When you firm sends out a billing statement, it essentially notifies the client of three things:
- What work was completed on the matter
- The financial value of the work completed
- The expectation of compensation for the work completed
While these messages are quite obvious, the timing and accuracy of your bills may be sending messages that are counter-productive to the profitability of your practice.
An inaccurate bill speaks volumes to your client about the professionalism and reliability of your firm. For one, it sends the message that you are not accurately tracking time spent on the matter. Your client trusts you to provide correct accounts of hours dedicated to his case. If he receives an inflated bill, his trust in your firm and its integrity is immediately diminished. I don’t have to tell you about the public’s general view of attorneys. Don’t feed into the stereotype by sending a bill that requests more money than your firm has earned.
If a client receives a billing statement that undercharges, he is likely to pay the lesser amount, which undercuts your profitability. He is also likely to question your firm’s ability to provide adequate representation in his case. If your practice is unable to accurately track the amount hours worked for proper payment, how can you be trusted to accurately determine a proper settlement amount or compensation award?
Billing inaccuracies not only affect your bottom line, but they can also undercut the attorney/client relationship. Make sure that every single bill properly represents the work done on the case and the agreed upon amount of compensation. A comprehensive legal time tracking and billing program can go a long way in helping you ensure accuracy. Click here to discover how TimeSolv helps law practices across the country deliver accurate billing statements to their clients.
Many law firms sit on their bills for unreasonable amounts of time before sending them out. The reasons vary from avoiding a task that you don’t like to inadequate staffing. Regardless of the cause, late bills send the wrong message to clients. Your firm is essentially telling the client that you are in no hurry to receive payment, and I doubt that you want to be sending that message. A post on LegalProductivity.com spoke about this issue and explained that late bills give the client a justification for not rendering immediate payment. If compensation is important to your firm (which I hope it is), put procedures and programs in place to ensure that your bills are generated and completed in a timely manner.
Send the right message to your clients with bills that are timely and accurate. Your firm’s clients trusted you enough to place their legal needs in your hands. Don’t undermine that trust by half-stepping on your billing responsibilities.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a Virginia based writer with a passion for all things legal. As a former domestic relations attorney, she understands the challenge of determining the best fee structure for your practice. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.