Attorney Billing Software and Service

Communicating Value Through Billing

Many attorney billing systems are based on the assumption that more billing detail is better.  The assumption is that clients feel better about paying a bill from an attorney when that attorney bills for every nickle of time and activity.  Bills based upon this (erroneous) understanding look something like this:

Date AAL Attempted phone call.                                                        .03         $ 7.50

Date AAL Attempted phone call.                                                        .03         $ 7.50

Date AAL Call from opposing counsel to discuss deposition.                 .05         $12.50

Date AAL Call to opposing counsel to schedule deposition.                   .05         $12.50

If you think your client appreciates this kind of detail I have news for you, your client looks at this kind of detail as “nickel and diming”.  

Your client like every other client is looking for value not activity.   Detail out of context does not create value.  You have to get paid for your services, not necessarily your time.    The object is to communciate your services in the context of the value you are creating for your client – how you spent your time is meaningless to your client unless you can contextualize that time. 

How you moved the client closer to his or her goal does make sense.  The description of that movement communicates value.

The way to do that is to divide up a case into meaningful components that accomplish a goal and summarize your activity within that goal.

For example if the attempted phone calls and scheduled depositions are all about a contested will being defending by your client, the executor, state that goal on the bill and arrange the activities within that goal. For example:

In defense of the Will of Alfred Sloan – Discovery phase – Deposition of Bettencourt and Sollers. In an attempt to setup and lay the ground work for the deposition several attempted phone calls and conversions with opposing council date, date, date date.

Total Time 20 minutes $40.00

Creating context in the form of goals and sub-goals is very important for creating billing value. Every legal action has a goal and every legal goal has sub-goals.  When you take on a case you should state your goal and your sub-goals.  As you keep track of your services, you should classify each activity into a sub-goal.  Most legal work divides up into some pretty standard goals and sub-goals.   Litigation usually divides up into Litigation Objective, Discovery, Pre-trial, Trial and Post-Trial.   Zoning divides up into Zoning Objective, Research, Presentation and Implementation.  Estates divide up into Creation of Objectives, Inteviews, Research, Document Preparation.  Family Law into Client Objective, Interviews, Discovery, Pre-Trial, Trial, Documentation, Dissolution. 

Communicating value through your billing will not only be well received by your clients but it will enhance their perception of your worth to them.  Don’t be surprised if it also creates more referrals for your services.