Electronic Pre-Bill Approval
Electronic Pre-Pill Approval is an add on feature
Electronic Pre-Bill Approval is an add-in to the base version of Centerbase if you do not have Electronic Pre-Bill Approval active on your site and would like it then please contact your sales rep to start the process to activate this on your site.
Electronic Pre-Bill Approval allows your firm to handle your entire pre-bill review process within Centerbase. Once the pre-bill are generated the reviewers will have access to the pre-bill on the Pre-Bill Approval page where they can view, edit, and approve the pre-bill. Any edits that they make will be tracked and you will be able to view the bill with the markups or as it will look with all of the changes made. Once a user approves the pre-bill it is sent to the next person to review and approve based on a workflow. The workflow is very customizable, part of the process of activating Electronic Pre-Bill Approval is a meeting to discuss how the workflow for your firm needs to be built and how it will interface with your existing system.
To help your billing department the pre-bills tab will be split into two tabs, Approved and Pending Approval. This is a simple way to see which bills have been 'final approved' and which bills are still making their way through the review process.
Let's walk through an example with a basic workflow of Associate to Responsible Attorney to Billing person for final approval.
The process starts when your billing person generates the bills for this cycle. As soon as the bill has been generated the associate will be able to view and edit the pre-bill. Even though they can edit the pre-bill the associate will only be able to edit time entries that they have permission to edit normally. So as the pre-bill moved around there are still limits on who can edit what.
The associate can navigate to the Pre-Bill Approval page and press "Edit" to start making changes to the description and billable hours. There is a system setting to allow users to edit the amount of a time entry too. If the amount is edited then the billable hours will be adjusted to keep 'Rate X Time = Amount' true.
The associate notices that there is a missing time entry and so add the time entry, using the plus button. As soon as the new entry is added the associate sees that the number on the "Unapproved Entries" tab has gone up. They move to that tab, select the entry and press "Approve and Place ton Bill" this adds the new time entry to the bill.
The associate now approved the pre-bill. Their page moves to the new bill in their queue and the pre-bill they just approved moves to the responsible attorney's queue.
The responsible attorney now reviews the pre-bill to make their changes. They will also see the changes, additions, and deletions made by the associate. The responsible attorney sees two time entries that need special changes. One needs to be marked as non-billable, and the other they want to hold until the next bill. the responsible attorney moves to the line item tab to make these changes. For the non-billable line item, they open the billing entry using the pencil icon and mark the entry as non-billable. For the entry to be held they select it and press the "Hold Time Entries" button, this will remove the entry from the pre-bill and mark it as held so that it will not automatically be added to the next bill. Instead, it will remain on the Held Entries tab for that matter's pre-bills until it is added to a pre-bill or deleted.
The responsible attorney knows that billing will have a question on why the entries were marked non-billable and held so they add a note and give a short explanation before approving the pre-bill. The note automatically adds the date and user name to help identity who made the note.
The pre-bill is now in the billing person's queue. They review the bill, notice the addition, non-billable, and held entries. they see that the notes button is yellow which means that there is a note attached to the pre-bill, they press the button to check the notes. They are satisfied with the explanation and go to approve the bill, but their approval button has a form attached to it so when they press to approve the form dialog pops up. The firm wants to track who is forgetting to add time until the pre-bill process so the form has a note field to record that the Associate added new time to the pre-bill. The billing person presses 'Save' and the pre-bill is approved. This is the last approval step so the pre-bill is now "final approved" and will move from the pending approval tab to the approved tab on the pre-bills page.
From here the billing person can post and send out the bill like normal.
There is a lot to see and do in the pre-bill approval page. below is a detailed
This is the primary tab where you can view and edit the web copy of the prebill.
- Edit Button (Pre-bill tab only): Use this button to change the edit view on the pre-bill tab. This will allow you to make line-item edits to the pre-bill. Changes in the edit view are saved as you make them
- Apply Button (Pre-bill tab only): This button is used to return to the normal view of the pre-bill from the edit view.
