A Simple Way to Organize Your Billing
by Edward Poll
(County Bar Update, November 1999, Vol. 19, No. 10)


A Simple Way to Organize Your Billing

By Edward Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC, vice chair, Law Practice Mgmt Section. Poll is a nationally known certified management consultant, author and speaker who coaches attorneys and law firms. While showing attorneys how to deliver services more effectively, Poll also shows how to become more efficient and increase profits in a way that clients know their attorneys care about them. He can be reached at edpoll@lawbiz.com and (800) 837-5880. The opinions expressed are his own.

In this high-tech age there are complicated computer software programs available for almost any law office task, but since the largest cost in any software purchase is the learning curve necessary to become proficient in its use, sometimes the less-is-more philosophy is the wisest approach.

For example, I've found that basic word processing programs are up to many more tasks than we sometimes appreciate. Like the human brain, these programs are exploited to only a fraction of their capabilities.

Take billing -- A small law office of up to five attorneys can use Corel's WordPerfect, or any word processing application, to help create and keep track of bills without having to buy a separate time-and-billing program. Here's how:

  • First, create a separate directory called "BILLINGS".
  • Next, type your statements in your standard format showing, for example, a description of the service, the date the service was rendered, the amount of time spent, the hourly rate and the amount due.
  • Then, save the statement in the billings directory (for hypothetical client Jane Simpson) as "SIMPSON1.BIL".
  • When this statement is paid, rename the file "SIMPSON1.PD"
  • When a second statement is prepared for the same client, use the first statement as the form, changing the time and services entries as appropriate. Name the new statement "SMPSON2.BIL".
  • When this bill is paid, rename the file "SIMPSON2.PD". And so on.

Of course, each statement should detail the balance from the previous statement, payments received during the previous month and any past due balance, in addition to detailing services during the current month.

From time to time during the month, review this billings directory. If you have been diligent in renaming the files when a client pays a bill, all those statements that have yet to be paid will have ".BIL" suffixes or extensions showing. Concentrate your collection efforts on those statements with the ".BIL" suffixes.

Also, by reviewing the date of the files in the billings directory, you will be able to determine the aging of any statement without actually going into the file to analyze it.

With this simple system, all unpaid statements are easy to spot by scanning the billings directory. The date of each statement can be quickly determined at the same time. This is an easy way to keep track of your accounts receivable and to know how old each statement is.

Best of all, virtually no additional learning is required. A template is easy to make -- All that is required is a decision about how you want your billing statement to look. Create the format once in a matter of minutes, and you're set thereafter.

You now have the basis of an "accounts receivable aging report", an essential tool for effective collection efforts.

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