When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, most people aim for better diets, more exercise, or more sleep. Instead of going the traditional route, why not vow to improve your business and client relations this year by forming better billing habits? After all, your business thrives off of bills–if you don’t get your billing right, you don’t get paid.
To help you start 2019 off on a strong financial note, we’ve compiled the best legal billing habits you should be practicing in 2018, as well as the billing habits you should break as soon as possible.
Great legal billing habits
Perhaps the most fundamental skill for drafting good bills is being thorough.
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 a time. Here’s an example of what detailing 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 can also reinforce your own habits of recording your time diligently on a regular basis.
Bad legal billing habits
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 their mind and payment for your services feels appropriate and warranted.
Don’t restrict your client’s ability to pay your bill.
Studies have shown 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.