LeanLaw Masterclass - Invoice Delivery

invoice delivery

Legal Accounting Software Deep Dive

Legal Accounting Software does not run itself. That’s why LeanLaw does a deep dive on a specific feature each month with people from the company who are in charge of Product, Customer Success, and the engineering of the software itself.

Below is a video recap of the webinar that took a deep dive into:

Invoice Delivery

Nic Baughman, VP of Product and Chase Sullivan, Customer Success Manager discussed:

  • The unique opportunity for firms to articulate their value to clients when sending an invoice
  • How to customize an invoice for a specific client
  • Best ways to summarize what the client is going to see in an invoice
  • How the functionality of LeanLaw software expedite the creation of new modules as we get feedback from firms about how they want to illustrate their value to clients

Having a direct line to the LeanLaw team who design the user-interface of your law firm software can be a huge perk. Many of our most successful updates have come from client suggestions.

Invoice Delivery Masterclass – Transcript

Transcript for August masterclass — Invoice Delivery   

We are joined this month by Nic Baughman, our VP of product. He’ll be taking Fred’s place for this one.

The topic today is all about invoice delivery to clients. We’re all really excited here because this has actually been about a five to six months work in progress here.

I want to talk through how we came across this and what our thought process was to get to this feature.

I’m going to show some kind of conceptual designs of where we think those features get to go.

And then at the end, I’m going to actually show what’s available today.at any point once you guys leave here or maybe at the end of this, if you’re interested and you want us to enable it in your account, it’s available across any subscription.

Context for this feature: about five, six months ago, we went out and did some interviews with various firms, whether it’s the managing partner or the operator and took a step back from our software and just asked the question:

  • Where are you guys struggling today?
  • Where do you feel like you spend the most time? 
  • What do you think is the biggest breakdown in communication between you and your client?

A constant theme keeps coming up when an email or invoice gets delivered to the client: The client usually has a budget in mind of what they should be anticipating. Then, they open up that invoice and they see a much different number. Up to five times, maybe even more, and there’s this big sticker shock. Then they contact the law firm and you guys have a back and forth through many cycles, restating your value of what you just provided on behalf of that client and reeducating them on what the standing is. Time and time again, that seems like a common thread at law firms.

We took that learning and kind of looked at different areas where we think we can impact and alleviate that problem, while also helping to articulate the value from the firm’s perspective to the client a lot easier. That was the whole thesis behind this feature. We’re going to show how we can enable law firms to articulate their value more efficiently to the clients on the delivery of the invoice.

The place that we focused on was actually the delivery of the invoice via the email. This feature is going to be in LeanLaw where you can enable it to create this customized body email that can be indented.

We used to send the invoice to your clients: we’re not changing the invoice at all. We’re still using the QuickBooks invoice. This feature is all about giving more summaries, giving more information in the body of that email. That’s more specific to the client than what they received today.

There’s also a couple other benefits from using the QuickBooks delivery of email that we’ll get into. This feature we built in a way that is, if you’re familiar with Legos, you can mix and match and add blocks. It’s very customizable that if you’re sending these emails and you get some feedback from your clients, like, Hey, it’d be good to know X, Y, Z.

A lot of these modules are very easy for us to build and just add into the system. It’s architected in a way that you can give us feedback on things that you want to see in the body of the email.

We quickly iterate and provide that you can enable it and use it on the next sending of the invoice, a couple of key features of this are a couple of key components. One is we allow you to set a reply to email. That means when this is enabled, and you send an email to a client, if they reply back, it would actually go to whatever email address you provide on this line. QuickBooks right now kind of has a dark hole that if somebody actually does reply back to those, sometimes they go to you, sometimes they don’t. 

The other thing is a customizable subject line. We have some defaults that you can use, but you can also build your own logos. You can have branding on both the logo and the pay button, and also get a nice little intro statement.

One of the things that we heard time and time again from that research is that email delivery of the invoice might be a good lead generation for the law firm. Something we’re recommending to anybody who enables us is to have some sort of lead-generation question default, we’re going to the lab, we’re going to put it in this. If there are any other new problems that our firm can help you with to stir some conversation with the client, we highly recommend using this, it’s completely customizable. You can put whatever intro you want, these modules get to be unique.

We’re going to have modules like this account summary, where you can show a client at a quick glance. Hey, you’ve had some outstanding charges, this new invoice, we’re going to charge you for a certain amount. We’re taking some out of your retainer and you’re on evergreen. We’re going to recharge you. These summaries should be a quick way for the client to gain more context before they open up that invoice.

