Legal ops: 6 signs your electronic billing system isn’t as powerful as you think

Lauren Lee | June 3, 2020 | Articles

Electronic billing involves far more than just paying bills online. A truly powerful legal e-Billing system also provides spend management capabilities that give you full visibility into how and where you use your legal budget.

As motivational speaker and author John Maxwell  says, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

So, ask yourself: Does your current electronic billing system help you manage a budget or just allow you to spend it?

Legal departments tend to stick with the system they have simply because it’s what they’ve always used. But if any of the following issues sound familiar, chances are your electronic billing system isn’t nearly as robust as you think it is.

1. Integration Limitations Create More Work

Disconnected systems force your team to spend time moving between tools and entering the same data multiple times. If your electronic billing system does not integrate with the apps and software you use on a daily basis, it’s creating more work for the entire department.

Duplicate data entry isn’t just tedious — it’s error-prone. An Economist Intelligence Unit report showed that 32% of business executives saw a decrease in human errors after automating some manual tasks, and 52% reported an increase in productivity. Teams can use advanced integrations to automatically update information across different systems — but not all integrations are created equal.

Legal Tracker relies on older SOAP API technology for integrations, making it very limited. With a SOAP API, you essentially have a flat-file integration option — forcing you to manually upload and download files between systems and work with asynchronous transactions. Meanwhile, our REST API provides two-way integrations, so both systems are updated in real time.

Flat-file integration is a perfect example of sticking with a solution that’s good, but not great. Does it work? Sure. Is it the most advanced and efficient way to work? Definitely not.

With a continuous focus on innovation, SimpleLegal has pre-built integrations with commonly used applications and software, such as Box, iManage, Outlook, IPfolio, and more. And because our API is open, setting up integrations with other programs is simple. In fact, below is a short video with two tips for getting the most out of your e-Billing system with a Finance integration. Can you say the same about your current integration setup?


2. Lack of Configurability Leads to Confusion

You say “law firm,” I say “outside counsel” — and now the whole invoice is off. Every organization has their own preferences and nomenclature, but many electronic billing systems lock you into their preferred terminology and out-of-box attributes for everything from invoices to reports. Lack of configurability can cause miscommunications among your team. Plus, historical data can get jumbled when fields don’t line up during data migration.

Because some older solutions limit the number of configurable fields for matters, you’re boxed into their matter setup. SimpleLegal not only has unlimited configurable fields for matters, vendors, and invoices, but it also allows you to report on any of those fields in real time. With that extra level of control, your team can decide what metrics matter most to them and design templates and reports accordingly.

The inability to configure required fields is also a common problem with electronic billing systems. At one point, Legal Tracker had 13 required fields for every matter. Imagine if your team was only interested in five of those fields and had to waste time filling in irrelevant information.

SimpleLegal lets you decide what is required for each type of document. You can even designate what information is inherited and filled in automatically, so you can eliminate some busywork.

Matter Management Details

3. Customer Support Comes at a Price

Customer service should be a given, not an additional cost. Whether the price you pay comes in the form of added charges on your bill or days spent waiting for a response, it’s time to consider other options.

Your electronic billing system isn’t very helpful unless you know how to use it, but some companies seem to view training as an a la carte service. Legal Tracker, for example, charges $3,000 to train admins on their software and requires a three-day stay in Las Vegas. At SimpleLegal, admin training and ongoing support are included at no extra charge.

It’s also important to consider the cost of your time. Slow response times might not affect your invoice, but consider the cost of the reduced productivity. Former CounselLink and TyMetrix 360 customers have shared that customer service at both companies left a lot to be desired. Attorney Andrew Simpson expressed his frustration with TyMetrix 360, saying, “the help section is abysmal…they don’t seem to understand the areas where users need help.”

At SimpleLegal, we regularly update our help section and believe in personalized support. When you reach out to us, you can expect a response within 24 hours without having to pay extra. For users who are interested in learning more about how to use SimpleLegal to its maximum potential, we also host weekly training sessions on different topics. Miss a session? We’ve got a dedicated section in our resource center for you to catch up!

