All law firms are not created equal and neither are their accounting and billing requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all way to structure a firm’s accounts payable and billing department because each practice requires different processing procedures and may have different reporting requirements. However, there may be an easier way to handle certain accounting tasks such as processing foreign payables & integrating this data into a firm’s time & billing system while also providing real-time data to both the finance and legal teams. Many of these tasks & procedures can be automated and streamlined to reduce manual & duplicate entry, while improving cash flow, cost recovery and simply integrating FX data into existing systems in a firms matter billable currency. All while providing visibility into the entire foreign invoice lifecycle.
So, why should law firms consider improving their current foreign payables process?
A ONEStep Payment Process
An invoice automation platform is an end-to-end solution that improves the entire process from invoice receipt thru to processing, payment, reconciliation & reporting. Users benefit from blending the various steps of the invoice-to-payment process into a custom solution that combines data processing with validation, approval routing, system integration, reporting and foreign beneficiary management to help execute payments in a cost effective and timely manner. These platforms not only help the finance team on the payment processing and integration side but they provide valuable information to attorneys regarding invoice status, reciprocity, and foreign associate volumes.
These services work by extracting information directly from invoices, spreadsheets, PDFs, or workflow solutions which eliminates manual entry. All invoice images and any related information can be stored within the application and provides firms with the ability to make future payments any time quickly and easily without incurring billing adjustments. Banking relationships are maintained and firms maintain complete control of the process.
Money and Time Saved
Invoice automation technology is great solution for firms who struggle with keeping up with the increased demands on their accounts payable and billing departments yet must still focus on helping to improve cash flow and cost recovery. These solutions allow firms to focus on the business of law and rely on industry experts to provide information and best practices to continually help improve internal processes and procedures. These solutions are easily implemented and firms realized immediate benefits both in dollars and time.
A number of firms in Canada, both large & small, have implemented the Global Exchange Integrated Payment Solution. It is a prime example of a state of the art tool that can help firms simply integrate the accounts payable and billing platform in a secure environment. It significantly improves the time consuming and costly invoicing and international payment process by helping firms speed up processing and adding more control in ways not possible in a manual, paper-based process.
Many firms fear that if they automate their processes they will not have the ability to address their specific processing needs and will lose control. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Foreign payment automation solutions are tailored to fit each firm’s specific processes, procedures and reporting requirements, they are fully customizable and rely on real time, firm validated data. “Custom” does not infer expensive or a time-consuming implementation, most firms can be up and running quickly.
Fixed Pay Dates and Exchange Rates
Law firms worry about cash flow and cost recovery. Automated solutions allow firms to control the entire payment lifecycle including when payments are made – immediately or a future payables date without incurring currency gains & losses. Some solutions including the ability to lock in exchange rates for up to 6 months. So firms can bill their clients, get paid by their clients before they pay foreign vendors and not deal with billing adjustments, what they bill is what they pay.
Making Room for New Important Tasks in Accounting Departments
Foreign Invoice automation can also help firms by improving processing time and cost while adding more controls and procedures in ways that are not possible in a manual, paper-based process. Implementing process improvements will free up time so accounts payables personnel can focus on business improvements versus manual entry and duplicate work.
We live in a global economy where more and more firms are doing business internationally and relying on foreign counsel. Foreign invoice processing is a key component of a law firms Account Payable & Billing departments. It’s important for firms to partner with solutions providers who can help guide them with ideas & examples of best practices to help develop safe, secure, internal processes that improve efficiencies and help the firm operate in a cost effective manner.