The Human Component of Electronic Billing

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October 20, 2023

In an ideal world, artificial intelligence would be advanced to the point that it writes new legal billing software on its own, process bills and electronically transmits them to clients.  Though such advancements are certainly within the realm of possibility, we aren’t at this technological singularity point just yet.  

There is a meaningful human component to electronic billing that plays an important role in billing organization, efficiency and the firm’s bottom line.  In short, tech is not capable of implementing itself.  It takes real human beings to implement technology that automates and boosts the efficiency of the legal billing process.

Recognize Software’s Human Component

Regardless of how advanced your legal billing software is, you need the right people using it.  The billing software won’t produce the intended results unless your team understands how to use it and works in unison for the collective benefit of your law firm.  If your law firm’s human personnel are not collaborating and working in a strategic manner, the tech humming along in the background won’t make the intended impact.  

Data processing, digital security, encryption and the exchange of electronic data won’t help your law firm reach new heights unless those who control these tech components understand them.  Furthermore, your team needs to orchestrate those components to work in a targeted manner that ultimately results in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Emphasize the Human Element

There is a common misconception that human labor will soon be replaced or largely supplanted by technological advances.  As is often said, a student is only as good as his or her teacher.  In the context of legal billing technology, billing programs are the pupil and billing personnel.  Attorneys and law firm administrators are the instructors.  Ideally, your firm will dedicate the time necessary to establish a highly intuitive invoice review process.  Furthermore, firms characterized by elite organization have thorough reporting including clear billing guidelines, pricing analytics and formidable AP processes.  

Above all, the individuals working in your legal department must understand how to use legal billing software to enhance the creation of invoices, the transmission of those invoices to clients and subsequent payment processing.  The moral of this story is it does not matter how complex your law firm’s billing software is or the extent to which it is automated if your human personnel are not providing the necessary overarching guidance that steers the billing process in the right direction.  After all, there isn’t much value in analytical insights provided by technology if your team doesn’t knowhow to use those insights for meaningful action.

Clarify Billing Roles Before Confusion Arises

The decision to implement e-billing at your law firm is certainly a step in the right direction. However, spend management and e-billing for the management of the billing process and outside counsel won’t prove effective unless your team has the necessary clarity.  The specific individuals involved in the billing process and each’s unique role in implementing billing must be explicitly noted for complete clarity.  

Your unique approach to assigning legal billing roles will likely hinge on the size of your firm. Smaller legal departments can only delegate billing duties to a certain extent as staff is limited.  A legal operations manager should be tasked with pinpointing the optimal e-billing products for the firm and spearheading the initial setup process.  

A project manager or administrator can contribute to managing the process and facilitating overarching coordination for heightened efficiency.  In contrast, larger law firms will have more nuanced roles that stretch to billing administrators, accounts payable specialists, IT personnel in charge of the tech component of e-billing and beyond.