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Tag Archives: attorney time and billing software
Technology has helped streamline the modern law practice, but software tools can hurt your firm if used incorrectly. Legal billing and accounting software like Easy TimeBill gives you the option of emailing invoices to your clients, but should you?
Emailed invoices have a number of advantages for your practice:
- Low Cost - No cost for paper, envelopes, stamps or printer toner.
- Fast – Bulk billing allows you to send out all the month’s invoices generated by attorney time and billing software through email with a quick click. You can send late payment reminders just as easily.
- Environmentally Responsible – Save a few trees, not to mention sparing the environment all those nasty chemicals used in the paper manufacturing industry.
- Please Your Clients – Some clients simply don’t like old-fashioned paper invoices. With so many of us handling all our financial transactions on our computers, it’s easier to respond to an email invoice than a paper one.
With all those advantages it seems like email invoices are the way to go. Not necessarily. There are a few disadvantages to emailed bills.
- Easy To Ignore – There is something substantial about paper, something that demands our attention and makes a printed invoice harder to forget. In addition we are deluged with far more email each day than paper mail, so it’s easy for an invoice to end up in a spam folder or simply be overlooked.
- Insecure – Email is not a secure method of transmission and can be intercepted during delivery. Never include information such as a credit card number or Social Security number that could lead to theft of a client’s identity.
So which should you use? One option is to let your clients choose. Easy TimeBill time and billing software for lawyers can handle both formats so you can decide from client to client, or even matter to matter, whether you prefer emailed or printed invoices.
When clients get behind in their payments, we suggest sending paper bills even to your clients who prefer email due to the “easy to ignore” reason cited above. You could even send both an email invoice and a printed one to be sure you get the client’s attention.
Easy Soft’s law practice management software has been designed for the convenience of both attorneys and their clients. Download a demo of Easy TimeBill to try out our email billing and see if it is a service you want to add to your practice.
Law firms, like any business, depend on client referrals to generate new business. However unlike other industries, your customers aren’t usually qualified to judge whether or not you are a good attorney. Your image is going to have as much or more to do with client satisfaction as your legal background. Easy Soft attorney time and billing software gives any law firm the air of professionalism essential to pleasing clients.
Your Billing Reflects Your Practice
Many firms, particularly smaller ones, treat billing as an afterthought. Invoices go out erratically and there is little effort put into collecting late balances. The invoices are either sloppy handwritten affairs or stale templates that don’t reflect your professional image. Not only is this bad business — if you don’t collect your fees then you don’t make money — but your clients may think if you don’t care about your own billing, then how much will you care about their cases?
One option is to contract out your billing to a third-party. You can forget about the administrative details and focus on the practice of law. However, you also give up control over your invoicing and you lose the opportunity to work personally with clients.
The Advantages of Legal Billing And Accounting Software
Easy TimeBill is like hiring a full-time bookkeeper without the cost or headaches. Using dedicated lawyer billing software gives you features that no other billing software can:
- Customized Invoices – Tailor your invoices to reflect your practice’s unique style.
- Dedicated Legal Billing – Easy TimeBill shows information generic financial software doesn’t, like retainer balances and fees broken out by matter.
- Automatic Late Billing Reminders – Numerous studies show that gentle reminders greatly increase collections. The software automatically generates invoices on late accounts.
- Late Fee Calculation – Late fees are complicated to calculate so let Easy TimeBill do the work for you.
- 360-Degree View – It is shocking how many law offices have no idea of the state of their accounts. See all unbilled and unpaid balances as well as retainer balances at a glance.
Your invoices are often the last contact a client receives after a case is over. Don’t leave a client with a bad impression. Maintain a professional image by using law practice management software to administer your firm.
Trust account funds must be managed and maintained separately but it is neither practical nor cost effective to open separate accounts. One reason for this is the need to receive or remit monies on multiple matters in one check. Easy TimeBill attorney time and billing software with the optional Easy Trust module allows you to deposit or withdraw funds at the matter level while still minimizing the number of transactions between your practice and other entities.
As an example, let’s say you manage an escrow fund that is an interface between insurance brokers and an insurance company. Each matter needs to be administered separately and yet the insurance company isn’t going to want to deal with multiple checks. So if 100 brokers each make a premium payment, you deposit the premiums into the escrow and then write one check to the insurance company. In the process you need to be able to look at each individual broker account in the escrow software and see both the deposit and the withdrawal.
Separate Accounts Make More Problems
Some practices try to maintain a bank account for each escrow, believing that will prevent accidental payments of one matter’s expenses from another matter’s funds. While this might seem like a good idea, in practice it is an administrative nightmare. In the example above you would have to write 100 checks to the insurance company, one from each account. Although the record keeping would be easy, the cost in both time and materials to create, print and mail 100 checks would be unreasonable.
One Account, Multiple Matters
If all your trusts are in a single bank account then, after depositing the premium checks from the brokers, you can write one check to the insurance company. Would that make tracking each separate trust impossible? Not at all.
Managing multiple matters in a single bank account is easy with legal billing and accounting software. You can view the account as a whole but you can also view each matter’s transaction as though it were a distinct bank account. When you enter a withdrawal into Easy Trust, you select the matters that the monies should come from. You can either enter distinct amounts for each matter, or apply the same amount to all selected matters with one click. You can even select “All” to easily deduct funds from all trust accounts.
In reality, law practice management software actually makes it easier to administer a single escrow account with multiple matters than to manage separate accounts. Try a demo of Easy TimeBill and Easy Trust, or try the full products risk-free for 30 days so you can see how simple trust management is with the right tools.
