All organizations, from law firms to financial advisors and contractors to non-profits, seek ways to build value for clients. Every interaction across all phases of the customer experience will shape a person’s perception of your organization.
Collectively, these client perceptions are the primary driver behind the value of the services you provide. The client’s perceived value will often determine if the prices you charge are worth paying.
An often overlooked method for building and illustrating value is detailed, transparent invoicing.
We’ve seen many invoices from law firms that include one generic description of the services provided, such as “document preparation,” “legal research,” or “contract review.” The generic description is then accompanied by a single fee that covers all tasks included in that description. This approach to invoicing creates a number of issues.
“Vague” Doesn’t Translate to “Value”
A generic invoice doesn’t create value for your legal services. It does nothing to validate how hard you’re working on the client’s behalf, or the quality of the work that you’re doing. By sending generic invoices, you position your law firm as a price-driven commodity rather than a value-driven source of expertise and an advocate for the client.
Think of invoicing as more than a bill. An invoice is a form of communication with the client that can contribute to a stronger, more trusting relationship. This is critical to shaping perceptions and building value. From the client’s perspective, they deserve more detailed explanations of what specific tasks were completed and the amount of time required to complete each task.
Generic invoicing can often be traced back to poor time-tracking. Time-tracking cannot start when you prepare your invoice. Law firms should record their activity almost in real-time to ensure that all activity will be accurately represented on the client invoice. Without consistent time-tracking, there is an increased risk of inaccuracy and confusion.
This can cause clients to question the cost or validity of your invoice, as well as the value of your services. It can even lead to a legal dispute. When you have detailed invoices, you clarify exactly what the client is paying for and minimize the risk of the invoice being called into question.
Do Your Invoices Fulfill Your Ethical Obligations?
Questions about the validity of your invoices can lead to ethical issues related to charging unreasonable fees. The amount of time charged for legal services must be aligned with the amount of labor required to provide those services.
Detailed invoices connect the dots between time, labor and fees. Generic invoices can leave you vulnerable to ethics violations. The less detailed your invoices, the more difficult it is to justify them.
The Value Is in the Details
When invoices are not detailed and specific, you do yourself a disservice because you miss an opportunity to reinforce the value of your law firm’s work. You also run the risk of violating ethical requirements and creating doubt in the mind of your clients. Track your time throughout the day, and use that information to create invoices that show your clients just how hard you’re working on their behalf.
Virtual Paralegal Services helps solo and small law firms track time and bring appropriate levels of detail and clarity to their invoices. Contact us to find out how we can help you build value through proper invoicing practices.