The nice thing is the client should only see one pay button. All of this trust, evergreen paying off accounts receivable — all will come down to one pay button. This is where we’re doing this conceptually, giving you guys more tools to customize what’s in the email, providing more summaries and context to the client. This makes it easier for them to consume that information, while still kind of using that QuickBooks email or invoice.

Oftentimes a firm will want to send an account summary or a statement of unpaid invoices. Say the firm hasn’t done any work for this client, but they want to send them an update of: Hey, here’s where you’re at. You owe us for these a couple of invoices, frequently called an account summary. 

Is that something that we’ll be able to send through this through the invoice delivery? Or are we still going to have to rely on QuickBooks for that? 

Where this feature stands today, this is just that initial sending in the email in Q4. So October, November, December, we’re going to be working on what we’re calling a followup sequence to this. You can configure, if they haven’t paid an X amount of days in the second email, if they haven’t paid an X amount of days after that.

There’s going to be a followup cadence that you can add to that, but the functionality won’t be coming to the end of the quarter.

Would the settings be sticky or what I have to set for each new email?

So this first iteration, when you set these and you save them, it applies globally every time for every client. We do have a couple of iterations at the end of this quarter that will allow you to customize it by  client or matter by matter. For right now if we were to enable it in your account today, these are sticky and they apply to every time you send that email. This is going to apply to every client matter. Out of the eight, the current iteration will apply to every client matter.

How were invoices sent prior to this new feature through QuickBooks online or through LeanLaw? 

We typically rely on QuickBooks, other people, we’ll generate the invoice for them and then they’ll download it and send it manually. It depends on the firm, but most people will when they use it. 

When they deliver this invoice via email, we are telling the books: Hey, grab this invoice and send it to the pint.

The simple version is where we have been traditionally before this, relying on the QuickBooks functionality to send invoices in any kind of communication. What’s available today is we’re building out those modules, but they’re not there yet.

When this is enabled, you can still send her information, the email address in case somebody replies, you can customize that subject line. You can brand it, update your initial, kind of intro body statement and have a pay button here. This is just kind of like the basics we’re working on that account summary and the module for paying off a full balance. 

Right now you can have the basic functionality when that’s enabled. This means that, if you’re on that billing tab in QuickBooks, that’s always great, in here when you select those options.

Say deliver by email when this setting is enabled. If you toggle this on, you were basically telling us, anytime you do that interaction of, “Hey, deliver this via email,” we will use these settings to compile up the email for that specific client or that specific matter and LeanLaw will then take over and deliver the same voice.

If this is disabled and you do that functionality, we still do the same old ‘tell QuickBooks to deliver this on your behalf.’ An example of what this might look like to a client is: they still have the QuickBooks invoice attached to it, but we’re using those settings that were configured in this page that I should, okay.

One thing: we tried to figure out how to use QuickBooks merchant services and their payment links to do this. But when we get to a lot of these complex account summaries or multiple different things going on, whether it’s paying from trust and doing some AR and trying to figure out what the payment link was, QuickBooks merchant services didn’t give us the flexibility.

The partner that we chose and we’ve chosen a couple of times for a couple different reasons is Confido Legal. These payment links are actually Confido Legal payment links. They are what’s powering a lot of this flexibility that we get from modules like the account summary and a few other things.

So, that is one requirement. If you do want to use this, we do need to get you signed up on Confido Legal. Confido Legal actually made it a lot easier to get signed up and get started with it, which is fantastic. Way back when we started it used to be that myself or someone else from support had to help and manually set up a bunch of those things, but now it’s quite a bit easier. 

Clients will make a payment, between two invoice states. The default QuickBooks account summary doesn’t show that payment coming in. The client will ask: hey, why isn’t my payment being applied, to kind of ask it in a different way, is anything in here built in to, to show an account summary or a list of previous transactions, invoices, and payments.

Can we do a payment summary as well? So can we show somebody in LA the last quarter’s worth of transactions or the last month’s worth of transactions so they can see what they’ve paid? When we pull in these accounts summary information, and we go and say: Confido Legal, hey, we need a payment link for 1500. In this example, we are pulling all of this information from QuickBooks to know what is the point of view, sending the email, what is the current financial standing of that client?

All of this information would just be coming from QuickBooks, and we’re kind of relying on that to be up to date.

Will trust statements be customizable? Similarly, can you generate one that shows transactions from a certain time period? 

