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Time, Billing & Accounting


  • Basic Legal Accounting Concepts you NEED to Understand
  • Timekeeping and Billing Systems
  • Client Costs Advanced
  • Client Trust Funds
  • Budgets and Account Management
  • Why You Need an Accounting System
  • Why Lawyers Need to Keep Track of Time
  • Time vs. Value Billing - Shifting the Risk
  • Law Firm Financial Reporting
  • My Accountant Wants me to use QuickBooks (or Peachtree (Sage 50c))!
  • A Beginners Guide to Understanding LEDES

More Whitepapers


  • Actionstep - Hourly Billing
  • Actionstep - Paying Vendors
  • Actionstep - Time, Billing, and Acccoutning Essentials
  • PCLaw - Bill Templates
  • PCLaw - Reporting
  • PCLaw - Time and Fees
  • PCLaw - Billing Overview
  • Quick Takes for Your Practice: What is IOLTA
  • Quick Takes for Your Practice: Unidentified funds in IOLTA accounts
  • Quick Takes for Your Practice: 3 Tips on How to Avoid Fee Disputes in Criminal Cases
  • Tabs3 - Billing
  • Tabs3 - Fee Entry
  • Tabs3 - Payments
  • Tabs3 - Rates
  • Tabs3 - Trust Accounting
  • Tabs3 Version 16 - Tips and Tricks
  • Trust Accounting Pitfalls

More Videos


  • Bank Account Reconciliation and Checklist
  • Trust Account Reconciliation and Checklist

More Checklists

Products and Services

Practice Management

  • Clio
  • CosmoLex
  • MyCase
  • Rocket Matter
  • Zola Suite

Financial Services

LawPay: Credit Card Processing for Attorneys

ISBA Books

More Products and Services

Free Online CLE

  • Efficient Billing & Accounting for a Small Law Firm
  • Everything Financial:Managing Trust Accounts, Office Expenses, Accounts Receivable/Accounts Payable
  • How to Manage Retainers, Advance Payment Retainers,and Client Trust Funds

Browse ISBA Online CLE by Topic


ISBA Advisory Opinions on Professional Conduct

  • Accepting Payment and Retainers by Credit Card 14-01
  • Contingent Fees 12-20, 12-02, 02-03
  • Advance Payment Retainers 12-19
  • Charging Interest 94-06, 87-10
  • Collection Action 12-11, 01-02, and 92-13

Other Ethics Resources

  • ARDC Client Trust Fund Handbook
  • ARDC Guide to Opening a Trust Account (Video)
  • Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5 Fees
  • Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 Safekeeping Property

More ISBA Ethics Resources



  • Illinois - the third best ‘real billing rate’ nationwide for solos and smalls?
    Matthew Hector
    Illinois Bar Journal, December 2016

    When billing rates are compared to the cost of living, Illinois is the third most lucrative state in which to practice for small-firm lawyers, according to Clio's Legal Trends Report.

  • Amber Mikula
    The Bottom Line, May 2017

    As clients seek more opportunities to save money, attorneys must become more flexible with billing options, in order to meet the needs of the clients.

  • Ed Finkel
    Illinois Bar Journal, October 2016

    Law firm billing is full of economic, ethical, and legal stumbling blocks for those who aren't systematic and conscientious about it - and opportunities for those who are, according to practitioners and billing consultants.

  • Billing—The health of your firm
    Herschenia Aria Brown
    YLDNews, October 2016
  • The law practice MBA
    Kerry M. Lavelle
    The Bottom Line, October 2016

    By measuring empiricle data about your firm, you can view the current economic state and make adjustments and plans for future success.

  • Best Practices for Billing, Robot Lawyers?
    Illinois Bar Journal, September 2015

    5 tips for better billing; will a robot take your job?

  • Alternative Billing Comes to Main Street
    Ed Finkel
    Illinois Bar Journal, October 2014

    Firms that serve corporate clients are no strangers to non-hourly billing strategies. But other attorneys are finding that consumer-friendly pricing can be lawyer-friendly as well.

  • Timesheets and billing tips
    Kevin J. Stine
    The Bottom Line, March 2014

    The author provides some thoughtful tips to help you draft successful timesheets, and a sample engagement letter to use as a guide.

