Beyond “Pay Now”: Cloud-Based Billing Offers Clients a Better Experience
There are plenty of worn jokes about lawyers’ dislike of math and lack of business skills. But like most old saws, there is a whisper of truth behind it. Poor handling of routine business processes, including setting fees and handling basic accounting processes, are among the top performance issues for law firms. Most attorneys would rather practice law than shuffle paperwork and take calls from clients with questions about their bill.
Better Practice Management Means a More Profitable Business
The bottom line is: your firm is a business. Whether your firm has two attorneys or 100, sound financial and accounting practices are critical to your business success. When it comes to invoicing and payments, automating the process is a win-win, offering business benefits to the firm, while delivering a better client experience.
According to Bain & Company, firms that create an engaging customer experience will recognize revenue growth 4-8% above their market. A great client experience also increases long-term loyalty, which contributes to referrals, revenue stability and future growth. An automated billing and payment process that offers flexibility and is easy for clients to use can engender client trust.
Consider the following elements as you leverage legal technology to improve billing and cash flow.
Use a Billing System That Integrates with Practice Management
The information needed to bill clients for your work – dates, hours, activity descriptions and client payment terms – can be most efficiently pulled directly from the firm’s legal practice management system. You save time by managing your billing and payments in one place. At AbacusNext we integrated APX, the Abacus Payment Exchange, with our practice management systems versus a third-party option to assure a smooth flow of billable activity directly to the billing system.
Easily Track Alternative Fee Arrangements
The hourly billing model is giving way to alternative fee arrangements. Depending on the practice and client demands, firms increasingly offer monthly retainer billing or a recurring payment arrangement. Recurring payment models offer clients the certainty of knowing what their monthly legal fees will be or, for those that may not have immediate access to funds, allow them to budget and plan payments. The recent release of Amicus Cloud offers options that enable you to set up single, weekly, biweekly, monthly, semimonthly or quarterly billing schedules.
Offer Client-friendly Invoicing
Using Amicus Cloud with APX to manage your firm’s billing means you leverage information already stored in the practice management system, together with client account information, to create invoices that are branded, detailed and easy to read. With service description, hourly breakdown of services, clear dates of service, date of invoice, payment due date and links or instructions on how the client can easily pay now, you are providing a positive experience for the client and removing any hurdles or questions that might delay payment.
Make Payment Easy
Paper invoices and checks are so 2020! If you’re still mailing paper invoices, know that your bill is going to the bottom of the client’s pile.
Inevitably, paper generates paper, and automated payment methods that offer the ability to pay bills from any device and from any location reduce your reliance on paper. Law firms that deliver a digital invoice and offer an easy-click method for client payments will receive payments more quickly.
Clients want the option to pay by credit card. A Small Business Credit Card Study by Visa/A.T. Kearney indicates that almost 70% of small businesses use credit cards in a typical month. They are purchasing routine supplies, services and subscriptions on a credit card – why not legal services? Using an integrated payment method such as APX practice management solutions means you can offer payment via MasterCard, Visa, ACH, American Express and Discover.
Electronic checks are another payment method that is easy and convenient for clients. With e-check payment options, your firm delivers a payment form to the client. The client’s checking account number, routing number and payment amount are submitted in a secure online transaction that authorizes payment from their checking account, cutting days off the cumbersome paper process and putting your cash flow on a fast track.
Comply with Clients’ E-billing (LEDES) Requirements
Business clients often adopt the LEDES standard – an acronym for the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard created in 1995 to systematize electronic exchange of billing and other information between corporations and law firms.
Law firms these days are becoming increasingly transparent due to the expectations of their clients. Complying with legal e-billing standards such as LEDES provides transparency for every line item that law firms bill with corresponding e-billing codes. Amicus Cloud supports LEDES billing with an easy setup process. LEDES-compliant billings will speed through the client’s AP approval process and ensure timely payment.
Last But Not Least: Accelerate Cash Flow
Businesses increasingly prefer digital payment methods, and will pay the “easy” invoices before they get to your paper one. Automated credit card and e-check payments for individual clients give you access to cash faster and shorten collection cycles, helping you better manage your cash flow. The automated process also reduces expenses related to preparing, printing, paying postage and mailing invoices. With APX and our practice management solutions, you’ll have a daily view of billable work in progress, outstanding receivables, expenses due and cash flow projections at your fingertips.
AbacusNext and APX: A Win-Win
In legal services, the client relationship and ease of working with your firm can make the difference between a one-shot project and a lifelong client. Offering flexible fee arrangements and an automated invoice that’s easy for clients to pay is a win-win for both the firm and your clients. When clients clearly understand the value of your services and can quickly compensate you for those services with a few clicks of a mouse, your cash flow position improves.
Learn More about Amicus Cloud and APX
Is APX right for your firm? Read the blog post 5 Great Reasons to move to APX automated payments, or contact us today for help figuring out the best solution for you.