For busy attorneys and law professionals, incorporating the right legal billing software into the daily workflow is the only way to stay organized and productive. Legal billing systems offer convenience, reliability, and efficiency — streamlining the invoicing process to maximize profits for your practice. But with many different options available today, how can you find the one best suited for your specific needs?
In this article, we'll explore the features of top-tier legal billing software solutions that will make your work faster, easier, and more secure than ever.
Keep reading to discover why these legal billing programs will help take your practice to new heights!
1. What is legal billing software, and what does it do?
Legal billing software is a set of tools that allow legal professionals to accurately and efficiently record the time they spend doing billable legal work. It often includes tracking time directly, input time in association with a particular client or matter, and generating and managing invoices.
Some attorney billing software will offer advanced features, such as dashboards showing how individuals and the team are measuring up to billing and time goals.
Legal billing solutions can be a stand-alone offering or can be included as part of your case and matter management software.
2. How can legal time and billing software help your law firm?
Legal workers face 3 big dangers when it comes to time-tracking and billing.
- Overestimating time. This is the most serious mistake you can make when billing: even if you aren’t sued for malpractice, overcharging your clients can wreck your firm’s reputation. Clients who feel their bills are artificially bloated are also less likely to pay up.
- Underestimating time. If you’re not taking careful notes about your time use, the only way to avoid the first problem is to deliberately underestimate your time. But of course, this leads to financial problems, the feeling that you’re always spinning your wheels, and senior management who are dissatisfied with your output.
- Wasting time. If you want to avoid both of those extremes, the only option is to track your time meticulously. Should any problems arise, you’ll have an ironclad record of how you’ve spent your time. However, this can open the door to another problem: you’re spending more time tracking your hours than you are doing billable legal work. Instead of creating a strong legal strategy, you’re endlessly editing spreadsheets and invoices.
This is where good legal billing software can come to the rescue. You can use technology to automate time capture, make it easy to start and stop timers and keep them associated with specific clients and tasks, quickly edit and generate invoices, and connect the entire process to the other accounting tools your firm uses.
3. What should you look for in legal billing software?
There are many different varieties of legal billing software, each with its own bells and whistles. But make sure that any option you choose comes with these basic features:
- A design tailored for legal operations. It will be time-consuming to contort a generic billing product into fitting your specific needs. You’ll probably find it’s faster and easier to use the options already fine-tuned for legal teams.
- Cloud access. Legal work can happen anywhere. Whether lawyers are working from home in courtrooms, boardrooms, or the houses and offices of clients, they need access to their billing tools. Make sure you can track time and expenses anywhere, from any secure device, so you’re not carrying around post-it notes with time entries that need to be typed into the computer in your office that’s hooked up to your server.
- Time tracking. Try out what it’s like to record billable hours within the system. Do you have any trouble recording time and attaching it to a specific client or project? Are there plug-ins or add-ons that allow you to track time while you’re writing and managing email? Is the process confusing? Does it demand a lot of steps? Is it easy to review and edit the entry afterward, to fix mistakes or add context?
- Expense tracking. You also want to make sure it’s simple to record all the expenses you’re making on behalf of a client or matter.
- Invoicing. Make sure it’s easy to generate accurate invoices that can be sent electronically to your clients. Look for options that generate the invoices right alongside your legal work rather than requiring you to open additional apps and go through a complicated process.
- Oversight. You want to be able to get a larger view of the status of your invoices. Ensure the software allows you to review time entries, generate invoices for unbilled items, and measure progress toward billable hours targets.
- Advanced Reporting. Your billing data can help you make future financial decisions, provided you can analyze it. Look for software that can generate reports, such as honing in on specific clients, lawyers, or kind of activity, to help you evaluate individual performance and firm-wide progress.
- Document management. As with every aspect of legal work, important documents will always be associated with your activity. Look for legal billing software with document management capabilities, allowing you to store and archive paperwork and manage your files efficiently and securely.
- Seamless integrations with your other legal and financial tools. If your software solutions don’t talk to each other, you get stuck doing manual duplicate data entry and are more likely to deal with errors. Some case management software includes robust billing and time-tracking features, eliminating the need to switch between apps. You also want to ensure that the software connects with the accounting software your firm relies on.
4. How to choose the right legal billing software for your law firm.
When you implement new legal billing software, you must have buy-in from your team. It doesn’t matter if you find the perfect solution if your team members still track their time in scribbles on scrap paper. And you might find that certain members have experiences and priorities that will direct your efforts toward a more fruitful conclusion.
Check-in with each team member to understand the issues they face and the features they need most. Ask them about which legal and financial tools they’re using, so you can be sure your solution either replaces or integrates well with the current tech stack. Consider also your potential return on investment for various tools and features.
Once you find your most promising options, ask for a demo so you can get a better feel for the actual functionality of the technology before you make your decision.
5. How to get started with legal billing software.
When you introduce new legal billing software, be conscious of ways to ensure broader group buy-in. Refer to problems that team members are facing that will be solved by the solution you’ve chosen, point back to the specific features requested from team members earlier on, and demonstrate how the software can make their lives easier. If you can show you are listening to the needs and requests of others, they’re more likely to fully commit to the best practices of the solution you found.
Make sure you give the firm full training for using legal billing software. The time you invest now will save greatly in the future, as team members are able to efficiently capture and manage their billable time.
Once the software has been deployed, keep an open door to continue addressing questions and needs. Some team members might be shy about admitting they lack competence with the software even after training. Make sure someone on the team is available to check in with those who are struggling and walk them through the process without judgment. You also might find that you need to customize and fine-tune certain settings to maximize your team's efficiency.
Finally, the firm might want to codify the proper use of the software in its policies. Rather than relying on vaguely-remembered time stamps, require all team members to make sure their time is recorded promptly and in the proper place. This system helps protect clients from being overcharged and also protects legal workers should any challenges or complaints arise.
Legal billing software can support your team to make their work less stressful and more lucrative. Help your team spend time on billable work rather than busywork by offering them top legal billing solutions.