From Houston to Dallas to El Paso, one issue that unites attorneys in the Lone Star State is: we suck at billing our clients. I didn’t go to law school (don’t ask me how long ago) to learn how to become a bill collector, and my school certainly didn’t offer any law firm management courses. So, when and how exactly are we supposed to pick up on the finer points of invoicing?

In reality, many firm owners have to learn the ropes of receivables by trial and error (who doesn’t like a pun?). In that vein, here are some billing tips and tricks that I learned to help keep you in the black:

  1. It’s a mental game. Clients come to you at the worst points in their lives – the least you can do is be predictable in your billing schedule. Clients should not be waiting months to receive an invoice, and sporadically sending out invoices does not foster confidence between you and your client.

Whether you bill monthly or otherwise, be consistent as to when you send out your bills. I recommend you send them around the 4th of every month. This means if the client gets paid on the 1st of the month, their paycheck will have cleared by the time they receive your invoice, making yours one of the first bills they should pay.

  1. You are the problem/ the call is coming from inside the house. Many times, the reason as to why firms are so behind in sending out invoices is because they don’t have all of their hours logged into their system. We’ve all been in the situation where we wait until the end of the month to input our hours, only to have to recreate what we did for that entire month.

The problem with this, as we all know, is that it is impossible to recreate every billable increment (.25 for me which was lovely) for an entire month. Things slip through the cracks; you log six hours for a day that occurred two weeks ago, but you know you were at the office for ten hours that day. Now you are losing money for the firm, and for yourself.

You and your staff MUST have a rule for inputting hours. Ideally this should be done daily, but weekly is more practical. If you have problem children at your firm (it’s me, dear reader, I was the problem) who have issues with tracking their time, the best investment that I made was adopting Smokeball’s Autotime feature – it is software that exists in the background of your computer and tracks what you are doing and for which cases. It’s magical.

  1. Get out of the stone age. Look, we attorneys are sometimes not super receptive to change (I had an opposing counsel who exclusively used a typewriter for pleadings and correspondence…in 2018). But it’s time to adopt technology and automate your billing and invoicing processes. Your firm administrator will thank you, I promise.

This means adopting software like Smokeball that will enable you to print out prebills in bulk (and separated by attorney), and it will let you automate your invoices. So instead of going case-by-case, you can press a button and all bills get sent out at once to your clients.

Also, if you bill hourly, start thinking about adopting an evergreen retainer policy. This too can be automated if you are using the right software.

Bottom line: billing does not have to be the headache that it was of yesteryear. Technology like Smokeball now exists to make this process easier for you. Use it.

Jordan Turk is a practicing attorney in Texas and Smokeball’s Legal Technology Advisor. Smokeball is the industry’s leading cloud-based legal practice management software.  Members of the State Bar of Texas are eligible for a 10% discount on new Smokeball subscriptions. Click here to redeem your discount and learn more about how Smokeball can help you Run Your Best Firm.