To increase client satisfaction and improve realization, lawyers must successfully manage compliance throughout the entire client matter lifecycle, most notably during time entry and billing. Unfortunately, ensuring accurate and compliant timekeeping and billing often proves extremely difficult for lawyers, especially as client expectations around guidelines and billing terms evolve.
“The complexity of billing requirements is everchanging and always a challenge, and write-offs due to agreement violations continue to impact law firm profit margins negatively,” revealed Brad Messerich, Practice Group Leader for Operations and Finance at Intapp. “But the real challenge is maintaining compliance as a team throughout the client matter lifecycle.”
Messerich hosted a webinar entitled, “Guidelines, Terms, and Client Compliance: From Budgeting to Billing, Risk to Revenue,” in which he spoke with leaders from Intapp and other firms about the importance of and best practices for ensuring compliance.
“Compliance has become foundational to profitable work and maintaining client relationships,” said Ian Lauwerys, Chief Advisory Director at Intapp. He explained how managing compliance can become problematic for firms as early as the bidding process. “Firms must make a lot of compromises to win work,” he said. “Lawyers then have lots of different promises that they need to keep for different clients.”
Lauwerys explained how difficult it is for lawyers to manage the various and complex terms of their many clients, and how non-compliance can result in firms losing work. Automated and integrated legal compliance software can provide lawyers with better visibility into outside counsel guidelines (OCGs), increase compliance and accuracy throughout the client matter lifecycle, and ultimately improve firm profitability.
Increase Efficiency and Visibility with Legal Compliance Software
One reason some firm leaders hesitate to invest in compliance management solutions is they fear their teams will have difficulty adopting the new tools and processes. Lauwerys emphasized that strong communication is the key to helping teams understand the importance and necessity of implementing legal compliance software.
“Explain that this is what client requires and it’s all part of the client service,” Lauwerys said. “If you just impose rules [without explaining the client service rationale], you’ll inevitably have pushback and resistance. You’ve got to get people on board and understand the reasoning for applying legal compliance software and processes.”
Convincing your team members to implement a compliance management solution shouldn’t be too difficult once they understand the numerous benefits it offers. Legal compliance software saves legal billing teams and lawyers significant time and effort as it automatically analyzes time and billing entries based on the agreed-upon terms for a specific matter.
“Compliance technology speeds up the whole billing cycle, and buys the billing team more time to review any violations at the prebill stage,” Messerich said. As a result, your firm should see a reduction in billing errors, rejections, write-offs, and write-downs, resulting in better profitability and client satisfaction.
Shishir Shetty, COO at Wilson Allen, spoke about how compliance management solutions and platforms such as OnePlace Operations & Finance can provide a user-friendly interface as well as better visibility into terms.
“The software helps present [terms and compliance] information to the end users and collects additional information from them,” Shetty said. “But the most important thing is to flag violations. Surfacing rules at the point where a lawyer or administrative assistant is making edits is key.”
Improve Budgeting and Timekeeping with Intapp Pricing and Intapp Time
Firms looking for purpose-built technology can turn to Intapp, which offers multiple software solutions — including Intapp Terms and the rest of the OnePlace Risk & Compliance suite — that help ensure compliance. During the webinar, Devin O’Leary, Practice Group Leader for Operations and Finance at Intapp, focused on Intapp Pricing — part of the OnePlace Operations & Finance suite — and demonstrated how the software can help with budgeting.
“Intapp Pricing helps with budgets by showing which terms are outstanding or in place, and by showing users what actions are needed to align the budget with billing guidelines,” O’Leary said. The software also allows users to easily find and examine the many complex OCGs within a single system, and explore resourcing alternatives to learn how each scenario would affect the budget. Firms can use these insights and related information to better price future engagements and improve their resourcing strategies.
“The more you understand about your compliance requirements — and the earlier you understand it — the more you can prevent downstream issues,” O’Leary said.
David Robinson, Time Practice Lead at Aurora North, spoke about another Intapp solution within the OnePlace Operations & Finance suite: Intapp Time. He covered the software’s different features and explained how they benefit lawyers and legal timekeepers.
“Intapp Time — with its implementation and compliance features — helps timekeepers track all of the different matter requirements,” Robinson said. “It takes a huge burden off lawyers; they no longer have to remember all of that [information].”
Intapp Time also warns lawyers of any compliance issues at the point of time entry, allowing them to fix any issues before sending their time sheets to the billing team.
“The bottom line is you don’t want to send an invoice out that has a single [non-compliant] time entry that’s going to cause the whole invoice to get rejected,” Robinson said.
Robinson also discussed how we at Intapp are continuously innovating our products, and how Intapp Time has improved since its initial launch. “A recent addition that Intapp has added to Intapp Time is its enforcer service,” he said. “The service was created because it was becoming more challenging for the time implementation teams to keep adding compliance features, as there are different code paths for the desktop and the mobile application.” Users no longer have to go back and forth between applications to change codes, thereby freeing up time to work on more pressing matters.
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