• 19 Apr 2024

Build stronger law firm partnerships through a modern approach to invoices

Apperio blog

Let's be honest, the old way of managing legal billing is broken. Waiting weeks or months for invoices only to be caught out by unexpectedly high costs? Leaving law firms in the dark on budgets and expectations? Negotiating expectations on work AFTER it’s been delivered and billed? It just doesn't cut it anymore.

It's time for a modern approach that brings transparency and true partnership with your law firms. One that keeps everyone aligned from start to finish through open communication and collaborative cost management.

In this article, you'll learn how to deepen your law firm partnerships through the billing process. Whether surprising overruns, lack of data, or strained communications are your pain points—a modernized approach is the answer.

Let’s get started.

The importance of a modern billing process 

The billing process sets the foundation for how law firms collaborate with in-house legal departments. However, this process is far from static—it's continuously evolving alongside client expectations and deal pressures. Maintaining full transparency and control throughout the entire billing lifecycle, from matter initiation through to final invoicing, is key.

However, there remains a lack of visibility into legal spend as matters progress. In Apperio's recent industry survey, 42% of respondents said they struggle with “poor transparency over unbilled or accrued spend”.

This inevitably brings challenges. When teams are forced to operate in the dark, the consequences can be severe—unexpected overruns and misalignment in the value and quality you want from your firms.

Bill Priestley, the Chief Investment Partner at Epiris, called this one of the main “bugbears” of legal fees; “You’d get a quote for the deal, work on the deal, and then invariably the cost at the end would be considerably more than the quote.”

Similarly, this was a problem for Paul Dali, Managing Director of Legal at EQT Group; “With 500 investor interactions in a fundraising, the legal counsel costs for agreeing to such terms can easily get out of proportion.”

A senior member of the legal team at an Investment Firm, agreed:

“We have a lot of funds and therefore a lot of external legal advisors. Fees get charged to all the different funds, so there are many cost centers. It's quite difficult to gather all that information in one place and also track it all.”  

“Seeing how much we’re spending everywhere is quite a big task. There’s the overall management oversight, and then there’s actually how the deal team runs their deals and budgets.”

So, if this is the problem, what’s the solution?

It comes down to steering away from traditional processes. Here’s why:

Old way versus new way

As you can see, the old approach to legal billing lacks transparency, leaving you blind to accruing costs until receiving invoices—often many months after work is completed. This lack of visibility makes it impossible to proactively manage budgets and often results in unexpected cost overruns that strain relationships with law firms.

In contrast, a modern billing solution provides real-time cost tracking, analytics, and collaboration.

By providing a live window into work progression and spend across all matters, you can strategically steer engagements, quickly identify potential issues, and course-correct before budgets are blown.

This transparency enables a true partnership with law firms built on open communication and aligned incentives.

The key takeaway? Ditch the reactive, expensive old way and embrace Apperio's proactive spend management to gain control, mitigate risk, and create trust across your legal ecosystem.

Apperio demo

The benefits of a modernized billing process

Embracing a modernized approach to legal billing with a solution like Apperio, unlocks huge benefits for corporate legal teams and their law firm partners. By replacing outdated billing practices with real-time spend transparency, analytics, and collaboration capabilities, organizations can realize:

🤝‍Increased trust and stronger law firm relationships

With full visibility into work progression and accrued costs, surprises are eliminated and trust is reinforced. The ability to proactively discuss and resolve issues cultivates a true partnership mentality built on open communication.

🔒Tight control over legal spend

Apperio empowers legal teams to take an active role in managing budgets and costs across all matters and firms. Continuous spend monitoring enables identifying potential overages early and making data-driven decisions to course-correct.

➡️Streamlined workflows and efficiency gains

Modern e-billing, automated approval flows, and centralized audit trails reduce administrative overhead. Legal teams can focus on high-value activities rather than billing minutiae.

🔗Improved collaboration and alignment

With a single source of truth on matter progression, team members and outside counsel remain aligned and collaborative throughout engagements, driving better conversations and better outcomes.

📊Enhanced data intelligence and insights

Aggregated billing data combined with AI/analytics provides intelligent benchmarking, predictive forecasting, and optimization opportunities to guide strategic decisions.

To summarize: A modernized billing process catalyzes a profound shift from reactive cost justification to proactive spend management and optimization.

