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Legal software is often treated as immovable firm furniture. But without regularly scrutinizing essential technology, attorneys run the risk of selling an unfair and inefficient service – especially when there’s a new kind of software available which can accurately track all billable legal hours automatically. We break down the basics of automatic legal billing software to discuss how it’s set to radically change the technological infrastructure supporting firms, as well as client expectations of honest practice.
What is automatic legal billing software?
Automatic or “passive” legal billing software completely removes the need to manually track time, assign case hours, create timesheets or send invoices to clients.
Here’s how the majority work:
1. Tracking software captures everything you work on across your desktop and web browser, as well as phone call activity and even GPS location.
2. AI intelligently categorizes your work and creates accurate timesheets for you.
3. You invoice clients directly from the platform, either via a built-in solution or integrated invoicing provider, like Xero.
The idea is to spend as little time as possible on non-billable essential daily admin. You need never use a manual timer or break your focus to record billable hours again.
What makes automatic legal time keeping software superior?
Automatic legal billing software sets a whole new standard for accurate, efficient and accountable legal practice.
Legal software that depends on human input is extremely vulnerable to human error. The profession tends to swear by manual timers to track billable work, even though they are one of the most inaccurate methods going. By tracking everything you work on in real-time, automatic software provides a precise record of all of your time. Your hours aren’t distorted by being logged after the fact, misremembered or downright forgotten. Every detail, no matter how small, is represented.
The total time required to stop and start different timers as you switch between tasks, piece work together and create invoices can be staggering. But time tracking and billing doesn’t have to be time consuming. By removing the need to manually record your own billable hours, you can get back to actual productive work and reduce your administrative overhead. Since all your time is tracked, you’ll even get an accurate overview of where your non-billable time goes and what tasks cost you the most.
Legal practice takes the need for clear, honest exchange to a whole new level. Clients expect itemized accounts of where their money was spent, posing an intense reporting challenge for lawyers with multiple cases. Automatic time and billing software allows you to provide granular accounts of your work with minimal effort. You can quickly produce customized reports to any level of detail your clients desire – from activity breakdowns to the very documents and case files you were working on for them.
Unlike timers, automatic time tracking software works without disrupting your workflow. You don’t have to break concentration to manually turn multiple trackers on and off, since everything is running in the background while you work. It’s a simple, quiet alternative to a manually demanding system – time tracking just becomes a task you just don’t have to consciously think about.
Unlike the majority of law practice management tools, automatic legal billing software is built to accommodate the highly mobile legal lifestyle. The majority support call tracking and cross-device tracking, so you can capture all your billable hours when work takes you outside the office or to mobile devices. Some even use GPS location tracking, so you can track travel and see where client meetings overrun. It’s particularly useful for capturing ad hoc billable tasks which fall outside of normal working hours.
Who offers automatic legal billing?
As a complete legal solution, relatively few. A lot of proprietary legal software claims to be automatic when they actually only help process hours you log yourself using manual timers. Often they are prisoners of their own size, and by trying to cover every area of firm management they struggle to modernize every function. Automated add-ons mark a step in the right direction, but they’re not sophisticated enough to jump ship for.
The best automatic legal time tracking software tend to be standalone products. They often don’t offer a full suite of legal case management features, but instead focus on doing one thing very well: accurate time tracking. Many lawyers supplement household legal software with automatic time tracking apps like Timely to improve client billing without completely overthrowing the established system. Younger and smaller firms, however, are typically better placed to adopt them as their main record and billing solution.