Law Firm Bookkeeping Practice Area: Criminal Law

Law firm practice areas are the topics of this month, and this is the final article in our series on the nuances in the practice areas as it applies to servicing this type of client and doing their bookkeeping and accounting. If you landed here as an attorney in this practice area, you would find some great tips for a profitable law firm.

Criminal law is always an exciting practice area. Most criminal lawyers work as solo practitioners. Most criminal lawyers tend to be aggressive in court, and it is best if they have integrity and be highly skilled in research skills. The first meeting with their client will most likely be at the courthouse, jail, or the hospital. This type of law firm typically lands in the same bucket as family law regarding the urgency around the matter or case for this type of lawyer. The law firm's client is in crisis. These cases typically need to be handled by an empathetic attorney who sincerely cares about the client. 

Types of billing

One of the significant barriers to this type of law is that the client may not have the money to pay for the attorney when the alleged crime has occurred. If the attorney is retaining the client on an hourly basis, that will add complexity to the billing, and legal software is a must! We see much success with law firms that use subscription-type billing, evergreen retainers, or even fixed fee billing.

This area of law lends itself to many matters, with most of them being on the shorter side (90-180 days) when it comes to the length of time of a case. Of course, this is all dictated by when the court can hear the case. These cases are listened to instantly. For example, think of a DUI in Florida; these are usually heard within 24 hours. That does not give client a long time to find an attorney.

Many of the attorneys we work with, use Clio for this type of practice area. Why? Because it holds all the documents and is a full-blown practice management tool.

Merchant Services

Having the ability for the law firm's client to pay by credit card is critical. As mentioned in earlier articles, we prefer Gravity Legal as our tool of choice for merchant services with law firms. It's designed with a client in mind. There's the ability for you to set up to have the client pay the credit card fee, to have the client pay overtime like progress billing, and if you are using Lean Law for the time in billing, it's embedded in the product.

KPIs to track

You may be wondering about the best KPIs to track at a criminal law firm. Profitability by matter is essential. It's going to help you decide where to target your marketing dollars.

Marketing is another KPI that's important. Many attorneys throw money at this category. When a person is in crisis and needs that criminal lawyer, they need to be able to find you. It's very much like a personal injury attorney, and you need to be sure that you are seen in the places that are important when the offenses take place.

For the larger firms, look at practice area revenue and also revenue by the attorney. Larger firms tend to have other practice areas besides criminal law to complement the law firm. Many of these firms use the Eat What You Kill compensation method and being able to track revenue by an attorney is vital to follow income by class to have these figures available for the compensation tracking.

Client Satisfaction Score

I think the other KPI that's important to discuss with the client who works in criminal law is client satisfaction. Many times, people going through a crisis are during a challenging time in their lives. Ensuring that the client feels supported and their questions are answered will keep a delighted client base. Remember, happy clients will refer you. Don't miss out on this important way to grow your firm.

I hope this article will help you understand some of the bookkeeping and accounting nuances you may face if you're onboarding a criminal law firm. The volume of matters needs to be tracked to perfection. Many dates will need to be aligned throughout the timeline of the case. Having a good calendar and a good admin or legal assistant is essential at these firms.

We'd love to assist your law firm with tracking some of the critical metrics to help your firm be successful. Call us today!