How can you modernize the billing process with Apperio?

It can be easy to lose focus on maintaining control of costs at every stage of the billing process. Especially when a deal is gaining momentum.

But here’s the thing.

If you don’t, and if you lose focus, it can be the reason relationships suffer.

With this in mind, here’s how you can ensure billing aligns with a modern approach at each stage of the billing process:

1. Matter initiation and planning
From the moment a new matter kicks off, set the stage for success by aligning internally and with outside counsel on scope, budgets, timelines, and expectations. Implement consistent processes to capture this foundational information across all engagements.

2. Ongoing matter management
With Apperio, gain continuous visibility into hour/fee burn and progression metrics as work advances. Automated spend tracking combined with analytics allows proactively monitoring for potential inflators and quickly remediating issues while helping your law firms keep you in the loop.

Apperio dashboard

[Monitor the cumulative spend of all your legal matters, across all law firms, funds, LPs, and investments.]

3. Collaborative review and approval
Streamline review cycles with a centralized, transparent platform where you can see spending associated with each of your law firms to understand fee types, rates charged, and time spent on your matters.

Apperio dashboard collaboration

[Drill down to view individual time entries by fee earners and enable conversations with your law firms that focus on collaboration.]

4. Final billing and payment
Eliminate surprises by validating invoices against actual accrued costs tracked in Apperio. Seamless e-billing integration and automated payment processing drive efficiency, and help you stay on top of all invoices. Apperio works away in the background to help you stay in control, with notifications for matters approaching their budgets, and a weekly summary of fees.

Apperio notifications

[Get notifications and alerts at every stage of the process ⚠️.]

5. Continuous spend optimization
Leverage aggregated historical spend data, intelligent benchmarking, and predictive modeling to optimize future engagements and scenarios. Plus, continuously capture feedback to improve processes.

Apperio dashboard portfolio spend

[Analyze your in-house and portfolio legal spend data in just a few clicks.]

By focusing on these key stages, legal teams can break free from the constraints of outdated billing practices. Apperio's innovative legal spend management solution provides the real-time data transparency and collaboration capabilities required to stay in control every step of the way.

Before we wrap up, let’s just quickly go over some cultural and process changes that might help with a shift to a new mindset. 

Driving cultural and process transformation

Implementing innovative legal spend management technology like Apperio is a critical enabler, but true billing modernization requires organizations to drive broader cultural and process changes across their legal operations.

General Counsels and legal leaders must champion this shift:

  • Embrace a proactive mindset: Rather than reacting to invoices weeks or months after work completion, a modern approach focuses on continuous proactive tracking, analysis and collaboration. So try to instill this forward-looking mindset focused on preventing billing surprises and issues before they occur.
  • ➡️Standardize consistent processes: Ad hoc and fragmented billing workflows across different teams, offices, and firms breed inefficiency. So establish standardized processes and requirements for matter initiation, budget setting, change management and invoice validation.
  • 🔎Transparency and open communication: Stop opaque billing practices that strain firm relationships. And instead, promote an environment of transparency where issues can be surfaced and resolved through open discussion between all stakeholders. 
  • 🔁Continuous process improvement: Billing modernization isn't a one-and-done change. So consistently capture feedback from internal teams and law firm partners to optimize processes, technology usage, and supplier engagement iteratively over time.
  • ⚠️Make spend optimization a strategic priority: Rather than treating billing as a back-office function, position it as a strategic priority that impacts business performance. You can even use Apperio's data insights to inform decisions around staffing, fee structures, panel composition, and more.

While this requires investment, leadership support, and continuous diligence, you have so much to gain with optimized legal spend, mitigated risk, and a future-proofed operating model.

Modernize your legal billing process with Apperio

The "old way" of waiting months for invoices to discover soaring, unexpected costs is deeply flawed in today's environment of budgetary constraints and pressure for efficiency. This reactive billing approach represents a missed opportunity to strategically manage and optimize one of an organization's largest external spend categories.

It's time to part ways with these legacy processes and say hello to a modern billing process centered around real-time data visibility, analytics-driven decision-making, and deep partnerships with outside counsel.

Keen to see how else we can help? Take a look at customer success stories here. Or, dive straight in and book a demo of our legal spend management software.


Chris Perry

Chris Perry

VP Sales