Discussion of time v. value-based pricing has spawned countless articles and arguments for both sides of the coin.
But even if some lawyers are now billing with a fixed-fee model, most still record time – either for the purpose of creating a bill or to track productivity.
So unless you’ve completely burnt timesheets, understanding time recording and billing is critical. Because if the process isn’t carefully managed with well-trained staff and efficient software, then mistakes will quickly eat into profits.
FilePro’s better-billing checklist
Best practice time-recording and billing means paying attention to the whole process, reviewing current systems, developing protocols, training staff and ensuring compliance.
Start with creating (or updating) a written protocol.
Ensure the protocol references a range of staff members (principals, solicitors, admin and accounts) and get buy-in from your team by updating the protocol at review meetings.
Things to consider
- What is your procedure for time recording and billing?
- Is it consistent across different offices or teams?
- Who trains new starters, what’s the process and how long does it take?
- Are changes to your protocol or FilePro updates communicated to all staff?
- Do staff record contemporaneously? They should – it can capture up to 10% more time.
- Do supervisors check on contemporaneous time recording and model good behaviour themselves?
- Do you make the best use of your software? How many of your staff have taken FilePro’s billing training or watched timesheet training videos?
- Is a monthly cycle right or is billing fortnightly / at project milestones appropriate?
- Should you be getting money in trust?
- Do you know your client’s billing cycle? It may not be the end of the month, so find out and make sure to send bills a few days before any cut-offs.
- Is it worth tightening payment terms to 7-14 days to improve cashflow?
- Have you automated reminder emails on or after the due date if payments haven’t been made?
- Does your cost agreement allow you to cease to act on the event of non-payment? How will you decide when this is necessary?
- Have you considered using FilePro’s SMS reminders? I’m hearing great results about a much higher percentage of bills getting paid on time and reduced debtor days
Inducting new staff
For something as important as getting paid, it’s surprising how little time is often allocated to inducting new lawyers.
Law firms can often have dramatically different protocols or practice management systems. An investment of time and effort up front will pay dividends in the long run.
A good induction should allow new staff at least 6 hours over the first three months to learn and implement your protocol. It might look something like this:
- 30-60 minute induction to go through your firm’s protocol
- 30-60 minutes of reading after induction
- 30-60 minute meeting after the first month to check-in and correct any problems
- 3.5 hours for FilePro Basics course, which covers a range of topics, including time recording
- 30-60 minutes to review FilePro’s online training videos for timesheet entry, time clock and timesheet manager
How can FilePro help?
Using FilePro for time recording and billing saves time, increases productivity and makes the billing process run more smoothly. The features are intuitive and can be tailored and boosted with short-cuts to work best for your practice.
As there is no additional cost for training, make sure everyone who records time completes the Basics Training Course when they start (or get staff to do the training now if they have never done it).
Additionally, make sure they view FilePro’s Time Recording videos on the Online Learning hub, which can be viewed as a team or individually from any device.
They can get started with this ‘highlights’ video on FilePro’s Timesheet entry.
About the Author
Cathryn Urquhart facilitates the Legal Practice Management Course at the College of Law -WA, presents training for FilePro and delivers CPD training to law firms. She’s practised as a lawyer working as a Senior Associate in 2 large firms and at Law Mutual (WA), PI insurer in WA, managing claims and presenting Risk Management.