Monday, December 3, 2012
1. Identify attorneys who have difficulty collecting their receivables throughout the year.
You know who they are. They are probably the same attorneys who have problems turning in their timesheets and getting their bills done. It’s a safe bet that they will have similar problems collecting at year end. Either take that responsibility away from them – or provide them with the assistance they need to be successful.
2. Generate a list of clients that have historically paid their bills during the last 30 days of the year, and try to get a sense whether these clients are again anticipating paying in full at year end. Don’t wait until the last minute to contact clients – and find out whether they will be paying your bills in full or just some invoices. At the same time, generate a list of new clients with whom you will be experiencing year end for the first time. Since there is no history, make your best determination whether payments from these clients are on track.
3. Get your arms around your receivables by determining what clients make up the largest dollar amounts of A/R. The best way to determine what size dollar accounts make up the majority of receivables over 60 days is to run various balance level reports, from $10,000 to $100,000. Then check the payment history of these clients to find out how quickly they have paid previous bills throughout the year, including year-end.
4. Don’t depend too much on historical patterns of bill collections. In the past, you could safely assume that collections would increase as the year progressed. That is no longer necessarily true, especially when an unstable economy is causing many clients to adjust their payment patterns. Now, on a monthly basis, measure monthly revenue projections, and be realistic about whether the firm is underachieving in its collection goals. There has to be a month-by-month game plan, and it is essential that the plan be realistic. Remember, cash flow problems are still the number one reason both non-institutional and institutional clients do not pay their legal bills.
5. Project realistic timeframes for collecting older, more difficult receivables. You should be aware that receivables over 180 days past due have a 50% chance of ever being collected, and the percentage continues to drop as the receivables age. These types of accounts must be pursued much more diligently then just writing a letter. Firms can figure that only so much of these accounts will be collected at year end – determine the status and move on to brighter collection pastures. Some of these older clients have realized that no one has been trying to collect bills throughout the year. Work with the attorney to figure out if these clients need to be pursued and, if so, how.
6. Identify bills to determine their collection status. Categorize receivables as either:
(2) problematic, but potentially collectable, or
(3) have no realistic chance of getting collected.
7. Keep bills coming regularly and consistently. Remember that clients, too, are enduring the tougher economic climate. They may be delaying payments as a result of their own cash flow problems. Don’t exacerbate the problem by neglecting to send bills out timely. If the lawyers are too busy – or disorganized – to get their bills out on time, give them whatever assistance they need. Clients will delay payments if bills are not received when they expect them and do not logically provide the information they need to put the bills in line for payment by year end. Also, if they have a particular problem with a bill – they will wait for you to call rather than calling
you to discuss it.
8. Look at the right reports – and review them regularly. Use your collection software to its
full potential, not merely as a sophisticated follow-up calendar. Your software should help you compare work in process to accounts receivable to recent payments in order to determine a true payment history and what needs to be done.
9. Make sure that the collection committee – or whomever your firm has given responsibility for this work – has clear objectives and direction. For example, they should know that it is their responsibility to speak to delinquent clients directly to find out the status of payment rather than simply reviewing reports and gathering information for the attorneys. Both those with direct responsibility for collections and those overseeing these efforts (perhaps a collections committee) should be in agreement on which clients they are pursuing and the dollar amounts they are working to collect.
10. The person responsible for performing collections should meet one-on-one with the partners to determine the status of their A/R and exactly what they are doing about it. These meetings should provide vital information for the management of the firm to determine the true collection status of the receivables. Remember, partners in charge of managing collections also have a busy practice and require administrative staff that has a solid rapport with the attorneys to gather this information.
Learn more on our web-site - http://www.clientci.com/
Friday, November 2, 2012
• Are these staff members reporting weekly on the accounts for which they are responsible, including the age of the accounts, how much they have collected and what they have in line for payment?
• Do you know how much they are working on actual collections, as compared to other duties less important to their primary purpose (i.e., generating reports, sending out reminder statements,
providing information that the lawyers request)?
• Are they knowledgeable enough to provide the right reports and management information to the firm that will explain the progress of collection efforts?
