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How to Create a Transparent Legal Billing Process
by: Bill4Time of Bill4Time  -  
Thursday, May 4, 2023

Are there hidden red flags in your firm’s billing practices? Transparency in billing is a key factor in client satisfaction and retention. 

For some clients, the legal billing process can be challenging to navigate making it crucial for firms to have transparent, easy-to-digest terms.

Find out more about red-flag billing practices to avoid and how you can maintain compliance with law firm invoicing software.

What Is Upbilling?

Upbilling is the practice of rounding up billable time. Most lawyers bill in six-minute increments, but with upbilling, lawyers are rounding their billable time up to the next half hour or hour, leading to excess revenue and unjust billing practices for the client.

Another issue related to upbilling, as revealed by the report, is that lawyers were billing for a single six-minute increment of time, despite listing tasks that would typically take a fraction of that time.

What Is the Difference Between Upbilling and Block Billing?

Though equally problematic, upbilling and block billing are different practices. The former involves rounding time increments up for billable hours, while the latter includes a range of tasks in one block of time.

With block billing, lawyers list separate tasks under one time entry for a bill, rather than itemizing their tasks and time increments. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean lawyers are billing for hours they didn’t spend working for the client, but it does make it difficult for clients to determine how that time was spent.

Issues with Block Billing

Clients often complain about block billing because it creates challenges for them in understanding how to budget and may lead to suspicion surrounding your timekeeping practices. 

Common Legal Billing Red Flags to Avoid

Some lawyers struggle with accurate timekeeping and end up underbilling for their time, missing out on valuable revenue for the hours they spend working on a case. Still, clients are quick to suspect that lawyers are “padding the bill,” leading to client disputes.

There are several legal billing red flags that you should avoid to maintain client trust, especially when it comes to the billing process:

  • Block billing with large chunks of time and vague tasks

  • Repetitive tasks, such as emails or phone calls, that are billed at the same amount, as the time typically varies

  • Double charges for work performed by paralegals or other staff members, which is then reviewed by a lawyer

  • High minimum billing times, such as half-hour increments for short tasks like client calls

  • Repeated entries that have the same amount of time

  • Billable hours that don’t align with the client experience, such as a bill for an hour client meeting that only took 15 minutes

  • Billing for excessive office overhead

Research is another area where some lawyers may pad a bill. While some cases will involve extensive research on specific legal issues, lawyers should not need to conduct basic research for straightforward cases in their practice areas. That’s what the client is paying for – legal expertise, education, and experience.

Legal time tracking software helps your firm avoid these pitfalls with accurate, convenient, and compliant timekeeping and billing practices. With custom invoices, you’ll have a detailed list of the tasks performed for a client and spot-on billable time with efficient timekeeping practices.

Adopt Transparent Legal Billing Practices

Whether law firms are deliberately padding bills or extremely inefficient, bills with red flags and errors breed suspicion and doubt in clients.

It’s essential for your law firm to maintain trust and compliance with accurate timekeeping, itemized invoices, and streamlined processes. Law firm billing software is the best way to optimize these processes and ensure that clients are paying fairly for your time spent on their cases.

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