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Travel Management for Law Firms: Tracking Billable and Non-Billable Costs

Travel plays a pivotal role in the operations of law firms, serving as a crucial component in meeting client needs, attending hearings, and conducting meetings. It’s not merely a perk but an essential aspect that ensures lawyers are present where their expertise is required. Whether it’s local commutes or cross-country flights, corporate travel management for the law sector is often integral to providing quality legal services.

While traveling, striking a balance between billable and non-billable costs in law firms is vital. Billable expenses directly impact revenue, and controlling non-billable costs influences the firm’s profitability. Effectively managing both aspects requires robust systems, policies, and proper decision-making to optimize the use of resources while delivering exceptional legal services.

This blog will explain the importance of streamlining travel management for law firms and how to manage billable and non-billable expenses. 

Types of Travel Costs

Billable Expenses

Direct Client Expenses: Costs incurred explicitly for a client’s case, like court filing fees, expert witness fees, or transcripts.

Travel Specifically for Client Meetings/Court Appearances: Airfare, lodging, and meals directly tied to a client meeting or a court appearance.

Document Production and Delivery: Expenses related to producing and delivering case-related documents, including printing, courier charges, etc.

Non-Billable Expenses

General Travel Costs: Overlapping expenses incurred for general business purposes, like lodging for non-client-related travel or meals during non-billable hours.

Personal Expenses or Upgrades: Upgrades to accommodations, personal meals beyond the scope of client meetings, and any personal travel extensions during business trips.

Non-Work-Related Expenses: Expenses for entertainment, sightseeing, or activities not directly linked to the case or client business.

Challenges in Managing Billable and Non-Billable Costs

Travel management for law firms involves navigating a complex landscape. Here are some of the key challenges:

For Billable Costs

Tracking Accuracy: Correctly recording and tracking billable expenses can get complex, especially when one trip involves multiple clients.

Reimbursement Approval: Streamlining the process for client reimbursement while following billing guidelines may be difficult.

Documentation Work: Keeping detailed records and receipts to explain billable expenses takes up much time and effort properly.

For Non-Billable Costs

Expense Control: Controlling non-billable costs such as meals, accommodation upgrades, or personal travel extensions during work trips can be challenging.

Internal Reconciliation: Figuring out how to manage expenses that can’t be charged to clients requires a good internal system to divide costs fairly within the firm’s budget.

Policy Adherence: Ensuring everyone follows the firm’s travel policy is important to save money on non-billable things while still being efficient.

Why is it Important to Track Expenses?

Keeping track of expenses is crucial because it helps law firms:

  • Bill clients fairly by showing the exact costs
  • Manage their budget better by seeing where money is going
  • Follow policies and be ready for audits to avoid problems
  • Make smarter decisions using data from tracked expenses
  • Build trust with clients by being clear and professional

How to Manage Billable Travel Expenses?

Managing billable travel expenses well is about more than just getting the bills right. It shows that the law firm is honest and professional in representing its clients.  It’s a critical aspect that directly impacts a law firm’s financial health and reputation.

Clear Documentation: Make sure to keep detailed records, like receipts, invoices, and clear reports for every activity related to a client.

Timely Recording: Encourage lawyers and staff to record all billable expenses in a standardized format.

Use of Technology: Use travel and expense tracking software for legal billing. This helps make the process smoother and reduces mistakes made by people.

Regular Review: Regularly review billed expenses to ensure accuracy and reconcile them to match the agreements made with the clients.

How to Manage Non-Billable Travel Expenses?

Establish Clear Policies: Create and enforce straightforward rules about what the company will pay for during work trips and what it won’t.

Pre-Trip Approval Process: Implement a pre-trip approval system where non-billable expenses require authorization before being incurred.

Budget-Friendly Stays: Suggest staying in comfortable yet reasonably priced places, finding a good balance between comfort and cost.

Meal Allowances: Set reasonable meal allowances for non-client-related meals.

Avoiding Unnecessary Expenses: Encourage everyone to avoid spending too much on things that aren’t necessary during work trips.

Regular Training and Updates: Conduct training sessions to educate staff about policies and the best ways to manage costs during work trips.

Benefits of Using Travel and Expense Software

While the above methods are helpful, doing them manually would be time-consuming. Using travel and expense management software is important for law firms in optimizing travel expenses. Here are key aspects:

1. Streamlined Expense Tracking

  • Automatic Recording: The software records expenses without you doing it manually.
  • Real-Time Updates: Enables instant updates and visibility into incurred expenses, ensuring accuracy and transparency in financial records.

2. Policy Compliance

  • Enforcement of Policies: Our system ensures adherence to corporate travel policies by flagging any expenses that require attention, making it easy for everyone to stay compliant.
  • Audit Trail: It creates a history of all expenses, which is helpful when the experts are auditing.

3. Approval Workflows

  • Approval Processes: Allows streamlined approval workflows, ensuring that all expenses meet pre-set guidelines before reimbursement.

4. Cost Control and Analytics

  • Expense Visibility: It shows where the firm spends the most during travels so they can figure out how to spend less next time.
  • Data Analytics: Helps make decisions based on travel trends to get better deals and save money.

5. Integration and Accessibility

  • Integration: It can integrate with other financial systems, streamlining data transfer and ensuring accuracy in client billing.
  • Accessibility: You can get data and reports from anywhere, making it easier to work from different places.

6. Fraud and Error Prevention

  • Error Detection: Reduces errors and fraud by flagging duplicate entries or suspicious expenses.
  • Policy Enforcement: Automatically applies policy restrictions, preventing spending of money that has not been approved.

7. Enhanced Client Relationships

  • Transparent Billing: Provides detailed billing statements to clients, improving trust and credibility.
  • Professionalism: It helps you work in an organized manner and positively impacts client perception of the firm.

Choose ITILITE for Travel Management for Law Firms

ITILITE travel and expense software is your comprehensive solution to streamline travel management for law firms. With cutting-edge features tailored to meet your needs, ITILITE is your gateway to effortless, efficient, and compliant business trips.

Gain unparalleled insights into your travel expenditure with over 100 customized reports. Whether you need detailed breakdowns, spending trends, or compliance analytics, ITILITE’s reports offer the granularity and depth your business demands. Plus, ITILITE ensures 100% adherence to your guidelines, preventing overspending and keeping your travel strategies in line with your company’s standards.

Moreover, ITILITE efficiently manages unused flight tickets, maximizing their value and minimizing losses, ensuring that your resources are used effectively.

Book a demo today to explore more benefits.

Discover a simpler way to manage corporate travel

Corporate travel management can be extremely daunting. Getting travelers to stick to budgets while booking travel, monitoring spends or finding support for travelers – there is always something that needs to be done. That’s why we built a solution that makes corporate travel management simpler.

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