Compliance with your client’s guidelines has always been a critical part of any law firm operation and it is your responsibility to adhere to client billing guidelines and ensure accuracy. In recent years, outside counsel guidelines have become more complex and it has become more difficult for law firms to keep up with client’s demands and maintain compliance. The consequences of non-compliance are a decrease in client trust, increased rejections, and slower billing cycles.
However, as legal technology advances, compliance is taking center stage. Vendors selling billing analysis software are promising corporations that they can recover between 4-8% in legal fees using their technology to scrutinize compliance by law firms. This allows for better benchmarking (corporate clients can now understand how their law firms compare to other firms and how long it should take to complete certain tasks) and more efficient identification of non-compliant invoices. Corporations are becoming so good at this that they may even know your invoices and patterns better than you (law firm) know yourself.
Law firms are constantly subject to fee reductions and at risk of being "cut out" every time corporations consolidate their outside counsel. Vendors are now offering technology uses machine learning to analyze invoices against internal models to identify overages, thus making it easier and more efficient for corporate clients to cut legal expenses.
As a firm, this is even more reason for you to pay close attention to your time entry habits in order to create accurate bills in the first place. The days of ignoring or deprioritizing time entry are over. Instead, progressive law firms, in an effort to stay competitive, are taking compliance to the next level by centralizing into one department the management and enforcement of these client guidelines and implementing technology like real-time compliance so that guidelines are properly handled and client expectations are met.
How to Manage Your Billing Guidelines to Ensure Accuracy
#1: Centralize all billing guidelines into one repository to avoid multiple versions circulating around the firm in different departments.
#2: Review every set of guidelines with the billing or supervising attorneys to make sure details discussed with clients are properly documented.
#3: Create a summary of guidelines and distribute those among the working team so attorneys can easily comply with guidelines.
#4: Update your summaries and centralized repository when new guidelines are received from the client. Keep historical records.
#5: Perform a review of invoices down to the line item (time card) in order to pinpoint adjustment and compliance issues.
#6: Look for hidden patterns to flag potential violations with real-time compliance.
#7: Maintain the quality of your invoices and confirm that it is consistent with guidelines to avoid additional expense.
#8: Be true to your guidelines, staying as close as possible to the rules established by the client.
#10: Beware of invoices rejected due to causes that are not explicitly stated in the guidelines and update your client guideline summaries so that everyone is in the loop on the hidden rules.
Staying close to your billing guidelines can benefit everyone - from your timekeepers and administrative staff to your clients. With the practice of contemporaneous time entry and a deep understanding of your time cards and real-time compliance, your firm will be well-positioned to consistently deliver compliant invoices. By focusing on the health of the timecards from the start, you will prevent lags in the billing process, inaccurate time entry data, non-compliant bills and decreases in client trust.
How does your firm ensure that billing guidelines are met? Share your insight below.