Ensuring Billing Compliance and Accurate Timekeeping with AI
To maintain strong client relationships, firms must ensure that they comply with all billing and outside counsel guidelines (OCGs); however, following through with these agreements can prove difficult, and numerous firms have lost clients as a result. According to the 2020 Legal Pricing & Project Management Survey Report, 41% of in-house respondents revealed that they have terminated a law firm because the firm ignored client instructions or billing guidelines.
“A variety of rules govern doing business with particular corporations,” explained Brent Bourque, Senior Director and Practice Group Leader of OnePlace Operations & Finance at Intapp. “Firms need to know how to manage that process.”
Learn how OnePlace Operations & Finance can help firms ensure billing compliance, prevent billing errors, and support lawyers and other professionals in their everyday tasks.
Adhering to Billing Guidelines
When it comes to client billing, lawyers must consider two key factors: enforcing all OCGs and properly capturing time.
“Firms must promote compliance throughout the billing process and support the change management necessary to minimize conflicts as they relate to contracts or OCGs,” said Devin O’Leary, Practice Group Leader for OnePlace Operations & Finance at Intapp.
Firms must also ensure that their lawyers not only properly capture time but follow guidelines surrounding the number of hours they can work on a given client or matter. “Firms must identify the rules and enforce them at the point of time entry,” Bourque said. He warned that lawyers who fail to correctly record their time or follow guidelines may fall into “an endless loop where bills are submitted, corrected, and rejected.”
Law firm pricing software and compliance management software can help firms develop matter plans and enforce billing guidelines. Many firms have selected OnePlace Operations & Finance as their legal compliance software because of its plentiful features, capabilities, and AI-based technology.
Intapp Terms, part of the OnePlace Operations & Finance suite, is specifically designed to centralize and streamline storing, categorizing, and approval-routing of client mandates, helping firms effectively capture and deliver against client expectations. Intapp Time, also included in the suite, simplifies and streamlines timekeeping.
“Intapp Time can help firms build templates with prepackaged narratives that make it through the billing-filter gantlet,” said Bourque.
Both products promote billing compliance and provide data-driven insights to help firms improve legal pricing strategies.
Preventing Errors Early On
OnePlace Operations & Finance can also help firms catch errors early in the billing process, saving them time, effort, and — ultimately — money.
“By using OnePlace Operations & Finance, you’re catching things at the source,” explained Bourque. “Both revenue generation and process efficiency depend on the fee earner doing the work and recording it contemporaneously.”
Exposing OCGs early in the engagement is critical when developing a budget and matter plan. Firms can consider requirements and create a plan before legal work begins, preventing errors and thereby saving time and effort.
It’s also essential to catch timekeeping errors right away; otherwise, as Bourque explained, lawyers may have to “engage an administrative professional or clerk to correct the error, which timekeeping and compliance management software could have caught at the source.”
O’Leary gave an example to demonstrate the importance of accurate timekeeping: “If I enter in 15 flawed time entries at the beginning of the month, how much time does that cost me at the end of the month? Every bad entry costs more time.”
“At law firms, time is money,” Bourque said. “Every minute spent handling bills a second or a third time is more money lost. You could’ve spent time doing something that helps the bottom line or builds client success.”
Implementing OnePlace Operations & Finance
Implementing an AI-based connected firm management solution can help firms significantly improve their billing processes and ensure compliance. Unfortunately, many firms remain uncertain about the cost benefits of adopting AI technology.
“There’s a little bit of the fear of the unknown,” explained O’Leary. “Firms may not be sure what the AI tool is actually doing or monitoring, in certain circumstances. They don’t truly understand how the technology works or why it works.”
The idea of learning new legal compliance software can be daunting. Lawyers and accountants may also feel that learning new software will take up too much of their time — time that could be spent on engagements or other pressing issues.
“Firms often wonder, ‘Are we savvy enough as an organization to invest money into something like this?’” O’Leary said. For this reason, firms need to ensure that any technology they plan to invest in truly meets of all their requirements, and that the tools will be easily adopted by all teams.
OnePlace Operations & Finance is designed to be accessible for all users, regardless of their technical savvy, and to help them perform their jobs in the most efficient way possible.
“OnePlace Operations & Finance supports all timekeepers with a rich experience and a clean, easy-to-navigate interface,” O’Leary said. “The suite’s options facilitate different types of time entry. Users can access the software’s functions in a list view, calendar view, or a simple timer.”
OnePlace Operations & Finance also offers mobile accessibility. “The native OnePlace Operations & Finance mobile app is easy to use,” Bourque said. “The software lets users work wherever, whenever, and however they prefer.”
Learn more about using AI-based technology to increase client satisfaction and firm profitability: