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The Friday Five

Streamlined Billing: Five Best Ways to Make Sure You Get Paid

By Nicole Black

Ensuring that your law firm gets paid isn’t always easy. Of course, the more streamlined the invoicing process, the better. The good news is that legal billing tools are available to help your firm bill clients quickly and efficiently — while also making it easier for clients to pay.

Not sure where to start? Here are steps that will get your firm on the path to a streamlined legal billing process, ultimately saving you time and resulting in faster client payments.

1. Simplify the Invoice Creation Process

Before the advent of electronic billing, creating and sending out paper invoices was a time-consuming process. Fortunately, nowadays it’s much easier to generate legal invoices quickly and immediately send them to clients electronically.

There are a host of ways to reduce billing inefficiencies. One of the easiest is to reduce the number of steps needed to create and send invoices. This can be accomplished by using software — either law practice management software with built-in legal billing tools or standalone legal billing software — that automatically provides necessary billing information, such as LEDES billing codes.

Also useful is software with the built-in ability to create invoice templates and customize invoices. This allows you to easily determine what information appears on your firm’s invoices, such as specific time or expense entry columns. For example, with the click of a button, some software lets you remove all time entries during invoice creation and generate an expense-only invoice.

2. Keep Your Invoices Simple

The clearer your description of the work, the more likely your client is to understand the invoice and be willing to pay it. That why it’s important to draft an easily understandable invoice by describing the work performed in clear, simple language.

Avoid legalese as well as perfunctory descriptions that are devoid of information. Explain what you did and why. So, instead of charging a client for a “meeting,” give a clear description of what happened during that meeting. Or, instead of “revised a draft of a memorandum,” specify that you updated the document to include newly discovered information. The more specific and detailed your descriptions, the more likely clients will understand what you’re charging them for — and the more likely they are to pay promptly!

3. Make It Easy to Pay: Accept ACH and Credit Card Payments

It used to be that law firms accepted only cash or checks. But these days, credit cards and online payments are the norm, and legal consumers expect law firms to offer those payment options. That’s why you want to make it easy for clients to pay your firm’s bills by providing flexibility when it comes to making payments.

The easiest way to provide your clients with payment flexibility is to use billing or accounting software with built-in online payment tools. That way, when you send clients a bill, they can simply click on a link and instantly pay online via e-check (ACH) or credit card.

4. Let Clients Set Up Payment Plans

Another way to get paid quickly is to let clients set up payment plans for their legal bills. This way, you provide your clients with increased flexibility, making it easier than ever to pay large legal bills.

The simplest way to do this is to set up a payment plan using the built-in payment plan features in your law practice management or legal billing software. You can create the payment plan, establish the amounts due and due dates, and share that information with your client, who can then instantly pay via ACH or credit card using built-in online payment tools. You can then set up invoice reminders for the amounts due, as discussed below. That way, your client has all the information needed to make regular payments under the plan and will receive reminders when the payments are due.

5. Automate Invoice Reminders

A final way to improve your billing process is to use software that allows you to set up automated invoice reminders. Depending on the billing software you are using, you can set up payment reminders when you send out the very first invoice to a client. If the invoice isn’t paid, a follow-up invoice will automatically be sent.

The initial invoice only needs to be sent once; after that, the software follows up with your client. No need to waste time resending the invoice manually.

Getting paid for services rendered doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore. Instead, use robust software and take advantage of built-in processes designed to streamline your invoicing. More bills will be paid promptly, with no need for manual follow-up, saving your law firm time while improving its bottom line.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Niki Black Nicole Black

Nicole Black is a Rochester, N.Y., attorney and journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase. The nationally recognized author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers”  and co-author of “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier,” she also co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for Above the Law, ABA Journal and The Daily Record. Niki regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. She is an ABA Legal Rebel, and is listed on the Fastcase 50 and ABA LTRC Women in Legal Tech. Follow her on Twitter @NikiBlack or contact her at niki.black@mycase.com.

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