Quite often insurance carriers require law firms to split a bill among two or more parties, this is normally referred to as Split-party Billing. Many times there are complexities that make a seemingly simple task, much more complex.
We’ll examine “best practices” to both meet client requirements and provide the firm with solid accounting transactions for proper reporting and profitability analysis.
- Split-party Billing usually calls for a master file to be set-up where all fees and costs are posted to that file. Additional “bill parties” are then added with a designation as to what % of the fees and costs will be billed to each of the parties.
- The system should check to be sure that 100% of the fees and costs are being allocated at all times.
- The use of effective dates for each party is very important, it’s not unusual that there are “in’s and out’s” of bill parties throughout the life of a case. The ‘bill parties” don’t necessarily have to be clients and matters in the system, they can just be an entity called “bill party”. Many times this is much easier to just designate a person or company that will pay a portion of a bill without setting up all the official client/matter information. You just need a name and address to send the bill to.
- Normally, in the case of Split-party Billing, a single rate is used to value each time entry. If different rates are used for each party it is difficult to determine a % of each bill to be split, from a dollar point of view. If each party must have a different rate, then the actual time entries are first split, and then valued separately for each party. If different rates are used each party receives a completely separate bill without calculations showing the % split.
- Since most Split-party bills are going to one or more insurance carriers it is convenient to get agreement ahead of time on a common phase and task code set to be used.
- At the time of billing the system looks to actually generate, in effect a single bill, with each bill party seeing their share of the total bill. So for example, if bill party #1 is paying 50% of the total and the bill is for $10,000 the bill would show all the detailed fees and costs, a “total bill amount” and then a line in the bill showing bill party #1 owes 50% or $5,000. If bill party #2 is paying 25%, they would get the same bill sent to their attention showing on one line that they owed $2,500.
- There are a lot of iterations of this general idea of a “single bill”, including different bill formats, including past billing and payment history and outstanding AR or Retainers being applied for each of the bill parties on only their copy of the bill.
- In Split-party Billing the “bill parties’ act as “sub-matters” to the master file or master matter. Therefore in many systems, Accounts Receivable can roll-up to the master matter, with the ability to drill-down to a bill party’s portion of the AR.
- Split-party bills can also be separately e-billed to multiple “bill parties”, i.e. insurance carriers. In the case of e-billing it is not unusual that the e-bill party want all the “pre-split” transactions, the e-bill party already knows what % they have agreed to pay and the LEDES format will handle all of this.
- The system should save all detailed transactions so that normal accounting adjustments can be made such as, reversing a bill, transferring a payment, charging interest for one or more of the bill parties, etc.