Information Place Helps Law Firms Find Lost Revenues

Article excerpt

Lost revenues are reflected in the income of law practitioners who do not have consistent billing system and are relying on recall rather than time-keeping records.

"Studies have proven they (the attorneys) are forgetting 50 percent of what they do for people if they are not writing it down as they do it," said Irene Sawyer, founder of The Information Place inNorman.

Research indicates attorneys who do not keep time records forget 50 percent of all phone calls, informal conferences and time spent thinking on the client's behalf - time that is never billed to the client.

By comparison, attorneys who keep track of their time and bill on a regular basis have 25 to 45 percent higher revenues, Sawyer said.

Sawyer formed The Information Place originally as a time-keeping/ billing and management service to law firms, especially for sole practitioners or firms with only two or three attorneys.

The computerized billing service sends statements to clients from information kept by the attorney through a system developed by Sawyer.

The Information Place is now expanding to serve other types of consulting professions, but Sawyer's specialty is still in the area of law. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Sawyer has a masters in public administration and six years of experience working for a Norman-based law firm.

A system, as provided by The Information Place, shows results through clients who are quicker to pay their bills, Sawyer said. It also enables the attorney to avoid problems created by clients questioning work being done on a case and also increases cash flow by 25 to 45 percent.

Sawyer originally started the service on a limited basis while going to graduate school but opened the service to the general public in March 1985.

Because so many attorneys base decisions on precedence, Sawyer's main business has been generated by referrals from existing clients. From calls on three attorneys per week on the average, Sawyer said she signs up at least one who agrees to utilize her service.

In many smaller firms, the client billing is not done or is done incorrectly, Sawyer said.

"I was surprised at the number of attorneys that don't keep time records, but they do bill by the hour," Sawyer said.

In other cases, they keep time but don't bill their clients on a consistent basis according to a system.

In most small to medium sized law firms, the client billing falls to a secretary who already has a heavy workload. In many instances, billing is neglected in order to make time for other projects, Sawyer said.

"I have been in so many law firms and seen wasted dollars because the systems are not there," she said. "The secretaries are busy with other things and billing is pushed aside."

At the same time the attorney is not keeping adequate time records and must try to recap everything he or she has done on a case for a client.

That alone can cause ethical problems for the attorney if the client comes back to request details of the work done and how the attorney's time was spent. …