Legal billing software is heating up, both in terms of number of users and functionality. It helps law firms, and organizations managing large volumes of invoices to operating more profitably, quickly and compliantly. Increasingly, legal billing software is a critical piece of law firm practice management. As you make technology purchasing decisions for your law firm, you should be “in the know” about trends in the industry, and what should be important for your firm. Without further ado, here are the top 5 trends seen in legal billing software:
The integration of multiple functionalities into a single platform is one of the top trends we’ve experienced in the legal billing system over the past decade. This trend is not unique to legaltech; challenger banks within fintech are also experiencing this trend away from point solutions in favor of best-of-suite platform solutions. Broader functionality increases user stickiness, flexibility and ease of billing, a win/win for the law firm and the software provider. For legal billing software, solutions that integrate with payments, analytics, accounting and timekeeping software tend to add more value to overall law firm practice management success.
This trend applies not only to legal billing software, but also to modern software in general. The spectrum of devices on which software is accessible from is constantly expanding, from desktops to mobile phones to the cloud. This allows lawyers and law firms to access their billing systems on the go, at the office, or from home, all while having their data in synch thanks to the cloud. Accessibility helps legal professionals improve their work/life balance in this regard; working from home is made more productive and further de-stigmatized. With a growing number of Americans working from home, 8 million in 2017, this feature will only become more relevant.
One final point to note about accessibility is voice. This input medium has historically been inaccurate and a subject for parody, but as consumers have experienced with Alexa, Siri and other voice-enabled systems…natural language processing (NLP) technology has improved immensely the past 3-5 years. Some legal billing software offerings also include voice, which can be immensely powerful in timekeeping. A large contributing factor to delays in time recording for billing has been that it’s simply not convenient to record invoices on the go. Imagine sitting on the tarmac in a plane, or in an Uber home or on your way to the office, these scenarios are now settings you can quickly record invoices, even with background noise. This increases your billing compliance, revenues and profits. Furthermore, speaking from the perspective of a legaltech company with employees across 5 different countries, we are have seen an increasing ability of NLP to manage a colorful variety of accents.
Automation is a concept that seemingly fell out of the limelight, and has since made a healthy rebound. That statement is based on our recent attendance at LegalTech 2020 in New York; automation speaking engagements were standing room only, so clearly the pain point is real. As lawyers know, running a law firm involves many rote, process-driven tasks, which are required for business, but aren’t revenue driving in themselves. These tasks lend themselves to software. Timekeeping, for example, is often a manual data entry-driven process. Processes like these can be automated through billing software.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the trends getting the most press in the legal billing sector. What does AI really mean? This technology can be thought of as a spectrum of data handling proficiency. First, you start with basic data gathering, cleaning and analysis, so you can work with an “apples-to-apples” data set that informs decision making, i.e. are my associates all hitting their weekly billing goals? Could I do more billing via mobile to increase on-time billing? Second, once you have a large clean set of data, you can implement machine learning, which follows simple “if-then” rules in interpreting a large set of data, accurately and quickly. We use machine learning to interpret legal billing activity descriptions to predict the correct billing codes that law firms must use in their invoice line items. If the user submits the invoice without disagreement, and the invoice is paid quickly, a tally is added to the machine learning’s code indicating a success and to do more predictions like that. In theory, it collects tallies of invoices being approved, modified or denied, and adjusts its predictions accordingly. Artificial intelligence takes this a step further, and not only follows rules, but generates its own. In our case, we could use artificial intelligence to remind people when to bill as reminders tend to increase billings, which increases compliance, revenues and profits. Self-coding AI is a ways off, but the implications are exciting to think about, and lawyers should at least be familiar with the subject.
Multiple payment options help law firms get paid. It’s common sense, but it merits explicit mention: make it easy to get paid. Different strokes for different folks. Clients like paying in a variety of different ways, that every law firm should offer. Beyond wire, ACH and credit card options, fully electronic payment systems, such as PayPal and LawPay are key. They help make the due amount transparent and easy, and auto populate invoice record keeping. For example, we offer the basics, of exportable PDF invoices which can accompany wiring, ACH and card instructions, but we also have LawPay and PayPal billing options, which makes it easy to bill from anywhere, with different currencies across a number of different devices.
These are just a few trends to be aware of when it comes to legal billing software, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out at [email protected].