- Select a pre-bill dropdown: A dropdown list of all of the pre-bills that were in your queue when you opened the pre-bill approval page. You can use the search bar to look for a specific bill number.
- Client dropdown: This dropdown allows you to filter the list to only bills for the client selected. Only clients who have bills in your queue are listed here.
- Matters dropdown: This dropdown allows you to filter the list to only bills for the matter selected. Only matters that have bills in your queue are listed here.
- Pre-bill (x/y) and left/right buttons: the numbers in the parentheses tell you how many pre-bill is in our queue, y, and which pre-bill you are viewing, x.
- Show Markup? toggle: When turned on the pre-bill tab will show text that was deleted with a strikethrough and text that was added in the color of the user that added it. When turned off the pre-bill tab will show the bill as it is currently.
- Print Button: Opens the chrome print screen. This will print what you are seeing in the pre-bill tab. So if markups are turned on then the printed document will include the markups.
- Notes Button (Pre-bill tab only): Clicking on this will open the bill's notes on the pre-bill tab. It will be a yellow box bellow the approval button that you can leave notes for people reviewing the bill after you. The notes are automatically stamped with the date and user. if there is already a note on the bill then the button will bill yellow.
- User Dropdown: You will on see this if you have the user permission "View/Approve Pre-Bills for All Users". This dropdown allows you to view the queue of another user, you can use the page like normal while impersonating the other user. If you approve a pre-bill it will be moved along in the workflow as if the selected user had approved it, but the approval timestamp will be for the logged in user and not the selected user
- Pre-Bills tab: The main tab on the page that allows you to view the web copy of the pre-bill and make edits on the bill.
- Line Items tab: This tab shows you all of the billing entries on this pre-bill. There is more detailed information on this below.
- Held Entries tab: This tab shows you all of the billing entries that have been held on this matter. There is more detailed information on this below.
- Unapproved Entries tab: This tab shows you all of the billing entries on this matter that have not been approved. There is more detailed information on this below.
- Approval Log: This area will only populate with data after the first person approved the pre-bill. it will have a username, timestamp, and color of the people who have previously approved this pre-bill.
- Approval Button: the name on this button is set by the workflow and each approval step can have its own name. regardless of what it is called, it does the same thing which is to approve the pre-bill and send it to the next person in the workflow. It is possible to add a form to the workflow that will cause a dialog to open when you press "Approve" that will allow the approver to enter additional information to be saved to the bill.
In the edit view, you can make changes directly in the cells outlined in red. While every row has the same fields marked as editable attempting to edit a billing entry that you do not have permission to edit will give you an error. Description and Billable hours are the two basic fields that can be edited. The user in the example above also has the permission "Edit Rates on Pre-bills" which is why Rate is editable. The example site has the setting "Enable Users to Edit Line Item Totals" turned on which is why the amount is editable. If you edit the amount then the billable hours will be modified to equal Amount divided by Rate. after you make a change to billable hours, rate, or amount there will be a short loading time as the pre-bill recalculates the totals for the bill.
After you have made edits to the pre-bill the markup view will show you that was changed. In the case above everything that is purple was changed by the user.
- This was a change is spelling, the whole word was crossed out and then the new word was added.
- Lines that are crossed out where on the bill when the pre-bill was generated but later removed or hidden by a review.
- Lines that are completely the color of an approver where added by that approver.
- When the billable hours or Amount war changed they show a crosses out original number and the new number in the color of the review who changed them. This can continue as different reviewers change the amonts.
You can also see that the subtotals and totals are being changed as you adjust the entries.
Line Item Tab:
You can also view the billing entries on the pre-bill in a data table. This tab also allows you to hold entries, merge entries, and open the billing entries dialog for entry to edit any fields that are not on the pre-bill itself, like Non-Billable and Show on Bill. This tab will show the entries as they currently are and not show the markup history.
