Of all the things everyone has to work with, time is the most precious commodity. Particularly for lawyers who bill by the hour, timekeeping activities could be seen as meticulous, yet necessary goals for the firm.
Accurately capturing the quantity of billable time is directly affected by the amount of time spent working. Otherwise, billable time goals are not attainable. This has led many law firms to look for the best timekeeping software for lawyers.
Motivated by a high capture rate for outside interests, more time spent with quality billable time leaves lawyers with time for loved ones and even days of relaxation. Describing the quality of work in the billable category allows the firm to craft a bill that clients will promptly pay in full.
Before fully appreciating the value that timekeeping software brings to law firms, it is good to understand the reasons for focusing on the quality and quantity of time spent on client work.
Reasons to Track Time
The key is to track all time that is associated with clients. This includes time that is not billable. Some people think it is just about tracking billable time on an hourly basis while skipping contingency based time.
The reasons below explain why lawyers should consider including all time, whether it is billable or not.
- Discretionary time may hide important time that is billable. Lawyers should not complicate the process. Keep it simple and track all time that is spent each day.
- Time flies when lawyers are working on a client’s file. By the end of an 11 hour day, it may appear that the lawyer only worked five hours if every minute is not in the pool of hours worked. While the gap could be non-billable time, tracking everything eliminates wasted productivity trying to differentiate between the two.
- Non-billable time adds up. Typically, a lawyer’s day could be divided in several categories such as marketing, administration CLE, community related activities and Bar Association activities. Knowing how much time is spent on each category is essential to accurate billing.
- Tracking CLE is a good thing. Keeping track of how many hours were spent on CLE helps lawyers know how many more hours they need to maintain their certification status.
- When all time spent on client work is tracked, lawyers can set realistic billable hour goals. Typically, for every billable hour logged into a timekeeping system, approximately 20-30 minutes are spent on non-billable activities. Realistically, this mean a lawyer at a small firm will need to work 13-15 hours each day to achieve 10 billable hours per day.
Features in the Best Timekeeping Software for Lawyers
There are plenty of methods to tracking billable hours for each client at a law firm. Some firms still rely on antiquated manual tracking. Although this may seem simple, the additional work for a legal secretary to process the time, forwarding it to the accounting department and so on, really does not save much time.
Typically, firms are comfortable with continuing a process even if they do not get the most out of it. Since so many things are handled with electronic systems, it behooves law firms – small, medium and large – to switch to a more efficient process.
While it may require some research to find the best timekeeping software for lawyers, it is time well spent. The following features are things to look for in a software that not only promotes efficiency, but will also improve productivity and increase the amount of time that is actually billable, which in turn improves the bottom line.
Some programs create reports for individual lawyers in addition to tracking billable time. Sophisticated systems allow lawyers to time each task to record hourly, transactional or contingent, just to name a few categorized fields.
The best time tracking system can also generate client invoices. There is also immediate access to balances to know which clients are paying on time.
Integration with Other Programs
Many time and billing programs for law firms are compatible with other business applications. This streamlines basic processes to keep everyone on the same page.
Regardless of the firm size or legal specialty time and billing management are part of the foundation for all practicing lawyers. To take the guesswork out of what to bill investing in a software solution that helps to automate the process will help legal professionals become more productive.