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Customer Success Manager

The Basics of Billing Guidelines

The foundation of any great relationship with your outside counsel is clear expectations. Without an understanding of your goals and expectations, chances are your law firms will miss the mark when they begin billing. Effective billing guidelines are the key to getting your firms up and running faster.

The internet is full of helpful resources and templates that companies worldwide employ when onboarding their outside counsel. The problem is, many of these resources that exist are quite detailed and can be overwhelming if you're just looking to set the ground rules with your firms.

Billing guidelines don't need to be the complex ten-page documents that they can be. As your team grows and your expectations become more specific, you can add and improve detail as your needs change. To help you get started with the basics, we've put together a guide to help you build your own

Setting the Foundation

Set the foundation for why your billing guidelines are important. These guidelines aren't about setting unachievable standards by your firms, it's about ensuring everyone is on the same page. Some things you may like to highlight here:

  • Key contacts within your team, and their roles.
  • Your expectations about what these guidelines will serve as
  • The date you wish for the guidelines to kick in

Billing

It's essential that you highlight the way in which you want your firms to submit invoices for work. Law firms are used to billing into various systems, so don't hold back when detailing the specificity that you desire. If you use a system like SimpleLegal, you'd highlight the process for submitting invoices via CounselGO and the value that offers the law firms. Outline the process for getting started with a new billing system, the timeline for submitting invoices, and provide any key contacts for billing related inquiries.

In addition to the general billing practices, you may want to highlight some specific expenses or fees and how they must be billed. You may want to include a section on prohibited fees to outline what you aren't willing to pay for. The more detail you provide here, the easier the billing process will be later.

Some things you may like to highlight here:

  • Travel expenses - do you pay for first class travel?
  • Line item detail and block billing
  • Matter specific billing guidelines - do you want your immigration matters collected into one invoice?

Finance and Accounting

If you're collecting monthly unbilled estimates from your law firms, then it's important you highlight the process for which you need these estimates submitted. If you're using SimpleLegal, then we'll email and collect these from your firms automatically (Learn more about our Automated Accruals). Either way, outline this process so that the billing team at your firms can coordinate internally to ensure you get the numbers you need on time.

Some things you may like to highlight here:

  • Accruals - how often?
  • Budgeting - do you want your law firms submitting budgets and forecasts?

The goal isn't to overwhelm your firms with terms that paralyze their ability to do good work. The key here is to set clear expectations. Billing guidelines don't need to be complex. View your guidelines as a live document that you are constantly building and reiterating as your team changes.

If you're looking for a more detailed breakdown of billing guidelines and just what detail you should be including, The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) has an abundance of resources available to you on their dedicated industry guidelines page.

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