Staff much be held to a high level of accountability, but for different reasons than the attorneys. If the firm chooses to have staff contacting clients directly, the staff must not have too many other responsibilities that keep them from dedicating themselves to this mission. Beware of staff that prefers doing clerical work to making telephone calls to clients.
Your collection team member must have a strong understanding of different kinds of transactions and different practices, and what each requires. They must know – and have access to – the right resources for getting bills paid. They must be expected to handle collections on a day-to-day basis. Equally important, they must be evaluated to insure that they are providing concrete results.
Recognize collection managers as the “rainmakers” they can be. Although they are making rain in a different way than the attorneys, the value they can add to the bottom line can be equally great.
Monday, October 1, 2012
Clients are smart. They know very little will happen if they don’t pay their legal bills on time. Law firms have conditioned their clients to pay at their convenience, without penalty. Clients often disguise their cash flow problems through delay tactics in order to buy more time, or avoid paying altogether.
Law firms should have a sense of urgency to shorten their collection cycle, not only because of the uncertain future, but also because it is critical to determine if and when client will pay in order to understand how it will affect cash flow within the firm. Here are a few tips to remember:
• Establish Realistic Time Frames – Don’t take the approach that older receivables will be paid without the right approach. Be aware that receivables over 120 days have a 50% chance of being collected, and the rate continues to drop as receivables age. If you have any hope of getting paid, these accounts must be pursued diligently; don’t wait for a client meeting, a phone call or a letter. Work with the attorneys to figure out if the clients need to be pursued, and if so, how and by whom.
• Give Your Attorneys Less Autonomy – Attorneys are often reluctant to follow up on receivables – or even to have others help them do so – because they fear that by pushing to collect outstanding receivables they will jeopardize their chances for more and better work. Many firms are losing revenue by giving attorneys too much individual autonomy in making sure bills get paid. We wonder when firms will stop tolerating “good clients” who just don’t pay their bills. When are they going to stop permitting clients to pay slowly or not at all?
• Start Addressing the Real Issues Going Into Year End -...So your firm can hit the ground running with productive A/R changes to start 2013. Firms have created accounts receivable management programs, but many do a poor job of setting attainable goals and measuring the success of their efforts. Take a step back to evaluate your objectives, and the policies, procedures and personnel you are using to achieve these objectives. Be realistic about whether or not the job is getting done and look to make changes accordingly. Accounts receivable will age rapidly unless you keep your eye on the ball and put in processes that get the job done in collecting your receivables timely.
Law firms have a great deal at stake when they see receivables sitting there….and sitting there…..and sitting there. Start making the necessary adjustments and help your firm improve its revenue, cash flow and profitability objectives. Learn more on our web-site - http://www.clientci.com/
Sunday, September 2, 2012
You probably have a number of question marks regarding end-of-the-year collections. Your firm's ability to increase its cash flow and, in turn, increase profitability, cannot be taken for granted. However, the economy and its effect on your clients must be taken into consideration. One way to increase cash flow is to increase the flow of new work. Equally important, however, is to make sure that the firm gets paid for the work it does. Here are a few things that could help:
1. Ensure that firm leadership has the right information and reports – Get your arms around your receivables and payment commitments. Reports should provide good information about which clients are going to pay and when; if clients are not going to pay, and why not; and what needs to be done to keep the ball moving forward. There’s nothing more frustrating than having reports that only provide numbers, without the story behind those numbers.
2. Do not depend too much on historical patterns of bill collections -- Whether or not payment patterns will change may not be determined until year-end and all the checks are accounted for, especially when the economy is causing many clients to adjust their payment patterns. Be realistic about slowdowns in payments. And, to take this one step further….
3. Know your clients -- Understand those that have historically paid their bills at year-end, and try to gauge whether these clients are again anticipating paying in full at year-end. At the same time, know who your new clients are, with whom you will be experiencing year end for the first time. Since you have no history with them, make your best determination whether payment from these clients is on track.
4. Project realistic timeframes for collecting older, more difficult receivables – Don’t underestimate the effect payment of these receivables can make. But collections efforts need to be made sooner rather than later -- which means getting started now, not in December.