  • The billing world is FLAT: Making flat fees work
    William S. Wilson
    The Bottom Line, April 2013

    Flat fees are a profitable alternative to hourly billing if researched and analyzed correctly.

  • Transitioning to Clio: A personal diary, part 2
    Alan R. Press
    Standing Committee on Legal Technology, March 2012

    The author discusses the pleasant surprises and disappointments with Clio after a month of use.

  • Beyond the Billable Hour
    Helen W. Gunnarsson
    Illinois Bar Journal, February 2012

    More clients - and lawyers for that matter - are looking for value-based alternatives to the billable hour. The good news? They can be a win-win for attorney and client.

  • Transitioning to Clio: A personal diary
    Alan R. Press
    Standing Committee on Legal Technology, February 2012

    How does the change to Clio affect the author's workflow on a daily basis? What benefits have been realized? What set-backs have been encountered?

  • Changes: How an alternative rock song can provide insight to the evolution of the cost for legal services
    Joseph B. VanFleet
    The Bottom Line, February 2012

    Without question, the unique predicament facing us today is our economic environment. In light of this adversity, law firms today face the need to modify their price structure to address the changing demands of corporate clients.

  • Make fiduciary accounting software work for you
    Janet L. Grove
    Trusts & Estates, December 2011

    A discussion of the benefits of using software to manage the office's accounts.

  • Bill for your value, not just your labor
    Dan Breen
    The Bottom Line, April 2011

    How do we stray from straight time billing when time is such an important part of our stock in trade?

  • Now How Much Would You Pay? Avoiding Involuntary Pro Bono
    Karen Erger
    Illinois Bar Journal, August 2010

    Remember, there's nothing unprofessional about getting paid

  • Patrick T. Driscoll Jr.
    Patricia M. Fallon
    The Public Servant, April 2010

    A look at how the current economy is affecting billing practices.

  • Editor’s column: Current economic downturn requires lawyers to evaluate case acceptance, billing and credit policies
    John T. Phipps
    General Practice, Solo & Small Firm, January 2009

    You need to make the choice about your own pro bono. Or as another lawyer told me, if work is slow, invest in yourself and improve your office and your skills rather than donate your time to someone who cannot or will not pay you.

  • Don’t Be Afraid To Be Paid
    Helen W. Gunnarsson
    Illinois Bar Journal, November 2008

    Learn how to create a bill-paying culture among your clientele.

  • Bill4Time Internet-based time and billing software
    Alan R. Press
    Standing Committee on Legal Technology, August 2008

    The author has never been able to find the perfect Time and Billing Software for my solo practice. The programs are usually too complicated and cumbersome or too basic and lacking in functionality. Luckily, Bill4Time has been a great solution and middle ground.

  • The trouble with hourly billing
    Helen W. Gunnarsson
    Illinois Bar Journal, June 2007

    Does the tradition of billing by the hour push lawyers to pad bills and thus engage in the kind of "dishonest" behavior forbidden by the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct?

  • Billing Gallantly
    Karen Erger
    Illinois Bar Journal, December 2006
  • How do you measure success?
    Terry Rosenthal
    The Bottom Line, December 2005

    All law firms have their own way to measure productivity, profitability and performance.

  • The economics of a business law practice
    Carl R. Draper
    The Counselor, April 2005

    Lawyers, generally and especially attorneys who focus on "business law," are quick to advise clients on the need to plan.

  • Attorney billing practices: What is a consumer of legal services to think?
    G.A. Finch
    Real Property, August 2003

    An in-house counsel for a publicly traded company with national operations approached me and asked me to speak at a seminar for in-house lawyers. I said, "Sure.

  • Use Financial, Management Reports to Increase Your Profitability
    Paul Sullivan
    Illinois Bar Journal, May 2003

    Your accounting program can produce reports that help you measure productivity and improve your bottom line. Are you using them to full advantage?

  • Time is money
    Nerino J. Petro Jr.
    Standing Committee on Legal Technology, June 2001

    I recently encountered a small office that is still using the word processor to prepare bills.