The first part, their trust statements are customizable when this is enabled. If you select this module as yes, anytime there are any trust related things, we want to attach this, the statement we are using, the standard formatting that we offer on our current trust statement, generation.

You actually might know more about the customization that’s available there than I do, but we’re basically just automating the generation of that and attaching it to the email. Trust statements are already customizable. 

The second question, can you generate one that shows transactions from a certain time period?

No, you actually still have to go to QuickBooks for that, especially if you’re looking for balances as of a specific date. I know that still has to be done in QuickBooks. 

Will the pay button linked to Confido Legal if they are already using that feature?

Yes, we are partnering with Confido on this. Again, we tried to talk to the merchant services team at QuickBooks to see: Hey, how can we make it so that we can just get one payment link in these emails. To do both a general liability for the trust related stuff and the AR for paying off an invoice and they didn’t have that flexibility. 

So we went back to Confido Legal and said: Hey, can you guys help us with this flexibility to make sure we can do all these different components in an automated way, but give the client the easiest possible way to pay this off? Confido Legal said, yep, they can do it. And we partnered with Confido Legal; all of these buttons, all of these links are there links that were generated.

Can we use other vendors for payment links? 

Not in this form. I know some firms use LawPay, but that’s either handled manually, or added to the memo on the QuickBooks side. The functionality we’re talking about here is only with Confido Legal. We’d tried to go through QuickBooks merchant services, but we’re not successful. So at the moment it is just Confido Legal. 

Nick, what’s up next? This is what we want to talk about today and kind of get this out there and give feedback and see if people want to use it. This is what we’re working on the next couple of weeks is really solidifying these different modules. Again, the account summary one is really quite unique. I think because we’re going to be automating if you’ve thought about evergreen before but it’s been kind of a jumbled mess and you’re not sure how to actually execute it.

We’re actually taking the time to work through this to make sure we do evergreen on all these charges to clients. This module and a few others, we’re really taking our time to automate this as much as possible and make it as easy for the clients to pay with that one button. The firm collects all the money they need. 

Building on the modules is what we’re working on next. But I went through all the material that I kind of wanted to show today. I personally have heard requests from people on evergreen specific basis.

So if anyone here uses that, pay attention to this. We are now able to automate requesting funds to refill evergreen accounts.

Instead of having to manually request it whenever a client goes beneath their evergreen limit, they’re now automatically requested to refill that.

We would make one payment link. That one payment link, when they pay that they’ll handle the replenishment if needed on the trust and pay out any outstanding accounts receivable. It’s to the client, it looks like one payment link, but behind the scenes, we’re going to be doing that replenishment plus paying off the remainder of their AR. 

We only use Confido Legal for trust payments. We currently use payment links from QuickBooks for current and AR invoices to clients and not through Confido Legal. We can’t split it like that. When this was enabled, we were using Confido Legal for both the AR and the trust items.

We don’t like the PDF invoice generated by QuickBooks. Is there a way to attach their custom PDF of the invoice to this email feature?

That’s a great piece of feedback. We have not accounted for that yet, but I’m going to write a note to think through how unique attachments could work. What you described as not uncommon, you’re not the only one that does some modifications of that and of that invoice. That’s something we should definitely think through. Thanks for bringing it up that way. I can send all of my clients cute images of my dog. In addition to the invoice, I suck them in with the dog pictures, and then they see the invoice. They weren’t expecting it. Gets them every single time.

If I wanted this enabled in my firm, what would I be getting? When this is enabled in the settings under your firm set up, there’ll be a new option called email delivery in there. You can customize the email address again, the logos, the subject line, the intro statement, all of that. And then when it’s enabled and you go to your QuickBooks account isn’t connected for some reason, but when you go to the billing and you select on the QuickBooks tab: Hey, deliver these by email it, when this is enabled, we will use whatever settings you compile here to send it.

This does not have all of the functionality you were showing in that model previously. This is a conceptual design of where we’re going and what people can anticipate to see in the coming weeks to months. For right now, we have just the basic bare bones of configuring an email to send it. 

I see there’s a little paperclip icon there that says select attachments. Does that separate attachments or is that only things currently available with him? 

Yeah that’s only the ones that are currently available only long. If you do any leads, coding for all your entries, we can automatically attach that through this functionality, same with trust statements. When enabled we have our standard trust statement generation, and we just attach it to the email.

Where would we go to see the sent emails? 

