Your guide to easier approval workflows for legal invoices

David Chai | March 7, 2023 | Articles

According to a Bloomberg Law survey, legal ops teams said “increased efficiency” was their top goal. Yet, plenty of teams still manually manage approval workflows for legal invoices—which is the most inefficient approach.

With manual invoice workflows, approvals slow to a snail’s pace. You have to micromanage different routing processes, which quickly become logistical, time-sucking trainwrecks for everyone involved. There’s no visibility into which approvers have seen what, and there’s no context for why someone is assigned to an invoice. This means you’re constantly emailing people across departments and time zones to follow up or resolve confusion.

These bottlenecks make it difficult to collaborate. Meanwhile, incorrect, late, or missed payments become the norm. Like we said, it’s the opposite of productive.

Fortunately, there is a solution: custom, automated workflows. The sooner you switch to a modern e-Billing platform with these capabilities, the sooner you can meet your goal of increased efficiency and truly start to deliver greater business value.

4 key benefits of automated invoice workflows

Automated invoice workflows give more control and clarity to legal ops, in-house counsel, and other assigned approvers throughout the review process. This streamlining and heightened visibility make a once-cumbersome task easy and intuitive, boosting productivity and reducing friction between teams and vendors.

1. Significant time savings

Automated approval workflows give you back time previously spent on tedious admin work, like checking in with approvers and re-routing approvals. In fact, financial institution Circle saved five full days of work a month with our automated invoice routing.

You get instant notifications for each invoice, so you’re kept in the loop throughout the entire review process. Tagged users get automatic reminders to review the invoice by your deadline in your approval workflow—no more hunting down reviewers. Prominent timestamps also show you clear turnaround times, giving you concrete data to set realistic deadlines and manage expectations with vendors.

Additionally, approvers save time on each invoice with automated reviews. Using invoice validation rules, the software highlights line items that don’t adhere to billing guidelines. The platform can also auto-reject or adjust line items. These capabilities save approvers from poring over hundreds of line items, which speeds up the approval process.

2. Greater cost savings

The 2021 EY Law Survey found that general counsel listed “a greater use of technology” as the number-one strategy offering “significant or very significant cost savings opportunities.” And we couldn’t agree more. Automation plays a huge role in why SimpleLegal customers save an average of 8.4% on their legal spend.

With invoice validation rules doing the heavy lifting up front, approvers have greater bandwidth to focus on critically analyzing spend instead of rushing to check it off their to-do list. This reduces oversights that lead to unnecessary legal spending, from costly double billing to missed alternative fee arrangements.

3. Better collaboration

Automated invoice approval workflows transform a once-chaotic process into a seamless team relay. Just look at how Crocs’ legal department used SimpleLegal to streamline their international routing process across accounting firms in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Automated invoice review workflows bring greater transparency to everyone involved, reducing the need for redundant back-and-forth conversations. The team can see who’s involved in the process, the actions taken on each invoice, and their current status.

This faster workflow reduces internal friction and allows legal and accounts payable employees to concentrate more on other high-level priorities. Streamlined internal workflows also support better working relationships with vendors since you’re more likely to pay them on time.

4. Enhanced data security

Egress’ 2023 Data Loss Prevention Report found that 83% of organizations have experienced an email data breach—making it the top medium for cybersecurity incidents. If you’re managing invoice approval workflows through emails, you’re putting your company and law firms at risk.

To protect sensitive financial data from hackers and minimize human errors that often compromise data privacy, modern legal e-Billing platforms give you custom access permissions. By controlling who can view or share invoices in a centralized, encrypted platform, you reduce the likelihood of a breach or any accidental data sharing. And with the average cost of a data breach hovering around $5 million, the more protection you have, the more money you’re potentially saving.

Why use SimpleLegal for easier invoice approval workflows

Standard, pre-set approval chains in legal spend management tools may seem like a helpful upgrade from manual management. However, they don’t offer the flexibility modern legal teams need to seamlessly handle complex workflow requirements.

SimpleLegal allows you to create custom approval workflows based on your unique business processes. Our anti-cookie-cutter approach gives you the freedom to tweak or design new approval paths, ensuring you can continuously meet compliance requirements as your team and company evolve and scale.

With control over each step of the process, you know you can add in the right people at the right time. And by controlling the order of approvers, legal teams gain a clear understanding of why invoices flow in a certain way.

And these additional features make the invoice approval process even more of a breeze:

  • “Why Am I Here?”: The “Why Am I Here?” function is available to all approvers, telling them why they and the rest of their teammates required this specific person or team. This context is especially helpful to bring in the necessary people for invoice review if they aren’t already on the associated matter.
  • Savable teams: You can create and save review teams that can be applied to workflows regularly, giving you a quick foundation to work off of that can be modified as needed.
  • Real-time editing: Our user-friendly interface makes it easy to modify approval routes in seconds, and all changes are recorded in real-time to create a clear audit trail.
  • Configurable approval queues: If validation rules auto-reject an invoice that didn’t need rejection, you can easily move it back into the invoice approval queue. This means you don’t need to ask vendors to resubmit, saving you and your outside counsel time.

Powerful legal tech doesn’t need to be complicated

With our dynamic legal e-Billing and spend management software, the possibilities for approval workflows are endless. But you won’t have to worry about getting overwhelmed.

Our user-friendly tech accommodates teams of all skill levels and sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 500 brands. You choose the initial features you need and unlock new ones when your team is ready to use them. It really is that simple.

See for yourself by signing up for a free software walk-through with one of our SimpleLegal product specialists.

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