Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bill, Baby, Bill!

Dearest Widget Makers:

Today's administrative task for me was sending out my monthly client invoices. That reminded me of one of my pet peeves: poor billing practices by timekeepers. I want to send out bills that clients want to pay; they may not be exactly happy to pay, but they are more likely to recognize that it is a fair invoice.

There is one excellent way to learn very quickly how to write helpful time entries: Be a client. Hire a lawyer to represent you in a critical matter and pay the bill for several months. I guarantee that your own time entries will improve when you have a daily dialog with your inner client about how you would justify each of your time entries.

If you can't do that, try these "Rules of Two" for billing practices:

● Use at least two words in every time entry: one noun and one verb. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone write the single word "Research." I wouldn't want to pay for that.

● Never use the same description two days in a row. It looks like you didn't do it right the first time, or couldn't figure out the answer the first time you tried.

● Never "revise document" two days in a row. If the first entry, "revise indemnity provision to reflect client instructions," is followed the next day with "revise representations and warranties to reflect negotiations between the parties," then the time entries are likely to be helpful to the client. It may be the same document, but the time entry describes distinctly different tasks.

● Never wait more than two days to record your time. If your time isn't entered within that time period, you'll either overstate or understate your time. That is either misleading the client, or cheating yourself.

As I've mentioned before, it is my firm belief that more women will rise to more prominent leadership positions only if they have the currency for it, and that currency is derived in very large part from the economic success of the practice. In more crass terms, the size of her billing book is her entrée to leadership. It may not be a sufficient condition, but it is a necessary one. Excellent billing practices are an essential part of meeting that condition.

Hope this is helpful.

Cynthia

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