The chill that you will feel after Labor Day may be the traditional autumnal trepidation that comes with the need to ratchet up collection efforts in preparation for the last quarter. Are you ready?
For more information on accounts receivable management, check our website -- www.clientci.com
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Determine whether the firm has the right administrative staff, and judge whether they are doing the right work the right way. Are these staff members reporting weekly on the accounts for which they are responsible, the age of the accounts, how much they have collected, and what they have in line for payment? Do you know how much they are working on actual collections, as opposed to other duties less important to their primary purpose (i.e., generating reports, sending out reminder statements, providing information that the lawyers request, etc.)? Are they knowledgeable enough to provide the right reports and management information to the firm that will explain the progress of the collection efforts?
Staff must be held to a high level of accountability, but for different reasons than the attorneys. If the firm chooses to have staff contacting clients directly, the staff must not be distracted by too many other responsibilities that keep them from dedicating themselves to the primary mission. Beware of staff that prefers doing clerical work to making telephone calls to clients.
Your collection team members must have a strong understanding of different kinds of transactions and different practices, and what each requires. They must know -- and have access to -- the right resources for getting bills paid. They must have a strong understanding of payment for both institutional and non-institutional clients. They must be expected to handle collections on a day-to-day basis, but, equally important, they must be evaluated to insure that they are providing concrete results.
December will be here soon! Are you staffed and ready?
Recognize collection managers as the "rainmakers" they can be. Although they are making rain in a different way, the value they can add to the bottom line can be equally great.
For more information on accounts receivable management, check our website -- www.clientci.com.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Lawyers need to ask for assistance and understand that others can help. Law firms need to support them by providing workable A/R programs that provide results.
Attorneys have other priorities than collecting their bills timely and efficiently. They are concerned about servicing their clients, like they should be, and less about when they are going to get paid.
Consider the following:
• Most clients will not call if they have a problem with ther bills, for a number of resons. They may be uncomfortable talking about money, they are totally confused by the bills and don't know where to begin, or they may be unprepared for the total amount of the bill and find themselves unable to pay.
• Collection problems continue to grow as receivables age. If bills have not been paid within 30 to 60 days, you have received a good sign that there may be a collection or a cash flow problem for the clients. And clients reason that if the firm has waited and not been diligent about collecting unpaid bills, they can wait to pay them. The longer a law firm waits to collect unpaid bills, savvy clients realize, the more likely bills will be discounted or written off altogether.
If you understand some of the common mistakes law firms make, you can address them, which will result in less stress for you and more dollars coming across the threshold.
For more information on accounts receivable management, check our website -- http://www.clientci.com
Friday, June 1, 2012
Software works best when it is used correctly. A surprising number of law firms install software, and pay for upgrades and training, but they do not get around to using it to improve collection results. Many are unsure how to use collection software as a strategic business tool to help increase revenue, cash flow and overall profitability.
Law firms need to be ready for what software offers. Do not fall victim to your own culture, neglecting to adopt a forward-thinking approach to managing receivables. Understand what information about your receivables you need to gather and how to analyze that information.
Many firms don't know how to determine if collection efforts are successful. They make the mistake of believing that since they are using collection software, they are making effective collections progress. However, firm management needs a clear picture of the progress of collection efforts. Software -- if used right -- and the people who use it, can provide that picture.
Remember it is up to firm leadership to use software information to predict cash flow, determine when and if clients will pay, and what methods will work to achieve the best results.
For more information on accounts receivable management, check our website -- http://www.clientci.com/
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
• Make sure lawyers and clients share expectations about the amount and kind of work that will be done -- and the anticipated costs.
• Learn how to use a retainer and be extremely careful about letting receivables age without a workable game plan for getting paid. Too often, lawyers are too busy to monitor client payments.
• Establish credit thresholds and set parameters around what clients can realistically incur. Being honest with yourself about payment expectations will only help in the long run.
Taking decisive action to collect aged receivables will help revenue, cash flow and profitability. However, solving accounts receivable management problems requires long-term, fundamental solutions. Otherwise, lawyers may quickly return to bad habits, and the firm will find itself in the same bind down the road. The first and most important steps are to evaluate your client/matter intake process and identify problem receivables early on.