We also take feature requests very seriously. After a few customers mentioned wanting a better way to store documents, we got to work. In April 2020, we launched a document management solution (DMS) that is embedded directly into SimpleLegal for no additional charge.

4. Costs Are Always on the Rise

While most electronic billing systems will tout spend management and better budget control as major benefits, they often leave out information about their own fees. Take a closer look at your bills over the course of a year to see if any unexpected fees or increases surprise you.

Legal Tracker, for instance, charges extra for both setup and training. TyMetrix 360 really leans into the ad-hoc pricing model, charging separately for reporting, accruals, and budgets — something they are not particularly clear about during the sales process.

In fact, one utility company switched to SimpleLegal after using TyMetrix 360 for six years because they were tired of TyMetrix’s annual fee increases and poor response times.

We recently partnered with our customers to extract identify unexpected fee data from SimpleLegal, running 5 webinars, in 5 days, across various time zones. The goal was to provide them with a single phone call that could save them six figures – something especially important in our current global environment.

The results of our Customer Savings Initiative will be shared in our upcoming webinar, providing specific actions that you can take to yield similar results. Register for our webinar here and learn how you can make an impact on your bottom line.

5. Your Vendors Hate Using It

Your relationship with your vendors is important — unhappy vendors can lead to a variety of billing and administrative disputes. If the law firms and consultants you work with can’t stand your electronic billing system, they probably have a good reason. Not sure how you should be vetting an electronic billing system for your vendors, check out this list of 23 questions to help kickstart your evaluation conversation.

High costs and lack of support are among the top complaints. TyMetrix 360 charges firms for every invoice they submit. Legal Tracker does not offer any support for law firms, choosing instead to shift that responsibility to their customers.

While CounselLink extends support to law firms, “premium customer support” is only available to vendors who work with customers paying the higher subscription tiers.

We’ve established that the SimpleLegal support team is always available to our customers — but we’re also 100% available to your vendors for no extra cost. By educating your vendors, we ensure that they have a better understanding of how to work in the tool and with your team. We’ll even troubleshoot issues directly with the law firms you work with, saving you time and helping you maintain great vendor relationships.

6. Reporting Options Are Limited

Effective spend management requires robust reporting. Unfortunately, many e-billing solutions are incredibly limited in their reporting capabilities.

Reporting shouldn’t just show what you’ve already spent — it should also help you predict future spend. On average, there is a 23% variation between monthly accrual estimates and what law firms actually invoice. If your current electronic billing system does not have an accrual accuracy report, you’ll have a hard time planning your budget.

Custom reporting options are crucial as well. While standard reports can give you a general idea of how your budget is used, custom reports can help you dig into the details. For example, a report that categorizes spend by practice area allows you to narrow in on specific practice areas that might eat up more money than you think.

Legal Spend Dashboard

Your team can even leverage custom reports to evaluate vendors. With SimpleLegal, you can track vendor performance with the metrics that matter most to you, such as spend compared to budget or time to process invoices. Vendor reports allow you to have more data-driven negotiations with outside counsel and improve your vendor management process.

Although CounselLink and TyMetrix 360 both offer custom reporting, neither interface is very intuitive. Former customers claim the advanced features were hard to understand, and their teams often turned to outside tools. A large plastics, chemicals, and refining company switched from TyMetrix 360 to SimpleLegal because of this issue. Before switching, the company was manually exporting data from TyMetrix 360 and then creating pivot tables and scripts just so they could analyze their own data.

Reports help you manage your department like a business. These nine essential reports are easy (and free) within SimpleLegal and will help you run a more cost-efficient department.

Does Your Electronic Billing System Offer What SimpleLegal Can?

If any of these major issues sound familiar, your system could use an upgrade. With SimpleLegal, you can go beyond online bill pay and gain end-to-end control of your legal budget. Plus, you’ll get all the benefits of our attentive customer support team and highly configurable platform. Sign up for a demo to see how our team can help yours.

*All information related to pricing, functionality, and customer support is, to the best of our knowledge, current as of the date of publishing.

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