Table of Contents Hide
- Use Clustdoc to Onboard, Manage & Invoice Your Clients
- Explain the Fees & the Process in Your Agreement
- Start Using Minimum Time Increments
- Track Your Billable Time Daily
- Avoid Block Billing (& Describe Your Entries)
- Be Aware of the Perils of Multitasking
- Never Under-Report Your Time (Junior Attorney Billing Tip)
- Attorney Billing Guidelines — Demystified
Billing — the bane of every young attorney’s existence.
You’ve worked your butt off to get through law school. You’ve sweated bullets doing internships in prestigious law firms and clerking for tough-as-nails judges. And you’ve passed your bar exam with flying colours.
But, like most young attorneys, billing your services makes your brain leak… like this:
Here’s Rudy literally melting while trying to figure out
how he’s going to invoice Trump. Don’t be like Rudy.
Don’t worry… you’re not alone here.
Figuring out your law firm’s billing best practices is difficult, even if you are running a one-man-show.
That said, if you want to stop selling yourself short, you’re going to have to stop winging it. An attorney without billing guidelines consistently undercharges. And that’s a fact.
Are you ready to stop being that sloppy, unorganised attorney?
In this post, I’ll share 7 billing best practices for attorneys. Take notes (because they didn’t teach you this in law school), and get ready to finally start charging your worth.
Let’s dig in.
Use Clustdoc to Onboard, Manage & Invoice Your Clients
People don’t enjoy long, drawn-out processes.
What they enjoy even less is jumping through flaming hoops to pay for something.
As a brand new attorney, now is the time for you to get organised… and impress your clients by showing them how easy it is to work with you!
Clustdoc is a client management software that’s packed with features that will support you in delivering your best work every single time. From onboarding checklists and document collection, all the way to secure digital signatures and one-click online payments — Clustdoc does it all.
- Start to finish client management — onboard new clients, request and sign documents, share notes and briefs, and chat in an end-to-end encrypted environment without ever having to send another email again;
- Streamlined to-do lists — organise your whole workday and set reminders for client calls, court appearances, and other vital work that you do while trying to secure justice for your clients.
- Submit your timesheets & collect payments — once it’s time to collect your hard-earned money, simply upload your timesheet, share it with your client, and have them review and approve it. They can then use the online payments feature to pay you directly, with just a tap of a button.
You just saved yourself from doing hours of tedious admin work every week.
Feels good, right?
You want to start billing your law clients faster & without mistakes?
Our client management solution makes the whole process painless for both you and your clients — send in timesheets, get lightning-fast approvals & invoice with a click of the button.
Explain the Fees & the Process in Your Agreement
First thing’s first — you start your work when you have a signed agreement, not before.
I’m not saying that your clients will pull a fast one on you, but… that’s exactly what some of them might do. Remember, as an attorney, you’ll deal with some unscrupulous characters — having a contract in place protects you from doing unintentional pro bono work.
Now, that agreement will be full of legalese language (unavoidable in your line of work). But, two things need to be super clear and spelt out — your billing practices and your payment expectations.
Before signing on with a client, make sure that they understand your billing process and terms of payment. Talk to them about your rates. Talk to them about what billable hours are. And talk to them about what happens when they don’t settle payment on time.
What you’re aiming for here is complete transparency and clarity.
Your clients should know what they can expect from you right from the start. That way, you’re happy, they’re happy — and you don’t have to deal with non-payment issues.
Start Using Minimum Time Increments
Instead of jotting down things like ‘one minute and 38 seconds for an email reply’ or ‘46 minutes explaining documentation submission to the client’ and then adding it all up, use tenths-of-an-hour method to make sure that you can quickly and correctly add up your time.
So anything between one and five minutes gets a time increment of 0.1. Anything between seven and twelve becomes 0.2. Thirteen between eighteen turns into 0.3. And so on…
The image below will give you a better idea of how this works:
Experienced senior lawyers use this billing best practice to make sure that they never under-report their time because it makes it easier to attach value to their minutes.
