Keep It Simple and Keep It Safe

This blog is a continuation of the first of the year blog on the advice of a family lawyer who created and ran a very successful law office in San Bernardino, California.

This family lawyer customer and friend gave me and others a lot of advice about the process of billing and getting paid. He had kept away from automation for as long as possible but eventually he had to move in that direction just to keep his methods going despite personnel turnover, vacations, etc . At first he chose the Interbill manual system. Later he moved to our first software system for recording and reporting billing information.

He told me his number one goal was to keep all administrative methods as simple as possible. He said simple is easier to teach and maintain.

He joked about people who tried to adapt technology to a mess. The old adage “garbage in and garbage out” he expanded to a number of sayings like: “the automation of confusion works, you get faster confusion”; “a person who can’t keep records manually will never be able to keep them electronically”. “Automation makes good systems better and bad systems worse”. I could go on, he had many.

But the points are well taken.

Also he said, once you computerize any system you lose an element of transparency.

If you are old enough to remember manual ledgers you can think back to what it was like to have those in an office. On a Saturday, an attorney could take them out of the safe and look them over and see where each client stood. It was a slow and arduous process but given enough time anyone could figure it out.

Once those records are computerized it is almost impossible without passwords and some knowledge to get at the same information. The system if faster but it is less transparent, less simple and less safe.

Most people in the manual systems days kept their ledgers in a safe.

Today, we backed it up on media, but we often find that we backed up wrong or restored the wrong data or maybe the media had a flaw and now we cannot retrieve that data without a specialist.

A lot has been done to make all of this easier with digitized data, but it still requires some attention, a roadmap and, in a busy and often frenetic law office with fewer staff people today, it is just not as simple, as safe or as maintainable as it used to be.

When prospective customers call Interbill, once we have established a certain rapport it turns out that the biggest impediment to their billing is recording the billing information. There are more impediments, but many prospective customers cannot get beyond that stage.

Sometimes manual is just easier. There are companies like Interbill to whom you can fax your timesheets and they do the rest for you. Some like Interbill give you access to a complete billing system online, they key your data into your own online database, giving you a sophisticated billing system with someone to help you and with little knowledge or effort on your part.

Sometimes it just makes sense to turn it all over to someone and maximize your professional time and minimize your administrative time.

My friend would sum up his recommendations as follows: unless you really can make software work for you and you are willing to learn and maintain a system when you staff person is not available, then consider keeping it as simple as possible or software with a human service component so someone other than you is responsible for making your billing system work and keeping your billing system going.

Simple is safer when a professional data person can make sure it is done right; that your data is backed up properly and that you have total access to your billing data.

One of the largest law firms in the country uses manual time sheets. They like having a manual record of everything done and they find it a better way. They enter the data into a computer system, but they have original source documents which are both simple and safe.

For simple and safe attorney billing, please email or call Interbill: or 800.733.9933. You can still send us manual timesheets or you can enter and edit all your data yourself.


Phil Paisley

Billing For Attorneys For 52 Years

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