When it comes to time tracking, does the mere thought of it make you wince? We know many attorneys who would strongly agree. By far, time tracking is the top complaint we hear from attorneys, across practice areas. Here are some tips to make sure you are using time tracking practices that work for you.
Figure Out What Works For you
Obviously, that's the first step. Do you find yourself at ease with time tracking? Are you confident you have it all under control? If you do, then this is the way you like to work. But remember to focus on how the whole process works, including downstream efforts like creating invoices. If you are someone who likes to write it down on the back of a folder and have the information entered in to the billing system, focus on those processes. If you are someone who likes to look at your calendar to complete billing, that works too. How does that information get to your billing system? You get the idea.
Remember, it's not only how you track your time, but how it ultimately gets reflected in invoices to your clients. For many law firms, manual or semi-automated processes drive up costs and don't maximize accuracy as much as technology can. Which leads us to...
Yes, we know you saw that coming a mile away. We are a technology company after all. But seriously, no matter which provider you select, you will quickly see the benefits. There are some things that technology just really streamlines. And this is definitely at the top of the list.
At the click of a button, technology captures your time to the precise second. It's fair and accurate billing that values your expertise and time. Relying on rough estimates or written time entries on the back of a folder just isn't as accurate. Look for a tool that also lets you enter the description of the time, too. Even better if it's responsive or automated time tracking.
- Responsive Time Tracking: This is literally a stopwatch. Click start when you being your work. When you are done with that task, click stop. Enter the description of what was completed. Done. Down to the precise second. This is a great option to track your time in real-time, rather than having to recall at the end of the day what exactly you did...
- Automated Time Tracking: This is more of a shadow... when you move from one matter to the next and maybe back again in the same day, all of those time entries are tracked. Then, when you log out, the description of the work is entered. Seriously, you don't even have to click a button! With the option to mark time billable or un-billable, every second of your day is tracked.
- Manual Time Tracking: Like its non-tech instance, this is a simple entry directly to the system to enter time spent and the description, including billable or un-billable time.
There are several options for tracking time. Do a quick Google search. Check out listings on blog sites like Lawyerist or Attorney at Work. Check with your Bar Association to see if they offer any discounts, too. If you do just one thing, check out your options. And check the price. Some individual solutions that solely address time tracking may be more expensive than subscribing to a full case management software platform.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Like all new habits, they need to be reinforced. It can be tough. It's so easy to slide back in to those old habits. But remember there is a reason you decided to improve your time tracking. Whether the reason was to eliminate redundant processes, like writing it down and having a legal secretary enter the information in order to create invoices, or you want to improve your accuracy. Remember the problem you are trying to eliminate. And then stay with it.
It may help to see how much time was tracked using your existing methodology and compare that to the new approach. We bet you will see that your time tracking has become more accurate. With attorneys earning income from a scant 21% of their working hours per the ABA, it's critical to gain accuracy. And the only way you can do that is to use technology.
Next Steps, If You Dare
If you have adapted a technology-based time tracking tool, use it to the max. Track all of your time. Yup. All of it. At lunch? Grabbing a coffee? Track it all. Information is power. Once you track your time for at least a couple of weeks, take a look at it. How much time is spent on un-billable efforts? Can those be minimized? Attorneys who have done this tell us they are surprised at just how much time is spent on un-billable efforts, including managing the business-side of the law firm, including creating invoices, following-up for payment, and the like. It's time to streamline.
Time tracking is literally the cornerstone of your law practice. It's how the firm and the livelihood of your team is maintained. With a little focus, you can find yourself with more time to spend on practicing law, less time managing the firm. And that means helping more clients through their legal issues, a growing and healthy law practice, and just maybe, more time for you personal life. No need to track that time though...