Although a weak economy hurts all law firms, it will especially hurt those firms without proper client intake procedures and efficient accounts receivable management efforts. Don’t be fooled into thinking your firm has a system in place when it doesn't. Ageing accounts receivable can be a runaway problem if not managed early. Learn more at our web-site at: http://www.clientci.com/
Monday, April 2, 2012
Avoiding the Pitfalls
More and more firms are creating an accounts receivable manager position. But they face obstacles in motivating attorneys to have confidence in the manager – and entrust in the manager their uncollected accounts.
One mistake that firms make is promoting a valued employee from within. Typically, it is a senior secretary, a member of the accounting department or some other long-time employee who the firm is unsure how to use effectively. While it is virtuous to reward employees, this approach does no one any favors and sets the employee up for failure.
- He or she lacks experience and, therefore, credibility, in collecting successfully.
- If the collection work is simply added to an employee’s other duties, the collections inevitably take a back seat.
- The position is perceived by the attorneys as a clerical one, and emphasis gets placed on clerical duties, such as changing mailing addresses, processing reminder statements and getting copies of invoices for the attorneys, rather than on the professionallevel collection of receivables that is so vital to the firm.
Making the Most of Your Manager
To maximize the value of the accounts receivable manager, your firm should seek an individual either with experience in a professional services environment or as a bank loan officer or a corporate/credit officer of a Fortune 500 company. Equally important — and, admittedly, harder to identify — he or she should possess the professional savvy to understand law firm culture and thrive in it. Though it is highly unlikely that your firm will find someone with appropriate skills and actual law firm experience, you do want to find someone who does “get” how things work in a law firm.
In addition, he or she should:
- Be a self-starter, able to work independently.
- Have the ability to understand and adapt to the law firm culture.
- Have strong people skills with an emphasis on building strong relationships.
- Be comfortable with technology as a tool essential for getting the job done.
- Be prepared to face and overcome rejection, both from clients and attorneys.
- Be able to understand which collection techniques work for different situations.
- Be able to analyze problems and find solutions in all areas of accounts receivable management for every practice area.
- Recognize that there is little leverage in collecting aged accounts receivable.
Key to the success of the accounts receivable manager is the ability to interact with the attorneys and the clients. He or she must be able to discuss payment obligations with clients without hurting the relationship the client has with the firm. He or she must be able to work oneon- one with the attorneys, as one professional to another. He or she must be able to inspire the confidence of the attorneys.
Even before the accounts receivable manager has started the job, it is the firm’s obligation to ensure that expectations are clear. All involved should agree on the job’s responsibilities, objectives and appropriate methodologies for making the collections. The manager should be a professional and should be treated as one by the firm. Both attorneys and staff should understand the nature – and level – of the job. And everyone should be in agreement about how success will be measured.
In order to figure out who you need to hire and how to help that individual succeed, you may need assistance from Client Connection, outside experts in accounts receivable management.
Selecting and empowering the individual who is given responsibility for managing your accounts receivable in-house can make all the difference in the ultimate success of your collection efforts. Choose this member of your team wisely.
At Client Connection, we know how to manage receivables, and we would be happy to share a little of our knowledge with you. Client Connection assists law firms of all sizes throughout the United States by furnishing accounts receivable management services, developing practical receivable programs and training law firm staff in effective collection methods. Learn more at our web-site at: http://www.clientci.com/
Thursday, March 1, 2012
NOT MY JOB: How Law Firms Give Responsibility – Or Fail to Give Responsibility – for Accounts Receivable Management
At most law firms, everyone shares responsibility for accounts receivable management. Which, of course, means that no one, ultimately, has complete responsibility. Attorneys’ idea of managing receivables commonly involves not doing anything at all, casually mentioning them to clients or writing a mildly worded letter when they happen to have a chance.
Ask many law firms, and they will tell you that it is the attorneys’ job to contact their clients. While it’s true that the attorneys are given some support in these efforts, typically that support is too little and too unfocused.
