Disclaimer: I use FreshBooks. A lot.1 Based on my use, these are my opinions and this is my endorsement. While I’d like for you to sign up using my affiliate page (at not cost to you!), I’d like even more if you trusted my recommendation to go check it out.
Freshbooks proclaims on its website that it’s:
Then it goes on to say, “Send, track and collect payments quickly. Great for teams, freelancers and service providers.”
Why law firms, specifically, should use it.
Not only are lawyers service providers, they are the quintessential example of service providers who bill by the hour.2 Moreover, the majority of law firms that bill by the hour use time-tracking methods that are either a) expensive or b) outdated (think: pen & scrap paper). Government agencies, nonprofit groups, or firms that have alternative fee structures in place or get paid under contingency agreements, may not have any defined time-tracking methods in place, however helpful they may be. Regardless of howmost firms and legal agencies use billing software that is expensive at the outset and more expensive to maintain.
Freshbooks offers an easy, web-based solution to complete a firm’s time-tracking and billing – it even prints out or e-mails professional-looking invoices! – at a relatively low cost. (There are different pricing plans based on how many users have access and how many clients the user would like to manage.)
How does it work?
A firm creates an account with a secure login page (e.g. yourfirm.freshbooks.com). Once signed in, the account administrator may add employees, contractors, clients, and projects to keep track of time, estimates, invoices, and billing. The administrator may designate whether certain activities are billed at an hourly rate, a project rate, and/or if they’re non-billable. The administrator may also controls each user’s access and determines what information each user is able to view or edit.
Users can access the account from any web-browser via the secure login page.
Lawyers can sign in to track their time and then assign their time to different projects or different tasks within projects. Firm clients can sign in to view the status of their accounts.
Whenever a lawyer works on a client’s project, s/he can choose to track their time with Freshbook’s timer. This timer pops up in a separate browsing window. It features a “play” button and a “pause” button so users can start it and pause it as they work. For any users with an iPhone, there’s also an app to track time. A user also has the choice to enter time manually. Because most lawyers juggle numerous projects at once, it’s easy to start the timer, do work for one client, stop the timer, and start over for the next client.
Time is logged and categorized by project and task. In addition, time may be marked as billed or unbilled. As soon as the time is entered and tagged, it automatically shows up on the corresponding invoice or estimate. Users then have the option to send clients estimates and invoices via snail mail or e-mail. Even if a firm bills at a flat-rate, lawyers and employees still may track their time for efficiency purposes.
My advice: Jump In
While I’m sure you found my description riveting, it’s probably best to learn-by-doing. With Freshbooks, you’ll probably want to see it in action to determine the benefits. Of course, if you do sign up for it, feel free to use my affiliate link.
- Solo Charles Hartley‘s article, Is FreshBooks a Friendly Billing Alternative?, published on May 3, 2007 in the Legal Tech newsletter.
- Brett Burney’s article, Saas-sy Litigation Support, published on December for Law.com.
- Freshbooks reviewed by PCMagazine.
1 I keep track of my time whenever I’m working on a project for a client even when I’m not billing by the hour. I also keep track of my time when I’m working on things that are not billable at all (e.g. pesky administrative things). I’m not OCD and but I am a professional. I keep track of my time – or, more accurately, how I spend my time – in order to stay productive and competitive. This way, When I offer a quote or estimate, my clients can feel confident that I’m working efficiently with their best interests in mind. So, again: I use FreshBooks. A lot.