We have some tools internally on our team that we’re monitoring all these emails to make sure there’s no bounces or rejections or anything like that. We do give you some warnings, and again, I wish my QuickBooks was connected, but when you actually send that invoice it errors out and now it works. If it errors out and there’s any issue with the email, you will see something like this where it’ll say: Hey, this email failed and give you a reason why. A lot of times it’s either we’re missing a Confido Legal link or you don’t have the contact information for the client that you want to send this to, but we will show you items like this to say: Hey, we failed to send this email and then some suggestions on how to fix that.

In Q4, we’re planning on having a detailed audit log of these emails where you can see, did they click things? Did they open it? How many times did they open it? We have all those analytics available. It’s like my own email inbox inside of LeanLaw.

Can an alternate reply address be included? questions via reply email would go back to accounting staff?

One of the things we also use here is these: CCS and BCCs on your QuickBooks settings.

These emails, anything you put in here will also be included on those emails.there’s not a way to set an alternate reply. Outside of that, there’s not a way to set a specific alternate reply. We just have the one right now. 

What other email addresses do you want us to add for CC and BCC?

If there was a dispute with a client on billing, how do we get copies of what was sent when this feature first goes live?

Until we have that email log our analytics and whatnot can be accessed through our support team. If you have specific questions on that, until we have the email log available, our team can grab that for you. The other thing is on that actual invoice, when you open it up, all of the account summary information, all of the current charges, even the payment link. When you use Confido Legal, we automatically add a payment link in the memo. All of this should kind of be available on the invoice itself, but if you need more granular data, we can provide that as well.

If you can go back to that email delivery page, right? if I understand correctly, if a client replies to the email, they’ll be replying to accounting at my LeanLaw.

Correct. If they hit reply, it goes back to whatever email address you put in your settings. This is just because I’m an employee of LeanLaw. I put this one in, but you can put whatever email from your firm to get these replies. When testing this, I may or may not have accidentally put the support email in and started spamming the team box with test emails. Keep in mind the address you put there is where it gets sent. 

I noticed that there’s an icon for email or print option in the billing and the QuickBooks tab. But when you create the contact, you don’t have the option to opt out of the email invoice when trying to send drafts, it will give you an error because there was no email entered. If we have no email address, because the client opted out, how do we create an invoice without an email address?

That sounds like maybe something we should test outside of this change, the veteran understands.The easiest route is just to add a fake email address. Whether it’s something internal or something that is a dead email link. That’s the fastest way. But like Nick said, we’ll do some testing on that and see if we can find a proper solution to it. I just believe the email is part of the required fields, for, for client creation. 

Is Confido Legal necessary to use this feature? Can we use this without the pay link? 

Yes. Confido Legal is a requirement to use this feature. If people want to learn more about Confido Legal or have questions about that, also let us know. We changed the integrations page for Confido Legal as well. There are a couple button options that if you want to create an account, there’s no obligation to carry on with them. If you do that, sign up to learn more and you sign up, they actually reach out and start talking to you, Or if you just want to talk to us before you do that, happy to schedule time and talk you through along those lines.

What is the cost of Confido Legal? 

Confido is very similar to most of these other payment processes. I believe it’s, for visas and, and basically card payments, it’s 2.9% fee of the transaction. You can pass these. So every few that I’m going to talk about, you can pass those onto the client. I don’t think Confido Legal actually costs anything to get signed up for, there’s no subscription costs. There’s no, like you have to commit to them for a period of time. There’s no cost to do the signup, have an account and it just sits there and does nothing. Just the transaction fees, which is pretty standard, like 2.9% on all cards. And I believe it’s, we’d have to double check, but I think it’s in the neighborhood of 0.3 or 0.3, 5% on ACH.

Any idea of Confido Legal allows the credit processing fee to be automatically added to the payment?

They call it surcharge. You can enable surcharges to pass those fees onto your client and it gets added to the payment balance for the client. The fees can only be passed on in some states and under certain jurisdictions, I believe so. Don’t just go willy nilly, adding that surcharge to things, make sure you actually get it checked out to make sure that that’s legal, I think we may have lawyers available to check that. We did a revamp of our Confido Legal integration, and we are passing address information when we go to create these links. I’m actually going to take this as a to-do for me to go talk with the Confido Legal team to be like: Hey, if you have this information, do you guys automatically know. Hey, the state doesn’t allow that and you just admit it from the payment link. We are sending all that address information they should know, all right, this client lives in this area and we’re trying to create a payment link. Hopefully they know the laws of that, and they are applying that surcharge or not depending on your setting. Amos is from the Confido Legal team joining in here. So, great to see Amos, Maybe we should just have Amos do a quick sales pitch of Confido Legal in the chat.