What about making accounts receivable management the responsibility of the controller or chief financial officer? They have many other responsibilities, which will not permit them to focus the needed attention on accounts receivable. In addition, the reality is that accounts receivable are more a question of practice management than financial management.
Perhaps the practice head should be responsible? While many firms do require practice group leaders to take responsibility for managing the receivables in their group, these leaders often give too much professional courtesy and latitude to the billing attorneys to handle collections their own way.
What about the billing and collection or finance committee? Many such committees exist in name only. Sometimes the committee members do not care to serve on them. Typically, they lack focus and direction. They have no game plan and insufficient information on which to act. They are not well-positioned to demand accountability. Even when they are equipped to act, too frequently they concentrate on analyzing problem accounts or offenders and give short shrift to taking decisive action.
Following are some clear-cut actions your firm should take to get its arms around its accounts receivable:
1. Understand the status of all your receivables. Classify them. Consider these five categories:
• Collection efforts being pursued with the assistance of the firm’s accounts receivable manager
• Collections efforts being handled by the responsible attorney
• Problem/doubtful accounts in which receivables are very unlikely to be collected
• Receivables that are in bankruptcy
• Collection efforts being handled by an outside third party
2. Focus on collection efforts being handled by the attorney. If an attorney chooses to take personal responsibility for collections, understand why – and what actions that attorney will take to ensure the bill is paid. Hold him or her accountable – that is, if you determine that the firm’s culture and management style allow for true accountability. It is just as much the firm’s responsibility to make sure the attorney does what he or she says as it is that attorney’s responsibility to do it.
3. Establish a real working billing and collection committee, and give it the authority to make decisions and compel action. The committee must meet monthly, at a minimum, and committee members should be assigned specific responsibilities and asked to report back to the committee. The committee should be headed by a true firm leader, preferably a member of the management committee, someone who can and will hold the partners accountable for their actions (or lack thereof). The committee must be given all the information that is classified in (1), above.
4. Understand what obstacles are preventing collections. You might be surprised to discover how many bills go unpaid by clients for simple, logistical reasons, such as invoices lost in the mail. In the case of institutional clients, there may be no contact person listed or the individual responsible for approving the bill has left the company. There may be insufficient explanation of the services rendered, and the client needs clarification, or bills are sent without cover letters explaining payment terms. For non-institutional clients, there may simply be cashflow problems. Don’t assume that if an invoice is unpaid, the client is unwilling to pay it. Also important, however, is recognizing that some of the obstacles preventing collections are the individual attorneys themselves.
5. Be proactive, not reactive. More often than not, little attention is focused on collections management until the last couple of months of the year. It is important that the effort be year-round. Some firms pride themselves on just how well they do even though the majority of their collections take place at the end of the year. We say: imagine how much better they could do if money is coming in all year long. Even if you are unlikely to change old clients’ habit of paying at year end, teach new clients that they are expected to pay timely. During the year, educate your attorneys about the vital nature of collections to the firm’s success, and the role they play in collections. Keep attention on collections throughout the year. Receivables start to age because the firm, and its attorneys, are not acting assertively and timely.
6. Purchase accounts receivable management software to organize and analyze data and generate practical reports. Learn how to use it effectively and fully. The right software can be tremendously helpful in allowing the firm to get its arms around its receivables. Keep in mind, however, that while software serves many purposes, it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual – not the software – to actually collect and manage the receivables.
7. Educate the attorneys early in their careers about the expectations the firm has for them in managing their receivables. Teach them that it is a normal part of doing business, not something they should be embarrassed to discuss with clients. Educate them before they can develop poor management skills.
8.Write off accounts if they are not collectible. Understand your receivables portfolio. It is far more productive to recognize uncollectible receivables and deal with them than to hold out false hope that they will be collected.
9. Keep management reports about accounts receivable simple yet meaningful. The information you should be reviewing is: reports by classifications listed in (1) above, reasons why the accounts are in a particular category, balance due, last payment made and how much work in process still remains unbilled.
10. Change the firm’s attitude towards collections management. Decide that it is a firm priority to do a better job managing receivables. Recognize that this priority has to be felt, and communicated, from the top. If the firm’s leaders don’t feel it – and demonstrate their commitment through their actions – no matter how many systems, reports, software packages and committees exist to deal with the issue, nothing will improve.
