Law practice management software is often touted as the holy grail for lawyers, a way to be extremely efficient and effective when organizing your back office. It’s mobile, it’s time saving, it does everything if you will learn how to use it and let it perform its magic.
But what about the impact on the client when you don’t have law practice management software.
Let me tell you a story.
My husband is embroiled in a legal battle relating to his previous employment along with many others. Several of us have united and engaged a law firm. While the lawyers are fantastic, they are firmly entrenched in 1980 when it comes to billing for each second, tracking their billables, filing their paperwork with the courts and creating invoices.
When I received a bill last month, unfortunately the last page of the invoice wasn’t included and I had questions about an erroneous charge and certain credits which should have been reflected. The invoice was difficult to read because it was in their own law firm code. So, I called the law firm and ended up with the paralegal. I kept asking the paralegal, ‘can’t you just retrieve the invoice from your dashboard (I didn’t make any assumptions about what product they were using but reasonably assumed they used a computer and had computerized files and invoices for our case.) What should have been a quick explanation morphed into a ‘I’ll have to research this and get back to you.’ Several days later I received a lengthy email explaining the mistake they had made, the incomplete invoice, and also advising me that in order to correct the invoice the erroneous charges had to be removed by the main partner. Only she could modify the bill. Ok. I never heard from them about the modification for the $325 overcharge but when our next month’s invoice arrived it included a charge for the paralegal’s time to respond to my billing questions. We were being charged $145 for one and one half hours of the paralegal’s time at a rate of $90 per hour to research the billing mistakes caused by them! (update: apparently they must be doing math by hand, too, because this should have been $135 for 1.5 hours at $90 per hour).
Hello? Are you kidding me? Charging $145 to investigate a mistake you made which was not reflecting credits for payments already made and for not issuing a credit for a $325 overcharge? Had you been modernized it would have taken you three minutes to uncover the issue. Probably the mistake wouldn’t have been made at all! Instead you compound the injury to the client by charging additional fees for your inefficiencies, for still practicing law as if it was 1980.
This type of inefficiency destroys relationships with clients. You may be brilliant lawyers who can get the job done in court. But if you’re wasting your paralegal’s time (or your own) with needless ‘research’ and then having your clients upset because they are charged for this needless research, you are hurting your firm and your business.
Sure, could these lawyers have used discretion up front and not included a charge for their own mistakes? One would think. But that’s not the point of this post. The point clearly is ‘don’t modernize your practice at your own peril’. But if you are ready to do so, start with one of the great law practice management software services out there. If not, don’t be surprised when you get a great result for your client but your client doesn’t refer new clients to you because of the way you handle the business side of your practice.