As a CEO of a time-tracking software company, I am constantly analyzing the relevance and significance of our product in various businesses and for different professionals. And today’s article is dedicated to one such group of professionals that I truly respect and admire, lawyers. My association with lawyers goes way back to my days as a Vice President at Morgan Stanley, where I worked closely with lawyers. In the fast-paced world of law, where billable hours and client satisfaction reign supreme, accurate timekeeping is critical. Better timekeeping can streamline your billing process, enhance efficiency, maximize revenue, and boost your reputation. If you are an lawyer striving for impeccable time management without bending the law, read on as I delve into the 10 best time tracking practices for lawyers based on my experiences, research, and conversations with lawyers.
Benefits of Time Tracking for Lawyers
Do you know that a Bloomberg Law survey found a decline in lawyer well-being with 52% of lawyers experiencing burnout at work? Inefficient time management practices can worsen these challenges, potentially leading to burnout.
Honestly, tracking time benefits all professionals and businesses through improved productivity. But from experience, I know lawyers always need an answer (pun intended!), so here’s why you, as an lawyer, should track time:
- For transparent and accurate communication. Tracking time accurately and billing clients for the time spent on their cases promotes fairness and transparency in client relationships.
- For fair compensation. Timekeeping allows you to quantify and justify the hours spent on each task, ensuring appropriate payment for your services.
- For legal ethics and compliance. Timekeeping is an ethical obligation for lawyers, who must ensure compliance with professional standards laid by bar associations and legal regulatory bodies.
- For effective project management. Time scheduling helps manage your workload and deadlines more efficiently by prioritizing tasks, tracking progress, and ensuring the timely delivery of services to clients.
- For valuable insights. By thoroughly analyzing the timekeeping data, lawyers can gain insights into the profitability of different types of cases, practice areas, or clients.
- For resource planning. Tracking time data and analyzing the average time it takes to complete different tasks helps you better plan for future resources and allocate budgets accordingly.
With good timekeeping, you can make informed decisions about resource allocation, pricing strategies, and business development efforts.
10 Best Practices in Time Tracking for Lawyers
Now that you understand WHY, let’s look at the HOW. Let’s face it, not all of us are blessed with an elephant’s memory to remember how much time we spent on each matter, especially when you look at multiple cases for various clients on a typical workday. But even a few incorrect entries could ultimately lead to huge losses.
Don’t take my word for it! The 2020 Legal Trends report found that only 30% of an lawyer’s workday is spent on billable work, which means most of their time is spent on non-billable activities. Following a few good timekeeping practices can help lawyers address this decline in lawyer productivity.
So here, we bring you some best practices in time tracking for lawyers which can help overcome this challenge:
- Capture time simultaneously. Record your time entries as soon as you complete the work as much as possible. Contemporaneous Time Entry will reduce the chances of forgetting or misrepresenting billable activities. Technological advancements make it much easier for lawyers to record time entries. For instance, you can now access your time and billing application on your smartphone and enter time directly. For non-tech-savvy lawyers, one way out is to share your time details with your legal assistant, who can add them to the system. Whichever method you choose, the key is to set a time entry protocol to ensure the time is captured contemporaneously. You will quickly notice your billable hours increase along with your potential billings.
- Be detailed and specific. Provide sufficient details about the tasks performed (nature of the work, client or matter involved, time spent on each task, etc.) to justify the billed hours and build trust with clients.
- Use standardized codes or abbreviations. Develop a consistent system of unique codes or abbreviations to categorize various tasks, such as research, drafting, client meetings, court appearances, etc. This system enables easy identification and analysis of time entries.
- Track non-billable activities. It’s necessary to differentiate between billable and non-billable hours. So non-billable activities, such as administrative tasks, internal meetings, or professional development, should also be recorded separately to gain insights into overall work allocation.
- Utilize time-tracking software. Time-tracking software is a handy tool for accurate timekeeping. Most time management systems (Jibble’s time tracker included!) have an intuitive interface. They also offer various features like timers, reminders, calendar integrations, mobile accessibility, automated invoice generation, and real-time reports. These systems simplify the timekeeping process and help lawyers record, organize and manage their working time.
- Set realistic time budgets. Estimate the time required for various tasks or projects based on your experience. This helps in managing client expectations and tracking your own productivity. Regularly compare actual time spent with the estimated time to refine your future estimates.
- Review and edit time entries regularly. Set aside time at the end of each day or week to review and edit your time entries. This ensures accuracy, consistency, and completeness in recording billable hours.
- Communicate proactively with clients. Keep your clients informed about the progress of their matters and the time spent on their cases. Timely communication about billable activities helps establish trust and transparency.
- Educate and train staff. If you have support staff or associates working with you, provide proper training on best practices in timekeeping. Establish guidelines and standards to ensure consistent and accurate time entries.
- Regularly examine timekeeping data. Interpreting time data can provide valuable insights into your work patterns, identify areas of improvement, and help you in better decision-making.
In conclusion, accurate and transparent time tracking is an essential part of a lawyer’s professional life, helpful for billing and growing your professional standing. It’s time you ditch your old ways of tracking time, like call logs, calendars, and Excel sheets, and try these best practices in timekeeping to make your time work for you. If you achieve even one of these benefits – streamlined timekeeping to improve your collections, enhanced productivity, increased client satisfaction, or optimized profitability – isn’t it worth a shot?