  • Jump-Start Your Cash Flow
    Paul Sullivan
    Illinois Bar Journal, September 2000

    Do you know where your money goes, and where and when it comes in? Here are tips to help you get control of your receipts and expenses.

  • Less pain, more pay
    Helen Sigman
    Family Law, January 2000

    This is not an article about how to get out of the family law business despite the title.

  • Inexpensive time and billing software
    Adrienne W. Albrecht
    Standing Committee on Legal Technology, November 1999

    We recently upgraded our entire computer system. In exchange for our old, tired Lantastic network, we opted for a new, fast Windows Nt system running their Backoffice Small Business Server.


  • From the Newsletters - If you’re using an attorneys lien to collect fees, sweat the details
    Illinois Bar Journal, April 2016

    If you're using an attorneys lien to collect fees, sweat the details.

  • A primer on perfecting and enforcing attorneys’ liens
    Jennifer Friedland
    General Practice, Solo & Small Firm, March 2016

    While accounts receivable is not the most sexy part of our job, it is necessary and urgent. An organized and systematic approach will lead you to collection results.

  • Can You Accept Bitcoins as Payment?
    Bailey E. Cunningham
    Illinois Bar Journal, January 2015

    The short answer is "yes," but make sure you follow the ethics rules.

  • Ethics corner: A word of caution when accepting credit card payments
    Michael J. Drabant
    Trusts & Estates, July 2014

    The ISBA recently issued a Professional Conduct Advisory Opinion which highlights some of the ethical implications of accepting credit cards as a means of paying attorney fees.

  • 1099s for deadbeat clients?
    Helen W. Gunnarsson
    Illinois Bar Journal, January 2009

     A law-office management expert puts forth the option of sending a nonpaying client a 1099 for the value of your services. Is it really OK to do so?

  • Law office management 102: Getting your financial house in order
    Mary A. Corrigan
    The Bottom Line, May 2007

    Every lawyer who has opened the doors to a new law practice quickly discovers the necessary evil of maintaining an accurate accounting system.

  • Let divorce practitioners beware: Attorneys must sue clients within one year to recover fees
    Cecilia Hynes Griffin
    Family Law, October 2005

    An Illinois Appellate Court opinion recently clarified the law with respect to when an attorney may sue a former client following a divorce proceeding.

  • “Miranda Warnings” for debt collection lawsuits
    Patrick E. Ward
    Darla A. Foulker
    General Practice, Solo & Small Firm, May 2004

    The following article raises valid issues that lawyers who collect debts (even their own) need to be aware of and consider in their practice.


  • E-mail scams and lawyer trust accounts
    Real Property, December 2016

    Internet fraud schemes are increasingly targeting lawyers and law firms and the banks where lawyers have their client trust accounts.

  • Rule change makes it easier to clear ‘mystery money’ from IOLTA accounts
    Matthew Hector
    Illinois Bar Journal, June 2015

    Unidentified funds rattling around in your IOLTA account? Effective next month, amendments to Illinois Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.15 make it easier to dispose of them.

  • The sting of IOLTA overdraft alerts
    Matthew Hector
    Illinois Bar Journal, March 2015

    Since 2011, banks have been required to report IOLTA-account overdrafts to the Illinois ARDC. The resulting investigations often uncover bookkeeping mistakes that get lawyers into trouble.

  • Mark S. Mathewson
    Illinois Bar Journal, September 2014

    Make sure retainer-fee payments by credit card are going into your trust account and not your general office account, an ISBA ethics opinion admonishes.

  • New IOLTA requirements effective September 1
    Helen W. Gunnarsson
    Illinois Bar Journal, September 2011

    The amended rule forbids non-interest bearing pooled accounts, imposes new recordkeeping requirements, and obliges banks to report trust-account overdrafts.

Law Firm Accounting

  • Tax basics for the new managing partner of the small firm
    Amy Rupiper
    The Bottom Line, September 2017

    A look at the various taxes a new managing partner will encounter and a proposal on how to best deal with theses taxes and their various reporting and payment obligations.

  • Law firm financial management: Practical tips and suggestions—Part 1 of a multi-part series
    John W. Olmstead
    The Bottom Line, September 2017

    Managing the firm’s finances is one of the most important management roles in a law firm.


