If getting paid for the legal work you perform is important, then you already know why legal billing software is an indispensable tool. However, now that generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT have burst upon the software scene, legal billing systems can seem mundane since they are practical and reliable rather than an exciting new category of software. Yet the importance of this software has not diminished and remains a key element of the infrastructure that supports modern profitable law firms.
These platforms do more than streamline the billing process. They also promote accountability and ensure compliance with ethical standards, all while improving your firm’s financial management. But with so many options available, choosing the right tool for your firm’s needs requires thoughtful and strategic implementation.
Choosing legal billing software
The last time I wrote about this category of software was in July 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic. Since then, a lot has changed. New products have been introduced, while other legal billing tools have expanded their platforms and now fall under the law practice management category. If you require robust software that is designed to manage a legal case from start to finish, including client intake, lead management, calendaring and secure communication along with document, matter and financial management, then you need law practice management software with legal billing included.
If, however, you’re seeking software that will streamline your law firm’s billing, invoicing and financial management while also possibly including time-tracking and online payment processing features, then you’re in the market for stand-alone legal billing software. Below, I’ll provide an overview of this category of software, key factors to consider when purchasing it and an overview of the main products available in the market.
But before we dive in, it’s essential to understand that the tools listed below are cloud-based. Whenever you entrust your law firm’s data to a third party, as you do with cloud computing, you have an ethical obligation to thoroughly vet the technology provider that will be hosting and storing your law firm’s confidential client data. This duty includes obtaining information as to how the data will be handled by that company, where the servers on which the data will be stored are located, who will have access to the data, and how often and when it will be backed up, among other things.
Keep in mind that legal billing software tools, whether stand-alone or integrated into law practice management software, are not all the same. Some are very basic and primarily assist with invoicing, while others include features like time-tracking, accounting, online payments, financial analytics and more.
For that reason, before you begin your research, you must have a thorough understanding of your firm’s goals and needs. There’s no point in paying for more functionality than your firm requires. Only after you’ve made those assessments should you begin to consider your options.
When reviewing the tools available, make sure that you fully comprehend the feature set, the cost structure and whether software integrations are available. For example, would you be able to easily edit the invoices as needed? Could you customize them to include your firm’s logo? If your clients require them, are built-in LEDES billing codes available? Is trust account reconciliation included? What types of financial reports could you run?
Once you have determined your firm’s needs and your price point, it’s time to take a look at the software programs on the market—and don’t forget to take advantage of any free trials that are offered! Below, you’ll find a roundup of some of the more popular legal billing software tools to consider.