Don’t make the mistake of dismissing alternate billing as something only for simple “file a couple of forms” cases. Law firms are creating flat fee arrangements for matters of all types and clients love it. Easy TimeBill billing software for lawyers is a critical tool for creating a fee structure fair to both your practice and your client.
The Problem With Hourly Billing
The billable hour is great for lawyers because they can be sure they will be reimbursed for their time. However it’s not great for the clients, who want to know what their expenses are going to be and fear that the bill might balloon up into an unreasonable total. Plus, as it turns out, hourly rates aren’t as good for attorneys as many think. In the end it isn’t what you charge but what you collect, and getting paid especially for cases that don’t close successfully can be difficult. When the client pays a predetermined fee up front, you don’t have to worry about collections.
Using Easy TimeBill to Determine Your Fees
Determining alternate billing rates is not a matter of pulling numbers out of a hat. If you’ve been using Easy TimeBill in your practice then you already have the information you need. Someone familiar with the time billing software reviews past cases and determines how much each client was billed. You might be surprised how many cases fall into a predictable range of values, and somewhere in this range is your flat fee.
If you haven’t been using Easy TimeBill you can do the same calculations using your current billing software or manual billing records but you may find it is more difficult. Another option is to start using Easy TimeBill today with the intent of reviewing data in six months or a year and converting to alternate billing then.
Once you set a fee you aren’t done with analysis. Use Easy TimeBill legal billing and accounting software to continue to track hours and individual expenses even though you are billing flat fees. Compare expenses incurred to fees charged to see if you are over- or under-billing. In addition, expenses change over time and you may need to adjust your fees if your other costs change.
Law practice management software gives you more control over your law firm. You can not only run your practice more quickly and efficiently, but you can analyze your costs and see that you are making smart business decisions. Try Easy TimeBill risk-free for 30 days to discover how quickly you gain control over your firm’s finances.
Retainers are the cornerstone of many legal billing arrangements. However collecting, distributing and managing those retainers is not as easy as it might appear. Attorneys use legal billing and accounting software to automate the process and improve the practice’s financial position.
Manual retainer management is a lot of work. Attorneys must constantly check records to see that Client A’s expenses should be billed directly while Client B’s charges should be deducted from the retainer. Many practices are not as diligent as they should be on retainer balance monitoring, letting the funds run out and leaving themselves with the task of continuing to work the case without the security of prepayment.
Here are just a few ways Easy TimeBill attorney time and billing software improves retainer management in a typical practice:
- Set Retainer Per Matter – Not all matters require a retainer. When setting up a new matter for a client you can choose whether or not to set a minimum retainer.
- Automatic Retainer Deduction – You no longer have to keep track of whether to bill the client or deduct from a retainer. All charges entered on the matter will automatically be taken from the retainer funds. You won’t have the embarrassment of sending an invoice to a client who already has provided funds.
- Notify Clients Automatically – The practice isn’t the only one who needs to know the retainer balance. Every invoice generated includes retainer balances. Clients can see the dwindling amounts so are less likely to be surprised by requests to replenish funds.
- Batch Retainer Reminders – Notify clients with low retainer balances all at once. Bulk generate retainer requests that can be printed for mailing, or emailed directly to clients from within the software.
- Trust Management – Eliminate the confusion and cost of opening each retainer as a separate bank account. Add the optional trust accounting system module, Easy Trust, and put all retainers in one account and yet keep all funds completely separate.
Without the right tools retainer management is awkward and time consuming, which is why many firms don’t give it the priority it deserves. Stay on top of your retainers with attorney practice management software to improve your profits and run a more stable law practice. If you aren’t using Easy TimeBill already, then download a free demo and explore the easy-to-use retainer features for yourself.
Everyone agrees the economy is recovering, so why talk about recession proofing now? Because you don’t patch your leaky roof when it’s raining. You wait for the weather to clear. Now is the perfect time for companies to leverage technology such as Easy TimeBill attorney time and billing software to analyze their costs, improve their profits and be ready for the next economic downturn.
Track Hours Even For Flat Fee Cases
The industry seems to be moving away from the billable hour, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your time. Easy TimeBill allows you to enter hours and expenses associated with a matter without having those charges show up on the invoice. Someone using the time billing software reviews the costs on a case relative to how much you are charging so you can adjust your billing accordingly. You can also root out unprofitable clients. You know the type: the client who keeps calling for consultation, asking for extra services, and generally taking advantage of your good nature. Know when to “fire” these unprofitable clients and replace them with better ones.
Cut Costs But Don’t Cut Service
Some law firms try to improve profits by reducing their expenses but end up simply eroding their capabilities. Look for ways to work smarter, doing the same work and offering the same quality for a lower cost. If you are still using generic billing software or manual methods, switching to legal billing and accounting software allows you to manage your practice’s finances more quickly and easily. Less time spent on billing is more time spent generating revenue.
Collect What’s Owed
No business likes doing collections. Maybe you don’t want to risk offending a long standing client, perhaps you hesitate to make that awkward phone call, or possibly you just don’t notice how delinquent some accounts have become. Easy TimeBill automates this process, generating late notices for accounts that are 30 or more days overdue. These polite reminders generate a surprising increase in collection rates. You don’t have to be aggressive or confrontational, but you can’t be complacent either.
Prepare your practice now for the next economic downturn because there will be another one. Implement policies and law practice management software technology designed to keep your law firm competitive even as competing firms are struggling to stay afloat.