- Hold Time Entries button: This button will remove the selected entries from the pre-bill and mark them as held. entries that are marked as held will not automatically be added to newly generated bills, but the entries will live on this tab to be available to be added to the next pre-bill. This button only works if you have permission to edit the time entries that are being held.
- Merge Time Entries button: This will merge the selected time entries into a single time entry. This only works if the time entries are for the same timekeeper. There will be a small dialog that will allow you to select which date the new combined entry should be for, and the description will be added together with one after the other on the new entry. This button only works if you have permission to edit the time entries that are being merged.
Billing Entries Table:
- Checkbox: This column is how you select entries to use the buttons.
- Timekeeper: The timekeeper for the entry.
- Visable: Denotes whether the billing entry is visible on the bill or not. Entries that are not visible will show up here on the line items tab but not on the pre-bill tab. If an entry is made not visible after the pre-bill was generated the entry will be crossed out on the pre-bill tab the same as entries that are held, removed from the pre-bill, or deleted.
- Actual (Editable): This is the actual worked hours on the billing entry. You can edit this field directly on the page without having to open the billing entry dialog.
- Billable (Editable): The billable hours for this entry. You can edit this field directly on the page without having to open the billing entry dialog.
- Description (Editable): The description for the entry. You can edit this field directly on the page without having to open the billing entry dialog.
- Amount: The total amount for this entry. This field is inevitable even if you have "Enable Users to Edit Line Item Totals" turned on.
- Approved By: This will display the user and timestamp of who approved the time entry. This is will primarily be used if someone adds a new or held entry to the pre-bill.
- Edit Details: the Pencil is a button to open the billing entry dialog to allow you to make edits to any of the normal fields for your billing entries.
Moving a billing entry to another matter:
To move a billing entry to another matter simply open the billing enter dialog from the line items tab, change the matter on the entry and hit save. After it saves a move entries dialog will popup and allow you to move the entry the matter as WIP or to an open pre-bill. there will also be warnings if the default rate for the two matters is different and allow you decide which rate to use.
Held Entires Tab:
Time entries that have been held on this matter will display on this tab. An entry that was held during the last billing cycle will be here and not on the next pre-bill generated for the matter.
Place Entry on Bill button: This button will approve the selected entries and place them on the pre-bill. This button only works if you have permission to edit the time entries that are being approved.
All of the fields in the table work exactly the same as the line items tab
Unapproved Entries Tab:
This tab displays time entries that have not individually been approved. Individual time entry approval is of Centerbase's Time Entry Approval system. So time entries that are on the pre-bill will generally show on this tab. This tab will also show any unapproved time entries that are not on the pre-bill. So you can use this tab to add missing time entries to a pre-bill.
Approve and place on Bill button: This will approve all of the selected time entries and if they are not already on the pre-bill it will add them to the pre-bill. This button only works if you have permission to edit the time entries that are being approved.
All of the fields in the table work exactly the same as the line items tab
Electronic pre-bill approval has its own settings and permissions within the system. This section will cover where they are located and what they do.
The setting for pre-bill approval are located in the system settings > Pre-Bill Approval. This page will only be visible if pre-bill approval has been activated on your system by Centerbase. On this page, you will find three settings.
Enable Pre-bill Approval: This allows the firm to turn off pre-bill approval. If this is not checked then you will not be able to access the Pre-Bill Approval page and the pre-bills page will not be split into two tabs.
Enable Timekeepers to Approve Pre-bills With Their Time On It: This setting is used in conjunction with the permission "Has Timekeeper Approval on Pre-Bills With Their Time" See below for more details on how these work.
Enable Users to Edit Line Item Totals: Allows all users to edit the amount field directly on the pre-bill tab. When the amount is edited the billable hours are changed to equal "Amount" divided by "Rate" so that Rate x Hours will still equal amount.
The checked off permissions in the image above are the ones used by pre-bill approval.