Do you have a question regarding your receivables? Please send your question via e-mail(firstname.lastname@example.org ) and one of our professionals will respond, free of charge. At Client Connection, we know how to manage receivables, and we would be happy to share a little of our knowledge with you. Visit us online at: http://www.clientci.com/
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Actions speak louder than words. Law firm managers can say all they want about policies, procedures and infrastructure, but results are what matter. After all the talking, what has your firm done to address difficulties with accounts receivable?
Heading toward year-end, the economic picture for law firms remains tight, so now is a good time to figure out which actions work. Focus on these five steps:
1. Reach a consensus about how much of a priority collections should take. Place the right people in the right positions — people who will roll up their sleeves and work as part of a team to achieve success. Give staff the power to tell attorneys to address their invoices, and allow them to use the firm's resources to help achieve results. Demanding real accountability is tough, but it's easier than pursuing payment of ageing receivables.
2. Take a closer look at accounts receivable more than 90 days old. Don't wait 90 days to be concerned about your account receivables. When looking at ageing receivables, many firms will notice collection problems. The reality is that these problems surfaced earlier, but nothing was done to address them.
If the work by your company has been satisfactorily performed, the client should pay within 30 days. If payment is not received by that point, it is the first sign of a collection problem. Make sure clients with a balance of more than 60 days old are routinely contacted to remind them payment is expected.
3. Start with the old and end with the new. Work on the oldest balance sheet first and move forward. Resolve the old issues — which are the hardest to address — before tackling the easier cases. Many times, law firms will acknowledge problems that are slowing down or preventing payment on certain accounts without taking the time to re-visit them and ensure collection efforts are succeeding. These accounts do take time and energy, but working on them can result in finding money for the firm.
The strongest members of your collection team should be focused on the older, tougher accounts. In addition, don't let the number of 90-day account receivables grow by neglecting to work on less substantial delinquent balances. It is surprising how significant a portion of the firm's accounts receivable portfolio is comprised of smaller balances.
4. Understand the reasons your clients are not paying. Why aren't they paying? It all comes down to problems with cash flow. However, such problems are often masked — intentionally or not — by other issues, such as poor service, bills that are higher than expected or bills that were never received.
From the start of a relationship, firms and lawyers must understand their clients in order to find the source of problems and resolve them when they do arise. Although aged receivables are part of the financial report, firms need to get a handle on the stories underneath the numbers to understand why clients are not paying.
To help alleviate cash flow issues, law firms should re-evaluate and implement realistic credit assessments of prospective clients. If clients are accepted after a suitable credit analysis, the amount of risk can be reduced by including provisions for retainers, evergreen retainers or personal guarantees when engagement letters are prepared.
5. Measure the results of your firm's efforts. You may be gathering a lot of information about your collections, but determine whether it is the right information. At a minimum, know if an account is actively being pursued and its payment status, who is pursuing the collection efforts and whether or not they are getting results, why clients are not paying, and what needs to be done to get them to pay.
- Are they collectible? If so, when can we expect payment?
- Are they problematic? What are the chances we will get paid?
- Are they simply uncollectible?
Also, help efforts by creating reports that will show when payments can be made and frequently update information on the status of collection efforts and payments. If you have collection software, use it correctly to develop these types of reports.
Please visit our web-site for more information: http://clientci.com
Monday, January 2, 2012
More and more law firms have installed collection software to help them deal with their growing portfolio of receivables. And, in far too many instances, they have been frustrated by their experience. There are a number of reasons for this:
Software alone is not the answer. Many firms have believed, erroneously, that by installing collection software, their receivable problems will be solved. They lose sight of the fact that the software is just a tool, though a potentially powerful one. More important, however, is the strategy the firm adopts in using the software, and the people who are using it. Software is an aid to – not a substitute for – the personal contact needed to get bills in line for payment.
Software tends to work better when it’s turned on. A surprising number of law firms install the software but never get around to using it. Their intentions are good, but the firm culture becomes an obstacle. Many are unsure how to use collection software as a strategic business tool to help increase revenue while holding the individual attorneys accountable for collecting their aging receivables.
