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How to get paid during the COVID-19 pandemic

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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How to get paid during the COVID-19 pandemic

In March, life as we knew it ground to a halt as COVID-19 descended upon our country. For many law firms, this sudden departure from business as usual was an unexpected and unwelcome turn of events. As the virus quickly took hold, firms closed their doors and, to the extent that it was was possible, sent their employees home to work remotely.

With the unexpected and sudden transition to remote working came a host of challenges, not the least of which was getting paid by clients. Of course, ensuring that your firm has effective billing processes in place in the midst of a worldwide pandemic easier said than done. This is especially so if your firm isn’t already using legal billing software that is accessible remotely.

The good news is in 2020 there is easy-to-use and affordable remote billing software that is readily available and makes it easier than ever to get paid despite the pandemic. These cloud-based tools streamline the process of remotely invoicing clients and accepting online payments from clients. Here’s how and why your firms should make it a point to invest in this type of software in the near future, especially since there is no clear indication as to when life will return to some semblance of normal.

First, it goes without saying that if remote working is a necessity, then your firm needs to invest in billing tools that are easily accessed remotely, whether it’s legal billing software or law practice management software with billing capabilities. The simplest and most cost effective way to accomplish this is with cloud-based billing software or law practice management software with built in legal billing features. This software provides an out-of-the-box, streamlined billing process that makes it easier than ever to remotely track time, invoice clients, and accept online payments via credit card.

Next, simplify the invoice creation process. There are a host of ways to reduce legal billing inefficiencies, but one of the easiest is to reduce the number of steps needed to create and send out invoices. One way that most cloud-based legal billing tools accomplish this goal is by automatically providing necessary billing information, such as LEDES billing codes. Additionally, the built-in ability to customize invoices allows you to easily determine what information appears on your firm’s invoices, such as which time or expense entry columns you would like to appear on an invoice. You can create and edit those invoices from any location and then with the click of a button, send them to clients for payment.

Next, use cloud-based billing software that allows you to automate invoices reminders. With this built-in tool, you can schedule reminders when you send out the very first invoice to a client. If the invoice isn’t paid, a follow up invoice will automatically be sent to the client, reminding the client that the billed amount is still outstanding.

Finally, use make sure the cloud-based billing software allows clients to set up payment plans. By doing this you provide your clients with increased flexibility, making it easier to pay large legal bills - something that is especially important during a pandemic.

The bottom line: just because your law firm is operating virtually, doesn’t mean you can’t successfully collect payments from clients. With the right cloud-based software your law firm’s billing processes will be streamlined, and will include features that make it easier for clients to pay their legal bills. So what are you waiting for? Not only will investing in this software now make all the difference to your firm’s bottom line, it will likewise help to future-proof you law firm and ensure its continued success in the immediate future - whatever it may bring.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase  law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at niki.black@mycase.com.