How Lawyers Can Track Time More Effectively
Time is running out for law firms. Not only is the accurate tracking of lawyers’ time essential for record keeping and tracking billable hours, but wasting time on manual tasks and following archaic processes distracts from what is important: practice law and grow your practice.
Many attorneys choose to track time the old-fashioned way: by manually recording their time in journals and calendars.
But this introduces the possibility of inaccurate timekeeping, missed billable hours and, especially if your business is large or growing, inconsistent record-keeping habits among your staff. As a result, you lose time, money and even customers.
What is legal time tracking?
Legal time tracking is when a lawyer records the time they spend working for a client, whether in the office, in a courtroom, or on the go. The American Bar Association (ABA) sets guidelines for tracking legal time. Beginners, in particular, should:
Use time tracking tools to ensure accuracy and organization. You can register your hours via your phone, computer or tablet.
Bill4Time helps you comply with ABA and state guidelines.
What do lawyers use to track their time?
Legal time tracking has evolved over the past few years. Even still, lawyers stick to “old reliable” and continue the traditional method of time tracking. They will hand-write their billable hours and manually log their tasks on notebooks, spreadsheets and sticky notes. When lawyers use this method, they typically track their time using 10 or 15 minute increments when entering their time at the end of the billing period – and those are big chunks of time.
Increment billable hours
However, when setting up your time tracking system, determine the time increments in which you will bill your clients. Consider setting up a billing table template. This will help you calculate how many hours you can bill in time increments.
The standard method for lawyers is to bill every 1/10th of an hour or every six minutes. Shorter than that can be tedious and time-consuming when trying to track them manually. Any further increments risk overloading and filling. The six-minute increases aim to combat both of these risks.
Automated time tracking
The busier you are, the harder it is to stay organized and stay on top of your journaling, even when you have a billing board. In this case, you can try automated time tracking. This technology allows you to record your hours immediately and track the time you spent in meetings, making phone calls, writing and emailing, and going from website to website, among other tasks.
At the end of the day, you can easily understand what you did and how much time you spent on each client. This will give your admin team less headaches when submitting your hours and sending client invoices.
What is Time Tracking Software?
Time tracking software is a simple and effective way to accurately record your working time for your clients. Bad timing is responsible for over 30% of lost billable time, and our legal time tracking software is the solution. All you have to do is start a stopwatch on your computer, phone, or tablet and enter the time you’ve spent on a task.
You might be thinking, “Well, yes, but why do I need software to do this when I can do it myself?”
You would be interested to know that this is just one of the benefits of having legal time tracking software, as it also offers:
Flexible time tracking: This functionality covers recording billable and non-billable time, segregating non-customer internal time duties, and tracking staff, consultants, and other colleagues.
Control the time spent with customers: With legal time billing software, you can check your weekly summaries to assess the financial status and productivity of your business.
These features can make every billable hour count so you can bill your clients and get paid fairly.
Best Legal Time Tracking Software for Lawyers
There are a plethora of legal time tracking apps out there, so it can be difficult to choose the best one for your needs. Ask yourself which features would be most important to you.
While researching, check to see if time and billing software offers:
Convenience: Hours, tasks, phone calls, meetings, upcoming events, and any documents you can think of. Do you have to be in the office at your computer to record this information, or can you do it anywhere?
Precision: Accuracy should be one of your company’s highest values, and the software you choose should take this into account. Does the software help your business reduce non-billable hours? Does it allow you to go back and make a correction if you haven’t stopped your timer or need to update a customer profile? If the answer is no, you might want to keep looking for technology that leaves room for human error.
A legal software application is not limited to simple timekeeping, so check out the other features offered by the software that allow you to control all aspects. This includes case, task and documentation management, fiduciary accounting, customization of invoice templates and system integration.
Common Mistakes Lawyers Make With Time Tracking
No matter how convenient spreadsheets and manual time tracking seem, they leave room for inaccuracy. If the inaccuracy gets to customers, your reputation as a brand takes a hit.
But what aspects of manual tracking can get you in trouble? Good:
If you argue with a client, you will have a hard time proving your process and time spent working. Legal invoicing software saves you from these stressful conflicts.
Another mistake lawyers make is waiting until the end of the day to log their hours. At that point, you might not even remember what you ate for breakfast. How would you remember how much time you spent working on a client case and what you covered? Make a habit of recording this information right away, so you don’t make mistakes when sending your invoices to your customers.
Having a legal time tracking app can save you time (and panic) when you need to bill your client. This way you can easily see what tasks you have done and for how long when you invoice your client. In the event of a dispute, you will have the proof of your work to support your claim directly in your pocket.
Implications of Poor Lawyer Time Tracking
If you mistrack your time, the consequences can go beyond a little back and forth with your client. They might accuse you of padding, which means you’ve overestimated how much you’ve worked for them and are overcharging them accordingly. If you and your client don’t resolve this dispute, they could sue you for malpractice, which could destroy your business.
On the other hand, poor time tracking can lead to lost revenue (or unintended loss of profit for your business). So all that time you thought you spent being productive ends up being wasted.
If revenue losses go unnoticed long enough, you may not have the funds to sustain your business, leading to bankruptcy or even bankruptcy.
Tips for improving time tracking
To stay on top of time tracking, implement a time tracking policy and use your resources. Consider working with:
Timesheets : We know it’s tough, but ditch Excel and your handwriting journals and go for a timesheet. Create a template that allows you to document your start and finish times on certain tasks. After a while, you may notice a pattern in your schedule, so you can expect a reasonable game plan every day and adjust accordingly. Review it from time to time to check your progress.
Calendars: Having a big calendar in your desk or on your phone helps you know what to expect in the coming months. A calendar can make it easier to prepare your timesheet and designate certain times to log your hours. Bill4Time offers seamless integration with Google Calendar allowing you to make updates to either calendar which is automatically synced.
Timers: Timers are a lifesaver for lawyers for obvious reasons, but they also help differentiate between billable and non-billable hours, ensuring the integrity and accuracy of your practice.
The key to lawyer time tracking is to make it simple. Tracking your time should be something that happens seamlessly throughout your day, no matter how many cases you’re working on.
This article was written by Nina Lee.
©2006-2022, BILL4TIME. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 229