We did have Emery on here a couple of months ago. Emory is the face of Confido Legal payments,

and he was on here answering questions about the integration. If you’ve got more questions or want to see an in-depth review or explanation, or just like looking at Emery’s face, the masterclass from that, is up on our YouTube. Feel free to go back and check that one out.

Let’s move to other product updates and what’s just around the corner: we are working on these modules is a big chunk of this. We’re also working on some ease of use when looking at draft invoices and kind of like modifying the draft or some of you call it pre-bills. An example of this is sometimes when you review a draft invoice, you might notice a time entry is on the wrong, maybe assigned to the wrong matter, but you already have an invoice created for that matter.

We’re just going to add some functionality where when you notice that, rather than assigning it to the new matter, how many take your invoice out of draft and are ready to build and build a new draft. You can actually take time entries from one draft invoice and apply them to another. A little less steps, a little more, I guess, fluidity to that and kind of not disrupting the workflow too much. Most of it’s around doing more of these modules doing some ease of use or some, ease of just like executing in the kind of draft invoice review.

We’re also making some changes to reports. In particular, on our compensation reporting, a lot of times the headers of those columns don’t make a lot of sense. We’re revamping the descriptions for that data so that it’s easier to consume. 

I think you and I were both on a color later this week, or that was one of the main focuses of the meeting was what do we change the report hitters to and how do we make that an easier report to read. It’s great to see the quick turnaround that the engineer team is already aware that there’s interest in getting those changed up.  I mean, it’s the beauty and the curse of software, right. You can make and you can generally change things. A lot of times you’re learning along the way and we just keep learning. There’s a better, more efficient way to talk about these things. We’re making those modifications to make it easier for everyone. I’d love to see that.

A lot of that feedback comes from the people in this webinar actually. We look to you all for your feedback and as users of the products, your frustrations and insights are oftentimes more valuable than what we might come up with in the team here. I can have the greatest idea and think, oh yeah, everyone will love this. And then it goes to live and everyone’s like: Chase, why did you make this?

When we get feedback from people who are really using it on a daily basis, if one person wants it, it’s probably something other firms want. So keep that feedback coming. 

The last thing here in terms of what’s up next is the draft invoice process. That’s what I was describing, what I focused on a very specific example. I mentioned one thing might go from a current draft and was that you’re reviewing, but it actually needs to be on something else. You can just move it rather than a bunch of other clicks. The other one that we’re looking at is when you create a time entry on a draft invoice, like you might review something and say:, oh, we’re, we’re missing a couple of things here. And you add it. Usually those get added to the bottom. They’re not in chronological order of their section. Whenever you create one on a pre-bill or on that draft invoice, we’re going to automatically put it in the correct chronological order.

Those are a couple examples of what we’re gonna be working on in the draft invoice section. Some small but necessary changes.

Any plan for Amicus cases?

I would have to go take a look at them if that’s a software system and we’re talking about integration, obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about. If that’s an integration, we don’t have anything in mind right now outside of, more QuickBooks functionality and more Confido Legal, interconnective tissue, as well as, Zapier functions kind of on the horizon.

If that’s a particular practice area, which I don’t know. Also not on the radar. It looks like a case management system. I’m going to go out on a limb and say, probably not anytime soon Native integration.

When we talk about integrations, natively means like we’re doing a lot of deep connections on the functionality from that system. When we get to this Zapier in Q4, probably Q1 of next year, that opens up the doors for us to connect with a lot of different systems. Assuming that other systems have what they call APIs and web books, if people are familiar with them. No, unless it’s got a bureau integration. 

Curious if you’ve been working on a fix, curious to fix the invoice date when generating invoices minus sets on the last day of the month. But when I generate one, a few days before the last date, it defaults to the last, it defaults to that day instead of the last. She’s referring to the setting of how the invoice data is picked, whether it’s the last day of the billing period or the current day.

That I believe is determined by the time period filter you have set.I think we have a look at your setup to fully understand what kind of Bright Might be going on or making a suggestion.

My support brain immediately says, make sure to check your filters. Usually this month is the one that’s most common this month or a specific month. If it’s still doing that after you’ve made sure to check the filter is correct. Just hit us up in the support chat, and we can jump into some of the specifics there.