Firms do not fully understand what software can do for them. They are often victims of their own cultures, approaching their collection efforts with a plan that does not provide results. They are unsure what information about their receivables they need to gather and how to analyze that information.
Many firms don’t know how to determine if collection efforts are successful. They make the mistake of believing that since they have someone using collection software, they are making efficient collections. Although the day-to-day use of the software is important, even more vital is using it to provide firm management with a clear picture of the progress of collection efforts.
Software does not make up for poor decision-making. However effective a firm’s software, it can never help a firm succeed if the attorneys take on clients who will not or cannot pay. In such circumstances, the value of the software is in helping the firm identify who these clients are – and what their unpaid balances are – sooner rather than later, so as to minimize these mistakes in the future.
Firms have not realized the full potential of software. It should not be regarded as a tool solely for calendaring and note taking. That’s just scratching the surface. Firm leadership can and should use it to predict cash flow, determine if and when clients will pay, and identify which collection methodologies will work best for which clients. They should utilize it to “get their arms around” their receivables, generating specific reports that are meaningful to the firm.
Effective collection software can (and should) offer your firm all the following capabilities. What is your software offering you?
1. Classification Codes – Does it allow the firm to classify receivables by the following criteria?
• The prospects for payment: expected to be paid, possible write-off or problem account
• Reasons for non-payment: cashflow problems, bankruptcy, administrative issues or dissatisfaction with service
• Who is handling the collection: a member of the accounting department, the attorney himself or an outside consultant
Once classification codes are assigned, management can use the codes to identify which accounts it wants a collector to work at a given time. For example, it might direct the collector to focus on all accounts over 90 days with a balance over $500 that are classified as problem accounts.
2. Accounts Receivable Notes – Does it maintain current and historical collection notes so the firm can review a collector’s work? Will it allow the collector to set different parameters for viewing the receivables on the screen? For example, by age, by department, by attorney, by balance or by classification.
3. Task Schedule – Does it allow you to maintain and follow a schedule for timely follow-up with clients?
4. Payment Promises – Does it prompt the collector to put payment promises on a tasks list so he or she can make sure that payments arrive on the promised date?
5. Tasks List – Does it show all follow-up tasks and payment promises on a task screen? Does it have the flexibility to sort receivables by any criteria, including due date, balance and classification?
6. Aging – Does it permit firm management to easily set aging buckets to fit the firm’s particular collection needs? Will it allow the collector to set different parameters for viewing the receivables on the screen? For example, by department, by attorney, by balance or by classification.
7. Accounts Look-Up – Does it allow the collector to call up a client by any number of pieces of information, including client’s name, contact name,invoice number, check number, phone number.
8. On-screen Information – Does the software put the relevant invoice and payment information on screen?
9. Contact Information – Does it let you maintain, and easily update, all contact information, including phone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses?
10. Reports – Does the software allow you to create a variety of reports, including accounts receivable reports and query reports?
11. E-Mail Capabilities – Does it allow you to e-mail screens on accounts to appropriate attorneys or to firm management?
12. Exportability – Can you export collection screens or reports to a Word or Excel document?
Does your software offer these features? We suggest that if it does not, you may want to consider shopping around for software that does.
Of course, having software that offers all these capabilities is only half of the equation. It is also essential that your firm have a sound collection strategy, including workable policies and procedures, and a means for effective one-onone contact with clients to ensure bills will be paid.
There is no getting around the fact that collections is “roll-up-yoursleeves” kind of work. Good software will make it easier.
Choosing the right software to address your firm’s particular needs is crucial. Consider seeking help in making this selection.
Do you have a question regarding your receivables? At Client Connection, we know how to manage receivables, and we would be happy to share a little of our knowledge with you.
Client Connection is the leading consulting company offering total accounts receivable management solutions to law firms. We assist law firms of all sizes throughout the United States by furnishing accounts receivable management services, developing practical receivable programs, training law firm staff in effective collection methods, placement of professional collections managers and providing cost-efficient collection software.
Visit our web-site at http://www.clientci.com/