Billing jobs are an essential component of every enterprise, but a billing job in a law firm can also provide a stimulating work environment, prestige and a career path. Beyond attorneys and legal support staff, there are many opportunities on the administrative side of employment in law firms.
Adding it All Up
Billing jobs in law firms, typically referred to as billing clerks, have the same fiduciary responsibility as that in any organization. You must be honest, detail oriented and precise with numbers -- with the added requirement that you are familiar with the rules surrounding client trust accounting. Your primary responsibility will be to ensure that invoices are sent to clients in a timely manner and in the form specified by the client. This will entail your understanding of the client’s needs, having proficiency with the firm’s billing software and being able to interact seamlessly with your colleagues in the accounting department.
Crunching the Numbers
Law firms and their clients have specialized billing software, and you must become proficient with your firm’s processes. You will be trained on the job regarding the specific billing preferences of the firm’s clients. You will gather information from the billing system and review timekeeper entries for compliance with established criteria. You will print draft, or preliminary, bills for the responsible attorney’s review, make required revisions and then transmit the finalized bills on schedule. Many clients use e-billing, but you will also have the opportunity to communicate with clients if they have questions about their invoices. Overtime is sometimes necessary, particularly in smaller firms, during the billing portion of the monthly accounting cycle.
Debits and Credits and Payroll, Oh My!
The size of the law firm will affect what other duties, if any, you may perform. Because best practices dictate that accounts billable personnel should not also handle accounts receivable, in smaller firms you may be assigned additional duties to be performed during non-billing periods of the monthly cycle, such as calculating hours for payroll, tracking employee benefits or handling accounts payable. In larger firms, conversely, the billing cycle can take a full month, and your duties would likely be specific to billing only. Cross-training within accounting departments is frequent, and you will enhance your career prospects by being open to other responsibilities.
The Bottom Line
Employment in a law firm is prestigious regardless of the position you hold, and it can open doors both within and outside the legal industry. While a college degree is not strictly necessary for a law firm billing job, a degree in accounting is important in today’s competitive market and will improve your opportunities for advancement. The Robert Half 2013 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance indicates that entry-level hiring is on the rise, and that professionals who can support expansion and fill complementary roles on a company’s team are also desirable. The Robert Half survey reports that billing clerk salaries range from a low of $29,000 at small firms to a high of $42,000 at large firms, which represents an average increase of 3.4 percent over 2012 salaries. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects these types of positions to grow by 11 percent through 2020.
- ABA: Rule 1.15: Safekeeping Priority
- Kara Stauffer Jordan; Law Firm Administrator; Portland, Oregon
- Robert Half 2013 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Financial Clerks
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