client simply executes a credit card authorization form giving you the ability to charge their card for a fixed fee every month. You can edit payment amounts and methods as needed throughout your client relationship.
Even when you’re not interacting with clients in person, your firm’s services are still valuable, and you deserve to be paid promptly for all your billable hours. Legal billing software like Smokeball reduces friction between your clients and your accounts, helping you increase your billing accuracy while decreasing your workload and time to payment.
Jordan L. Turk is a practicing attorney and Smokeball’s legal technology advisor.