Track Your Billable Time Daily
Tracking and entering your time daily adds 5-10 minutes of admin work on top of everything else that you do that day.
And I know that you think you have better things to do.
But consider this — is it easier to do this for a few minutes every day, or would you rather do it for eight hours at the end of the billing period?
Recreating your entire month accurately, line by line, minute by minute, is nearly impossible. In an effort not to inflate your billable hours, you’ll likely record less time you actually spent on something. And you’ll also forget to record a lot of phone calls, emails, and hours spent on reviewing documents.
The best billing advice that we can give attorneys here is to record every task as soon as it’s completed. Use software or spreadsheets — heck, use a notebook! — to make this easier, and to cut down on those unbilled hours.
Avoid Block Billing (& Describe Your Entries)
How would you like to get a bill that says: “Some stuff done + phone call + answering emails”?
Not really, right?
Well, your clients need more clarity than that, too.
One of the core attorney billing guidelines is that you separate your time entries and make them as clear as possible.
So the line items on your timesheets should read something like:
“A 30-minute meeting with the opposing counsel regarding the upcoming settlement meeting.”
“Two hours on preparing past employment documentation for the visa application.”
The only exceptions here are emails and phone calls — these should be grouped together so that you avoid multiple entries if you’ve spent the day emailing the client and responding to them.
Also, when writing your time entries, don’t be vague. If you attended a meeting with the opposing counsel, you should specify what that meeting was about. This way, you’ll avoid client pushback when the time comes to pay up. It’s better to spend a few minutes writing detailed entries than an hour on the phone to clarify them line by line if your client requests more context.
Be Aware of the Perils of Multitasking
Ahhh… multitasking — the easiest way to trick yourself into thinking that you’re doing some actual work when you’re actually just shuffling papers around your desk.
But, be that as it may, as an attorney, you likely have to switch between tasks often.
The danger in doing this is that you might forget to record accurate time for those tasks that take you less than five minutes, especially if you’re not diligently recording your time. The best way to get around that is to use multiple desktop times.
These timers look like this:
When you’re switching between tasks, you simply tap the appropriate timers and they tick away, recording the time you spend on each task. At the end of the day, you have an accurate snapshot that you can then use to fill out your billable hours timesheet.
Never Under-Report Your Time (Junior Attorney Billing Tip)
Yes, when you’re fresh out of your bar exam and working on a complicated case, you’ll likely spend more time on tasks than a seasoned pro would.
And that’s perfectly okay.
If you’re thorough, thoughtful, and conscientious about your work, you’re allowed to spend an hour on something… even though it would take your boss 30 minutes.
So never record less time than you’ve actually spent on something just because you feel it should have been done faster.
There are two reasons for this:
- Your time is valuable and most senior attorneys understand that young lawyers won’t work as efficiently as them, especially when they’re just starting out.
- If you take eight hours to complete case research, and you only record for hours, it’s going to look like you took half a day off, doing nothing.
You don’t want to come off as a slacker? And you don’t want to be paid less than you deserve?
Then take this attorney billing best practice to heart and never under-report your time.
Attorney Billing Guidelines — Demystified
When you’re just breaking into the world of law, you’re already doing the types of work your seasoned colleagues don’t want to do.
Don’t add insult to injury by being underpaid for it, as well.
Adopt these billing best practices for lawyers early on in your career (repeat them as a mantra), and you’ll always charge your full worth:
- Use Clustdoc to automate client management, reporting & payments;
- Spell out your billing and payment terms in your agreement;
- Use time increments to track your time more efficiently;
- Track your time every single day (don’t leave it off until the end of the period);
- Avoid block billing & describe your time entries in detail;
- When multitasking, use multiple time trackers to keep track of everything;
- Never under-report your time, even if you think you were slow.
And don’t forget — Clustdoc can help you save a ton of time every single week by optimising client onboarding, document collection, and payments. Start using it today to earn more money.
(14-day free trial, no credit card required)