  • Five reasons to collect a retainer up front in lieu of getting paid at the closing
    Colleen L. Sahlas
    Real Property, April 2011

    Avoid risks and take the simple step of collecting a retainer up front.

  • Engagement Letters, Fees and the Dowling Case
    David A. Berek
    Fred R. McMorris
    Illinois Bar Journal, May 2008

    Consult Dowling for guidance on fee arrangements and how to describe them in engagement letters.

  • Supreme Court analyzes retainer agreements
    Willis R. Tribler
    Glenn Fischer
    Bench & Bar, February 2008

    The Supreme Court of Illinois has examined and clarified two kinds of retainer payments to lawyers.Dowling v. Chicago Options Associates, Inc., 226 Ill.2d 277, 875 N.E.2d 1012 (2007). 

  • From Here to Retainer Fees
    Helen W. Gunnarsson
    Illinois Bar Journal, December 2007

    Learn how to craft retainer agreements to define and clarify the scope of your engagement, why it’s important to collect fees up front, and more.

  • Attorney’s retaining lien, circa 1889
    John B. Kincaid
    Trial Briefs, March 2006

    Contrary to the popular misconception of many attorneys and judges, including this writer, Illinois has, since 1889, recognized and enforced the right of an attorney to retain his physical file until the client has paid for his services. 

Attorney Fees

  • To disgorge or not to disgorge?
    Zachary Williams
    Family Law, December 2016

    With the recent decision in In re Marriage of Altman and Block, there is now a split in the Illinois Appellate Courts as to whether a trial court can order one attorney to disgorge earned fees in order to “level the playing field” between two parties, when neither party can afford to pay their attorney fees. 

  • Location, location, location: All you really need to know about disgorgement of fees
    Rory T. Weiler
    Family Law, December 2016

    In light of the difference of opinion between the First and Second District, practitioners in those two districts will find that the answer to the question of whether disgorgement is available depends principally upon where the divorce case is filed.

  • Fee Petitions: Kaiser and beyond
    James J. Ayres
    Bench & Bar, December 2016

    Any attorney who has sought an award for attorney fees from the circuit court must be aware of the requirements of Kaiser v. MEPC Am. Properties, Inc. However, counsel should also be aware of Aliano v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.

  • Cash flow management for contingent fee firms
    Daniel M. Breen
    The Bottom Line, May 2016

    Author Dan Breen shares the tools his firm uses to measure cash flow.

  • Andy Norman
    Illinois Bar Journal, February 2015

    Many federal and state actions provide for attorney fee-shifting, making a range of cases attractive that otherwise would not be. Here are tips for maximizing your recovery.

  • Look before you leap: A primer on fees allowed when taking over a contingent fee case
    Ronald W. Kalish
    Tort Trends, March 2011

    Depending on how much time and effort the original attorney has put into the case, you may not receive a sufficient percentage to justify the time and risk of working on the case.

  • Attorney fees: Avoiding pitfalls to preserve the right of contribution
    Douglas B. Warlick
    Family Law, August 2010

    Warning: An attorney's bad business decisions may affect his or her ability to recover fees from the opposing party.

  • The DOs and DON’Ts when seeking fees in probate
    Martin W. Siemer
    Elder Law, June 2010

    A recent decision handed down by the First District Appellate Court, In re Estate of Bitoy, provides a good review of fee issues in probate estates.

  • The ethics of fee sharing in tort law cases
    Albert E. Durkin
    Tort Trends, October 2009

    In the field of plaintiff personal injury litigation, a substantial amount of business is received on a referral basis. Tort practitioners commonly are referred cases from fellow lawyers who do not practice in that chosen field.  

  • Casenote: In re: Kohlenbrener v. North Suburban Clinic, Ltd. 356 ILL.APP.3D 414 (1ST DIST. 2005)
    John W. Foltz
    Elder Law, May 2006

    Does a fee agreement between an attorney and a client terminate at the client’s death?

  • Attorney fees and the Rules of Professional Conduct
    Chris E. Freese
    General Practice, Solo & Small Firm, January 1999

    This article reviews the provisions of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct as they pertain to attorney fees.