The Top Changes Attorneys Want to see in Legal Billing

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October 20, 2023

The fact that the majority of attorneys detest billing in six-minute increments is not exactly a secret. However, attorneys would change the legal billing industry in several ways aside from eliminating six-minute increments from legal billing codes.  Let’s take a quick look at how lawyers would change legal billing if they had complete control over it.

A Full Transition to E-billing

E-billing is that much more efficient than conventional billing.  E-billing is electronic billing with highly specific codes rather than the traditional reliance on manually creating complex bills in a manner that the client might not prove receptive to.  Though e-billing codes are entered through dedicated codes on e-billing software are not exactly easy to understand, they itemize exactly what clients are paying for, ultimately enhancing transparency and client trust.

Such transparency leads to fewer client questions, confusion and complaints.  The resulting enhanced client trust maximizes retention and also expedites payment.  In the end, a reliance on e-billing software for law firms decreases the length of time necessary for an attorney to invest in creating timesheets, tracking billable hours and analyzing line items, ultimately liberating them to do work that is more important and productive.

The Implementation of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence or AI for short, will change legal billing to the delight of attorneys across the globe.  AI tech in the form of natural language processing will empower computers to read invoices in a manner that a human being does, setting the stage for software to break down invoices similar to how a bill reviewer would.  The tech analyzes the type of work performed, whether the work is appropriate in the context of billing guidelines and if it was reasonable.  

If everything goes as planned, law firms across the world will soon rely on AI to read invoices in PDF form, converting them into formats that are used by electronic billing platforms. Instead of performing the manual conversion of invoices that chews up paralegals’ time, AI will rapidly read and translate the underlying intent, ultimately heightening the accuracy as well as the speed of the conversion work.

Greater Flexibility

It might be easier for certain clients to pay for legal services in comparably small installments once per week.  For others, it might be easier to pay a large retainer at the start of the engagement. However, most law firms are inflexible in billing, choosing to follow one billing method without exception.  If attorneys have their way, they would maximize client intake by altering legal billing and payment terms as necessary.

Payment for Value Provided Rather Than Time Invested

Wouldn’t it be nice if legal services were provided at a flat rate similar to how you pay for a specific entrée on a restaurant menu rather than paying for the amount of time necessary to make that dish?  If attorneys have their way, they will pivot to flat prices for specific services with the caveat that the total price could increase if a certain benchmark for hours worked is reached.  After all, no one wants to track their work time in 6-minute increments.  

A Larger Upfront Retainer

Though few know it, a considerable number of law firm clients refuse to pay for services rendered. The majority of clients are more than willing to pay the amount billed yet some simply refuse to pony up the money owed, choosing to let the bill either go to collections or move to litigation. Attorneys can offset the risk of a client not paying by charging an even larger retainer.  Forcing clients to pay a larger percentage of the anticipated money owed for legal services rendered reduces the chances that they will ignore the bill.  

After all, there is not exactly strong incentive for clients to pay after the legal work is complete.  Clients are that much more willing to pay when they desperately need legal services as opposed to the point when the work is completed and they no longer require the assistance of an attorney.  This is precisely why it makes sense for attorneys to desire larger retainer fees prior to the point at which legal services are provided.