Automating the billing process
How a California litigator without support staff passes court filing expenses to her clients automatically using InfoTrack and Clio
Freeburg & Granieri, APC
When Christy Granieri left a comfortable position as a partner at a California employment law firm in February 2021, she knew she didn’t want to keep doing things the old way.
Entering year two of the global pandemic, working styles had changed dramatically, but her old firm had been slow to adapt. “I don’t think we should be chained to our desks from 9:00 to 5:00 every day,” Granieri said. “That’s not indicative of productive work.”
So Granieri and her co-partner Gregory Freeburg decided to start a new civil litigation firm that they could run remotely without hiring support staff. While Freeburg & Granieri, APC would rent office space in Pasadena for occasional collaboration, it would reduce overhead and provide more freedom for its attorneys by embodying many aspects of a “virtual law firm.”
“I think that a little money on technology can replace some of the human capital,” Granieri explained. “Then the errors are on me, not on someone in the middle who maybe did not understand my directions.”
But with a case portfolio that spanned all of California—where separate regional systems and varying eFiling availability pose challenges—managing filing responsibilities alone was not an easy task.
Trial and error
For the first month, as she was getting started, Granieri mostly relied on a California eFiling provider that her old firm had used for years to complete process serves for court filings. While it was clunky and did not cover all the courts she needed, it was familiar and got the basic tasks done for a seemingly reasonable per-filing fee.
Then the first bill came.
“I can say I sat there for well over an hour looking at the bill, looking at our matters, trying to put expenses into each matter, getting so incredibly frustrated,” Granieri said.
It was not just that there were numerous extra fees and vendor markups on common order types. The bill lacked details that could help her distinguish between costs she could and could not recover.
At this point, Granieri was forced to choose which recoverable costs were worth her time. Without better tracking and billing capabilities, it would be better for her firm just to eat some expenses.
“Sometimes I know I have document retrieval fees,” Granieri explained. “I go into the Los Angeles Superior Court website and buy some filing, and you get charged $0.25 a page. So let’s say it is $4.80 to get the pleading. Those are the sort of costs that I really should track, but sometimes I do not do them.”
With 75-80 cases running simultaneously, even the smaller fees could add up at the end of the month. But Granieri also worried about occasionally missing recoveries for filing fees, which regularly totaled over $1,000 per case.
“I don’t mind being fair with my clients,” Granieri said. But the risk of missing $1,000 fees was not one she was willing to take.
“That is a lot of money that I do want to make sure that the firm recovers at the end when we are entitled to them.”
Streamlining the process
Not long after the first billing cycle with her prior vendor, Granieri started searching for a better solution.
Granieri’s husband, who works for Clio, suggested she try out InfoTrack. It was the only eFiling service provider to directly integrate with Clio Manage for automatic expense tracking, but it also covered all 58 superior courts in California with the same easy, online ordering workflow.
The difference was obvious almost immediately after creating her account, Granieri said. By allowing her to file documents straight from Clio with all recoverable costs passed to the Activities tab in each matter, InfoTrack was saving Freeburg & Granieri “time, cost and stress.”
“I’m saving an excess of an hour and a half to two hours each month by having the InfoTrack filing fees pop directly into each matter,” Granieri said. “I do not have to worry about it. I do not have to track every filing. Most importantly, I do not have to reconcile filing fee bills each month.”
Plus, having her billing records updated in real-time gave Granieri’s firm more flexibility in how to bill and communicate expenses to her clients.
Over half of Freeburg & Granieri’s cases are contingency fee plaintiff-side cases, which typically get billed for costs at the end of the matter, rather than monthly. “Some of these cases are running three or four years,” Granieri said. “InfoTrack is really awesome for cases that I do not get to, quote, bill my time for.”
InfoTrack’s cost tracking is also helpful when determining whether and when to settle a case, Granieri said.
“Many of our cases go on for years and years,” Granieri said, “I tend to just say, ‘Hey, here are your cost to date,’ because obviously, it’s really important for our clients that they know what their ultimate take-home from a settlement would be. If our case settles for ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ ‘Z,’ how much of that ultimately goes to the client?”
In those cases, Freeburg & Granieri generates matter expense reports from Clio’s Activities tab to keep clients informed of expended costs to date. And they can trust those records are accurate because they are maintained automatically in InfoTrack’s integration with Clio Manage.
According to Granieri, using the InfoTrack integration has also significantly reduced her firm’s frequency of billing errors.
“The level of operator error when you have to enter numbers is really high,” Granieri said. “When I was taking a paper PDF of an invoice and then manually keying it in my practice management software as an expense for each matter, I may have accidentally added the decimal point in the wrong spot, or an extra rogue ‘2.’”
With InfoTrack, Granieri said, “What has been billed goes right into Clio without that middleman step and the potential for data entry errors.”
Granieri says InfoTrack’s integration with Clio Manage helps her deliver more services to clients at a competitive price point. But the benefits go beyond the technology.
Twice, Granieri recalls having brief issues filing into Orange County Superior Court. The Help Desk professional at InfoTrack asked for 10 minutes to investigate the problem without leaving her on hold.
“They promptly called me back within eight minutes, and it was a lovely experience,” Granieri said. “I was stressed out about missing a filing deadline. The Help Desk figured out what I had done improperly, and it was no big deal to fix my mistake.”
Trust in InfoTrack’s technology and services is a key factor in Granieri’s ability to do more with less, no matter where she travels. “I can be sitting on a beach in Mexico, and I can do my work exactly as well as I could if I was sitting in the office,” Granieri said.
“If you have a practice management software that works with InfoTrack, I would use InfoTrack.”