The Significant Role of Billing Software in Matter Management
On the surface, it’s often easy to look at billing as the conclusion of a phase or engagement. But the fact is that it can also be a source of valuable information to set the foundation for planning and strategizing for the future.
Matter management – that is, effective matter management – has long been the backbone of a well functioning legal department. The list of disparate entities and activities that must be tracked can perhaps seem like an administrative hydra at times:
- Numerous law firms, attorneys, and paralegals
- Types of legal work, industries, and other classifications
- Judges, witnesses, opposing counsel
- Documents, budgets, e-mail, deadlines, and invoices
- Ancillary services, such as court reporters and copy services
Modern software has tamed the hydra, with organizational capabilities to collect, categorize, store, and deliver data involving all kinds of matter and multilayered details.
Billing software takes a critical component of the process and delivers additional value in many facets:
Accuracy – Technology eliminates the potential for errors that can come with manual data entry
Efficiency – Time-consuming tasks are now automated and lightning quick; billing and issue resolution can be streamlined
Validation – Billing guidelines, that place limits on hours, billing rates, overtime and expenses, or institute other restrictions, can be incorporated and trigger alerts or auto-rejection when invoices fail to adhere to the rules.
Information – Tracking timekeeper attributes, vendor payments, hourly rates, client codes, and other detailed data creates a storehouse of valuable facts and figures for analysis.
This fount of information can provide insight into both broad spending patterns and financial nooks and crannies. A key to reaping the most from an e-billing system is to discuss early on how invoices and other input will be handled (e.g., consistent entries beget consistent reports), what information needs to be collected and what the end goals are to accomplish, and when spot-checking should be conducted and billing guidelines reconsidered.
With this billing-generated knowledge, data-driven decisions can be made quickly and confidently. Among other perspectives, this granular data can reveal litigation trends, total legal team participation distribution, and even individual attorney effectiveness. This can be golden when looking to negotiate, consider alternative fee arrangements, and predict and control costs. It also allows General Counsel to work with law firms on the strategic approach to cases, from a cost management perspective, and budget more effectively going forward.
As with most processes that are technology-driven, it’s also important to remember that e-billing and matter management are not going to function optimally if they are allowed to be static and grow stale. Meet with your account manager, who should stay on top of system improvements being developed and industry best practices – and how they can support your company’s vision.