The billing department is the lifeline of a law firm, ensuring that the practice effectively bills and collects compensation for services rendered. Its reach extends from the time tracking phase to reporting on key financial metrics. If the billing department proves unsuccessful at fulfilling its duties, the entire firm may suffer fiscal losses, including inadequate cash flow and an inability to manage overhead costs.
Law firm billing departments typically have two major goals in mind. One is to streamline the invoicing process, so that timekeeping administrators can spend more hours on billable client tasks. The other is maximizing billing accuracy to promote timely payments and reduce client disputes.
Unfortunately, three common challenges may get in the way of these goals:
Practice management software can play a significant role in helping law firm billing departments overcome their challenges and meet firm goals. Keep reading to learn how.
Many law firm billing departments rely solely on a limited number of people to manage the entire invoicing process - from time tracking to invoicing and payment collections. If that handful of people becomes overwhelmed or unable to fulfill essential tasks, the entire invoicing process can suffer, creating a financial risk for the firm. This type of narrow setup is also vulnerable to personnel changes. The separation of even one member of the billing department could mean that a vital piece of the billing machine grinds to a halt.
Law firms cannot afford to trust such an important, business-critical process to only a couple of employees without safeguards in place that standardize the processes so that they can be learned and applied by other members of the firm when necessary. Tools like automation and e-billing help law firms create a systematic process that can be understood by managing partners and administrators, as well as easily taught to new members of the billing team.
Practice management software provides law firm billing departments the level of flexibility they need to maximize even the most limited staffing capabilities. It provides mechanisms for simplifying processes, eliminating the need for multiple software services, and systematically managing department tasks. Once firms set their billing processes in place using practice management software, they can ensure that their billing processes will successfully proceed, no matter what changes or limitations may occur within the billing department.
Law firm billing departments take on a variety of responsibilities under the watchful eyes of firm managers, partners, and administrators. After all, every single firm member relies on the billing department to ensure that money earned translates into actual revenue (and payroll). With such high stakes, billing departments need streamlined processes that result in timely and complete collections.
Practice management software assists with this goal in a number of ways:
Another huge benefit of practice management software is the inclusion of trust accounting resources. Trust accounting is one of the most important law firm billing department duties. Inadequate practices can place firms at risk of potential ethical violations, but the right tools help billing teams handle trust accounting accurately and in compliance with jurisdictional requirements.
Legal practice management platforms offer all of these billing and accounting solutions in cloud-based software, which provides a level of remote accessibility that has become absolutely essential within today’s law firm environment. When unexpected business interruptions occur, law firm billing departments need the ability to continue invoicing and collecting payments. Cloud-based practice management makes that happen.
Law firm administrators and partners want detailed billing data that helps them keep a pulse on the fiscal health of the firm. Without this information, they cannot make informed decisions about the firm’s direction. Legal practice management software helps billing departments generate the reports that the partners need.
It only takes a few clicks to generate data-specific matters, practice areas, or the general ledger. Year-over-year reporting provides detailed comparisons between current and past years, while month-over-month reporting offers shorter timeframe reviews.
Practice management software allows law firm billing departments to customize their reporting and generate data sets relating to:
With comprehensive reporting, partners and law firm administrators can gain deep insights into a variety of additional firm details, including average hourly rates, budget compliance, law firm efficiency, and more. The modern e-billing solutions of practice management software give billing departments the ability to extract rich data from invoices and generate detailed reports that would otherwise take an inefficiently unreasonable amount of time.
The expansive responsibilities placed on law firm billing departments necessitate a system that streamlines processes and promotes maximum efficiency. Legal practice management software provides the features that improve processes and drive law firm revenues.