Like every business, a law business is supposed to make money. I mean, why else would you have a law business? Obviously, representing your clients and achieving a good outcome - or the best possible income - is of number one importance.
Right behind that: BILLING. That’s the part of the attorney/client relationship where the clients pay you for all the work you and your staff have done. Billing is not supposed to be the “I’ll do it when I get around to it” part of your law business. Maintaining cash flow and generating revenues helps to keep your firm from closing its doors because the firm cannot pay their employees and other overhead expenses.
I do billing and collections for lawyers. Time and again I hear, “I’m working on it”, “I’ll get to it”, “It’s on my list”, and . . . “I’ve been so busy with work”.
So, what’s the problem? You are busy, everyone is busy. The problem is that without billing and collecting revenues that your law business has earned you are:
1) allowing client bills to run up receivables for more than a month. The problem here is that it is easier to get paid one month for $500 than it is to get paid two months for $1000.
2) paying firm overhead expenses with new client non-refundable retainers that you put into operating while the earned receivables which have not been billed or paid continue to add up, further delaying payment of fees owed by clients
3) your overhead expenses are going to get behind. You cannot put off paying your staff. Because if you have no staff, the firm has no billables other than your own. With no staff you have no law business. Employees cannot wait until you get around to billing to get paid and those non-refundable retainers you are using to float the firm will not keep up with your overhead expenses for long. Once you get behind, playing catch up becomes very difficult, because you have to pay overdue overhead expenses at the same time you are trying to pay the current overhead expenses.
What are the biggest challenges in doing billing? Actually sitting down and entering time, and entering it CONTEMPORANEOUSLY. Do not wait until a week or month has gone by and think that you are going to remember every single thing that you did. I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday; no one will remember everything they did for the last week or month or even yesterday. Court appearances, depositions, trials and anything on your calendar is easy enough to track. What about every telephone call and every email? How much time are you going to spend going back through emails, messages and scraps of paper on your desk to reconstruct your time for the last month - or two? Keep track of that time and see how much billable time your firm is losing because time is not captured contemporaneously.
Think about this - if everyday one timekeeper missed only 0.2 billable hours a day for 20 billable days that totals 4 hours. Multiply that by $300 an hour for an attorney and that is a loss of $1200.00 a month, $14,400 a year. If it was only 0.2 billable hours that your law firm is losing - I'd bet it is more.
To the lawyers I do billing for, I am not apologizing for being a pain in the you know what asking “is the billing ready to go”, “have you entered all your time”, “are you we getting the billing out on time this month”??
Billing protocols are important. I try to follow them to the letter and practice what I preach. Deadlines and cut-offs for entering time, doing pre-bills, getting final bills out and updating ledgers and trust accounts is something I do for my lawyers.
Client billable time has to be entered by the lawyer and their staff every day. If not, you are in a holding pattern, living off new non-refundable retainers and just giving clients excuses not to pay their bills on time.
And what about those receivables that are piling up? No law firm should be owed tens of thousands of dollars, or more by clients who would have paid had they been billed.
So, how important is billing to your firm??
If you need help with billing, collections, trust reconciliations or implementing legal project management and processes, or managing the business of practicing law(R), please feel free to email me at email@example.com or call me at 813-340-9569.
Check out my website at: www.fromlawyertolawfirm.com.