Why PDF Invoices Cause Pain for Legal Teams, and What To Do About It

Why PDF Invoices Cause Pain for Legal Teams, and What To Do About It 

Given the amount of time that is often required to accurately review a legal invoice PDF, the popularity of the PDF format for legal invoices continues to be a pain point for many legal teams. Brightflag’s data shows that nearly half of all invoices in the U.S. are submitted in PDF format. Outside the U.S., those numbers are even larger.

Bar graph showing how commonly different invoice formats are used.

The Pain of PDF Invoices

Despite the prevalence of PDF invoices, the process required to review a legal invoice PDF can cause headaches and frustration for legal teams. 

Legal vendors often include the wrong bill-to entity, matter reference, or PO number on their invoices. While this seems like a minor error, it can cause serious issues for Finance down the road. 

Legal teams must waste precious minutes each week manually verifying that the details are correct on every PDF invoice. And who wants to spend time doing that when you could attend to the ten other pressing items on your to-do list instead? 

Then there’s all the fuss when invoices with incorrect details slip through the cracks and reach Finance’s desk. The incorrect invoice must be rejected back to the vendor, then re-submitted and re-reviewed before being sent to Finance again. Vendors get annoyed that payment is delayed, invoice reviewers are frustrated that the same invoice arrives in their approval queue again and Finance is miffed about their double-work. 

So with all this added burden involved, why are PDF legal invoices so prevalent?


Why Legal Teams Need PDFs 

The LEDES electronic invoice format has been around for decades now, and has made strides towards digitizing legal invoices. Despite these efforts, a large portion of legal invoices simply can’t be digitized. That’s due to three reasons:

1) Finance teams increasingly require PDF invoices for auditing

Every day, the Finance team processes invoices from all around the business. They need to ensure that each invoice meets audit requirements and that the invoices are easily accessible for internal and external auditing. 

Electronic invoice formats specific to one business area, like LEDES files for legal invoices, work against efforts to streamline audit compliance. While Finance might accept LEDES invoices, they often now require that a PDF invoice be attached to the LEDES invoice anyway so that it can be used as the true invoice for audit purposes. 

2) PDFs are needed for tax compliance

Tax is charged on legal services in most countries outside the U.S. Many of those countries require PDF invoices to be submitted for tax purposes. Companies with a footprint outside of the U.S. therefore typically receive some portion of legal invoices in PDF format. 

3) Some law firms can’t invoice in LEDES format

Boutique and smaller local firms often do not have the billing software necessary to create LEDES invoices. Nowadays these firms usually submit PDF invoices, even if a small few still send invoices by snail mail. 

For better or for worse, it seems that legal teams are stuck with PDF invoices. But, using new technology, the pain of checking PDF invoices for the correct details can be a thing of the past. 


Introducing PDF Check

For years, Brightflag has been the market leader in processing legal invoice PDFs. 

Brightflag’s patented AI engine automatically extracts line item descriptions from PDF and LEDES invoices, applies the legal team’s outside counsel guidelines, and identifies potential savings. 

With our latest feature, we wanted to go even further with solving PDF invoice headaches for in-house teams. 

PDF Check automatically checks that the following details are correct on every invoice:

  • Matter reference
  • Bill-to entity (also known as matter entity)
  • Invoice number
  • PO number

It removes the need for manual verification of each PDF invoice for the correct details. And it also eliminates the invoice rejections that occur when errors slip through manual checks and get to Finance’s desk. 

With the addition of PDF Check, Brightflag now fully automates the review of PDF invoices, as well the sending of those invoices to Finance for payment. 

As noted by Brightflag customer Alisa De Dominicis, VP of Global, Legal, and E&C Operations at Rimini Street, the new feature not only saves time for the legal team, but is also a win for the relationship between Legal and Finance. 

“PDF Check has been a huge time-saver for our legal operations team,” Alisa De Dominicis said. ”But the most significant benefit is the improved relationship with Finance, as PDF Check has eliminated errors and extra work for them.”

Brightflag’s Chief Customer Officer Kevin Cohn will be hosting a webinar on February 28th showing how in-house teams benefit from the new PDF Check feature. Interested? Save your seat

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