DWF shakes up billing system in efficiency drive

DWF is forcing the pace on greater billing discipline across the firm with an aim to reduce lock-up by between five and 10 days on average each month. 

The firm is piloting a new workflow billing process which it expects will shave at least five days off the current monthly lock-up cycle and it hopes to drive it down by a further five days through various additional initiatives.

The firm has been focusing on its working capital management for several years, reducing its total lock-up by 33 per cent since 2009 (22 October 2013).

It introduced an automated billing system about two years ago, which forwards bills to the fee-earner and partners according to the pre-defined billing cycle prescribed in the firm’s service level agreement (SLA) with that client.

DWF finance director Alex Hodgson said: “SLAs are held in the system and then a prompt tells the billing team to send them to the partner or fee-earner to deal with. It doesn’t rely on the fee-earner or partner to raise the bill.

“When the bill gets to fee-earner, they are able to review it and amend it as they feel necessary and then they can action it.”

The new system takes this a step further by giving every stakeholder in the billing process full visibility of the billing workflow.

The billing workflow system is being piloted at the moment with a view to it being rolled out formerly across the firm in April.

“I’d like to see WIP days come down further. We know they’re good at year-end at the moment but what we’re less good at is keeping WIP down during the year. I’d hope to see between 5 and 10 days come off the average monthly lock-up”, said Hodgson.

Having rolled out e-billing on the request of its banking and insurance clients, DWF is also considering making that the standard billing approach across the firm in the next financial year.

Hodgson was unprepared to put a figure on cost of e-billing at this stage but admitted it would be a substantial initial investment.

According to the firm’s latest LLP filing, audited revenue was £142.7m for 2012/13, that figure included revenues brought in by practices after their respective mergers with DWF, but not revenue made pre-acquisition.The audited figure was a 46 per cent increase from 2011/12’s audited result of £97.8m. Meanwhile audited net profit rose from £23.5m to £38.1m, a rise of 61 per cent (20 November 2013).