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How e-Billing Helps Legal Departments Stress Less During Budget Season

Prepare, propose, revise, negotiate, accept, and finalise.

Some complete the sequence in two months. Others take six. But every corporate legal department must keep time on the calendar to celebrate the same budget season rituals.

Okay, maybe celebrate isn’t the right word for this annual tradition. But dread doesn’t reflect every team’s attitude either. A few even look forward to the exercise.

So what’s the common link among those who enter budget meetings feeling calm and confident?

It’s not the size, industry, or culture of their company. It’s their savvy use of eBilling software.

A Stronger Rapport with Finance

There’s a simple formula to making friends with Finance.

All they ask is that you respect the gravity and urgency of their work. And all you have to do is satisfy a few reasonable requests.

Key criteria include:

  • Keeping invoices compliant
  • Rejecting unauthorised expenses
  • Tracking and reporting accrued expenses
  • Tracking and reporting approved expenses
  • Forecasting and flagging potential overruns

Legal will still face a stiffer test than most departments. Accounting for kitchen supplies and ad campaigns is much easier than managing litigation spend. But befriending Finance gets much easier once you have eBilling software in place.

That’s because it pushes invoice approval rates up and invoice review time down by enforcing budgets, rates, and billing guidelines with machine-like precision. It also facilitates fast and accurate collection of accruals data, produces recurring reports automatically, and accommodates custom reports easily. What’s more, forecasts are updated instantaneously and risks are flagged proactively.

And by doing this month after month, quarter after quarter, it helps Legal build valuable relationship capital before the calendar turns to budget season.

Deeper Insight into People Costs

The two biggest legal department cost categories are employee compensation and outside counsel services. They’re also the two most personal and the two most contentious.

These traits make it all the more important to focus the conversation on facts. You’re aiming for unequivocal answers to:

  • Who are you paying?
  • How much are you paying them?
  • What services are they providing?
  • What value do their services create?
  • Is the value worth the cost?

When considering in-house staff, the first two questions are easy to answer. The third question requires only slightly more investigation. And we’ll come back to the fourth and fifth in a moment.

But when considering outside counsel, zero of the five questions have historically yielded easy answers. (Just ask anyone who’s ever reviewed a 12-page law firm invoice by hand.)

That fundamental imbalance is what makes eBilling so appealing.

The benefits of legal e-billing software is that it shines a light on legal invoices to reveal hidden context and connections. It transforms opaque, subjective services into clear, objective insights. And it automatically provides answers to questions one, two, and three in the process.

Only then, once the work of in-house attorneys and outside counsel is seen with equal clarity, can departments begin to form valid answers to questions four and five.

  • Is that Tier 1 law firm still earning its place on the panel?
  • Which law firm should we trust to take the lead on IP matters?
  • Could we employ one additional headcount internally?

Similarly high-stakes questions await every legal department during budget season. But those with more data-based evidence to defend their answers will rightly feel more confident.

Clearer Sense of Savings Opportunities

“Where can we cut back?”

Some years it’s politely implied. Most years it’s plainly stated. But it’s the one legal department budgeting question that persists through every business climate.

It’s also a leading driver of eBilling software adoption.

Feeling the pressure to show quantifiable savings, most customers initially leverage the technology to tighten invoicing workflows and reject non-compliant expenses. And it does both admirably.

Over time, however, customers recognize the wider value of a legal spend management platform. It becomes the hub connecting them to dozens of potential savings opportunities.

Set matter- and phase-level budgets. Leverage benchmarks to negotiate more favorable timekeeper rates. Refresh 20% of your law firm panel to promote competition.

There’s no shortage of effective cost-control tactics to explore. And those who arrive at budget planning sessions with specific suggestions already in hand enjoy at least three advantages.

First, they fill a vacuum. If you don’t present a plan for your department, others may shape one for you. And that significantly raises the risk of seeing essential resources cut.

Second, these savings strategies often end up generating the funds to cover initiatives that would otherwise have been postponed. In fact, many who selected eBilling as their first legal tech investment credit it with sponsoring their next innovation project.

Third, they strengthen Legal’s reputation as a trusted financial manager and business strategist.

Higher Confidence in Budget Adherence

For some in-house legal leaders, the end of budget season marks the start of an anxiety spiral.

“How will we possibly stay under that number?”
“What risks will we incur if we do?”
“What consequences will I face if we don’t?”

Those who have adopted eBilling software aren’t immune to such worries, of course. But they do have a major protective factor working in their favor: They have agency. And specialised tools they can task with:

There’s comfort in those controls. They make it easy to imagine hitting the number.

And, by extension, they make it pleasant to imagine how the bond between Legal and Finance might grow before next budget season.

Reap the Benefits of Legal e-Billing Software

There’s no escaping the responsibilities of setting a legal department budget. But there’s no need for this recurring process to cause recurring pains.

Brightflag’s eBilling software can help you:

  • Bolster Legal’s relationship with Finance
  • Gain detailed perspective on every expense
  • Capitalize on significant savings opportunities
  • Operate legal like a business—after all, that’s exactly what your CFO needs you to do

Book a demo today to see how!

Headshot of Brightflag's Sam Higgs in a pink shirt and glasses, smiling in front of a white office background.

Sam Higgs

Enterprise Accounts at Brightflag

Sam joined the Enterprise Accounts team at Brightflag in 2021. His previous roles include Commercial Markets Account Director at Kira Systems, and Enterprise Accounts at Signal AI. Sam received his degree from the University of Southampton.