- Has Timekeeper Approval on Pre-Bills With Their Time: This is used with the pre-bill approval setting "Enable Timekeepers to Approve Pre-bills With Their Time On It" See below for more details on how this works.
- Pre-Bill Approval Permissions: This permission on only used to group the permissions below and allow you to select them all by selecting this one.
- Edit Rates on Pre-bills: Users with this permission will be able to edit the rate field from the pre-bill approval tab. The user must still have permission to edit the time entry to be able to edit the rate.
- Final Approve Pre-bills without Timekeeper Approval: This permission is also used with "Enable Timekeepers to Approve Pre-bills With Their Time On It". See below for more details on this feature.
- View/Approve Pre-Bills for All Users: This permission allows the user to view the queue of another user. Having this permission makes the "User" dropdown visible on the pre-bill approval page. While viewing another person's queue you can make edits and approve the pre-bill. Both of these actions are limited by your security access, so even if the user whose queue you are viewing has permission to edit a time entry, if you do not then you cannot. Additionally, if you approve the pre-bill it will be your name in the approval history and not the person whose queue you are viewing.
- Post Unapproved Pre-Bills: Without this permission, you are not able to post a pre-bill that has not been final approved. With this permission, you can post a pre-bill that has not been final approved. you will get a warning message before the posting happens.
Timekeeper Approval on Pre-Bills With Their Time:
There is a special feature built into the pre-bill approval to allow specified users to allow be able to view, edit, and approve pre-bill that have one or more of their time entries on it even when they are not in the workflow chain for the pre-bill. This was built with the idea that it would be used by partners who may log a small amount of time on someone else's matter and want to be able to confirm and edit it themselves.
How it works
You have to have the setting "Enable Timekeepers to Approve Pre-bills With Their Time On It" turned on and you have to give the permission "Has Timekeeper Approval on Pre-Bills With Their Time" to everyone who will be reviewing their own time. once that is done then when you generate your bills. Users with the permission will have a copy of the pre-bill in their queue to view, edit, and approve. While it will continue to get edited as the users in the workflow edit it, the approvals will not removed it from this user, nor will the pre-bill's presence in their queue prevent the workflow from continuing until the final approval step. This allows the timekeeper to approve the bill at any time without holding up the review process. Approvals like this will always be named "Timekeeper Approval". While this setting is active a check will be run when the final approval is attempted. If there is a timekeeper who still needs to approved the pre-bill then the final approval will be stoped and an error telling you why will be displayed. If a user has the permission "Final Approve Pre-bills without Timekeeper Approval" then they will be given a warning instead and allowed to final approve the pre-bill.
We advise you to contract Centerbase to build the pre-bill approval workflow for you, this will generally be brought up by your sales rep when activating pre-bill approval for the first time. How ever for those who are good with our workflows you should know what was added so you build or edit you own workflows.
The only additions to workflows are two checkboxes for user actions on bills. "Approval Action" and "Final Approval" action. "Approval Action" is what marks the bill to appear on the pre-bill approval page. "Final Approval" is the approval action that moves the pre-bill from pending approval to approval on the pre-bill page. "Final Approval" is a type of approval action so you do not need to check both of them.
A node can only have a single approval action in it. but you can have multiple nodes with a Final Approval action. A pre-bill that has been final approved can still be viewed in pre-bill approval and can be approved again. If a user action is set to use a user lookup field that is blank the workflow will move to the next node skipping the approval.
Pro tip: Set an update command after every approval action to update the "Approved By" to the current user, "Approved On" to current date/time, and "Approval Status" to whatever status you are using.
Examples of things that can be built using the workflows:
- Sending the pre-bill to two paralegals and moving it allow if either of them approve it.
- Allowing the initial approver to set a custom order of approvers
- Allowing a review to send a bill to a custom user and have it returned afterward.
- Using filters to send bills down different workflows depending on (a) matter field(s)