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Law Firms: Bad News Early Is Good News

Posted by Gaby Isturiz on February 28, 2014 at 6:23 AM

How real-time compliance can help law firms get less rejections and faster payments

Bad News Early is Good NewsThe sooner you know that there is a problem, the better. Fix it. Move on.

However, in the typical law firm, identifying the “bad news” early enough to address the problem is a struggle. Specifically, I’m referring to the disconnect between what attorneys are doing when they record their time and what clients receive in an invoice. The problem starts when a client is billed using the incorrect codes for the work completed. The ultimate result of this disconnect is unhappy clients (and of course, unhappy attorneys due to late or missing payments from clients).

The strain that this scenario puts on the attorney-client relationship should not be overlooked. On the surface, there are conversations about what was billed vs. what was agreed upon. On a deeper level, the client becomes dissatisfied with the firm because expectations of the engagement were not met. When expectations are not met, loyalty suffers.

So, why does this breakdown take place?

Well, for starters, attorneys are very busy. Each attorney manages several clients, each of which comes with its own list of requirements to which the law firm is required to adhere. As you can imagine, this gets very complicated. Typically, attorneys will simply record their time under the assumption that the firm’s staff will sort it out later.

When later comes, that time is entered into the firm’s time and billing system. The billing department processes all of the time entries submitted by attorneys and converts them to invoices. Since most firms and clients are now using electronic invoices, it has become very efficient for the client to check invoices using software as they come in to ensure that the firm is billing them according to the previous agreed-upon requirements. Quite often, the software will find that the firm is billing incorrectly and will dispute the invoice. The firm’s billing department then needs to examine the invoice, fix errors and re-submit. This creates a significant delay in the process, which can mean that the firm must wait until the following month to be paid by the client.

This breakdown creates more work for staff and attorneys, causes delays in cash flow and ultimately comprises the attorney-client relationship. The solution is real-time compliance.

What is real-time compliance?

The best way to solve this is to address the point in the process where the problem starts: when the attorney enters their time.

Real-time validation works with mobile time entry solutions to alert attorneys when the time that they are recording does not adhere to the billing requirements set forth by the client. This allows the attorney to immediately take action to fix the problem, preventing delays and revisions later in the process. Not only does this make processes within the law firm leaner and more efficient, compliance becomes a no-brainer for attorneys. The ability to identify mistakes and problems as the time is being entered allows the attorney to preserve the firm’s resources and prevent delays in payment.

Real-time compliance gives power back to the attorneys in terms of managing their client relationships in a way that will reinforce trust and loyalty. After all, when it comes to designating billable hours, the attorney knows best.  For the first time in history, attorneys are able to take an active role in that process. You can learn more about how we have implemented real-time compliance with iTimeKeep here.

The problems that we discussed in this article are the short-term challenges addressed by real-time compliance. Next, we’ll discuss the big data implications of real-time compliance and how they can help you earn and keep your clients for decades to come.

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