Whether you work for a large firm or run your own private practice, getting your billing right is absolutely crucial. Bad billing habits can lead to confused or frustrated clients who may delay or outright refuse to send in their payment, so it’s in your best interest to keep clients happy in order to keep your cash flowing.
We’ve compiled the best legal billing habits you should be practicing right now, as well as a few you should avoid.
Be thorough with your billing.
You want to record every task you’ve performed for your client’s case, including every major step along the way. Many legal professionals will record their tasks in 10-15 minute increments, with some going as detailed as six minutes at at time. Here’s an example of what detailed billing looks like:
Record your tasks as soon as you complete them.
Try to document work as soon as it’s done,or as close to completion time as possible. If you delay, you may get distracted by another task and won’t accurately remember the details. "A reminder hint I use when I can’t remember is to check your outgoing email each day," notes Claude Ducloux, attorney at law and director of ethics, education, and compliance at LawPay. "Your email is a terrific source of clues as to what you worked on during your busy day."
Use plain and simple language when describing your tasks.
It’s likely your clients will not be familiar with legal jargon or certain abbreviations. If they can easily understand the charges on their bill, there’s less of a chance they’ll contest them or find them suspicious.
Maintain a consistent billing schedule.
Plan a consistent time and date to send your bill out every month. This ensures your client can anticipate your bill in advance and pay it more promptly. The routine also reinforces your own habits of recording your time and billing diligently.
Don’t bill your client for time spent on routine office tasks.
Though it’s good to be thorough with your billing, don’t go overboard with your charges. For example, you shouldn’t be recording menial office tasks such as using a printer or a stapler. The cost of having and maintaining standard office supplies should come out of your own pocket, not your client’s.
Don’t sit on bills that are ready to be mailed out.
When your bill is ready to go, don’t delay sending it out. According to Jay Foonberg's Client Curve of Gratitude, the longer you wait to send your bill, the less likely it will be paid on time (or at all). The best time to send out your bill is as close to Day Zero as possible. This way, the case is still fresh in your client’s mind and payment for your services feels appropriate and warranted.
Don’t restrict your client’s ability to pay your bill.
Studies show that 75 percent of people prefer to make their purchases by credit or debit card, including legal services. When you give your clients multiple options, you eliminate the chances of payment becoming difficult for them. By using an online payment solution designed specifically for the legal industry, like LawPay, your clients will always have an easy bill-paying experience.
For more great tips on increasing your cash flow and getting paid faster, download our e-book, “Getting Paid in 2018: What Lawyers Need to Know”