Law Firm Tips For Capturing (and Billing) More Time

//Law Firm Tips For Capturing (and Billing) More Time

Capturing and billing more time can take your law firm’s revenue from mediocre to outstanding. We’ve covered how to avoid bad law firm habits before, but when it comes to tracking time, so many law firms leave money on the table because partners, associates, and paralegals fail to record all the hours they’ve worked. Fifteen minutes here or thirty minutes there can add up to hundreds of hours over the course of a year (and thousands of dollars). Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to make sure that your law firm is capturing and billing more time.

Delegate Appropriately

As much as possible, lawyers should delegate non-billable work to support staff. It’s important that lawyers take the time to streamline what non-billable tasks they will delegate and which they must complete themselves. Seasoned attorneys may intuitively understand what non-billable work they can delegate but newer associates may struggle with feeling secure in having someone else handle a non-billable task. It’s important to set some standards at your law firm around how, when, and why work is delegated to support staff. And on the subject of delegating work, your most senior, experienced, and expensive lawyers should prioritize billable work and delegate low-priority and low-profit work to support staff or junior associates.

Plan Your Day

An organized day is a profitable day in the legal industry. Lawyers who know what they’re doing with the few hours they have during the workday are more likely to bill more. Lawyers should assess when they have the most energy and schedule their most important and most profitable work during that timeframe. Using a robust legal calendaring software, especially one that can be shared with everyone in the office will help lawyers understand their day within the context of everyone else’s schedule in the office. For example, if a law firm has three associates who can view each other’s calendars scheduling meetings and understanding what everyone is working on becomes a lot easier. Smokeball makes it easy to view associates’ calendars, schedule events, and assign tasks to individual lawyers.

Sync Calendars To Client Matters

Running across the room to a file drawer takes up time, so does searching your hard drive for client files. But technology tools like Smokeball legal practice management software automatically connects your calendar to your client matters. Have a meeting with a client? Smokeball integrates that appointment to the rest of the client matter so it’s easy to see what case it’s connected to and other pertinent information. This integration frees up time so that you have more hours for billable matters.

Record Every Minute

Long gone are the days of recording your time on slips of scrap paper and sticky notes, law firm management tools like Smokeball will automatically track every minute you spend on a matter. Truly automatic lawyer time tracking software will capture what an associate does in Smokeball, Word, and Outlook, so that you can see what they are working on and for how long. Smokeball will even generate a law firm profit analysis to tell you how profitable each attorney is at your law firm. Track your time spent on matters even when you’re away from the office by using Smokeball’s secure mobile app.

Task Completion Estimates

When you’re planning your workday, it’s important that you create a detailed list of what you plan to do and include a time estimate for how long it will take you to complete the task. Compare your estimates to how long it actually took you to complete the task. Once you have data on how long a task takes, stick to that time window so you can get more done.

Organize Your Tasks

We explored delegating tasks, but you should also organize your tasks according to priority. Tasks that are most profitable and that have an approaching deadline should have the highest priority. If something has to be put off until later, it should never be your high priority tasks. You can also create automated legal workflows so you’ll always stay on top of things. Always do high-priority tasks first.

Keep Three Lists

Every lawyer should have a running “to-do” list for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. This will give you a birds-eye-view of the work ahead of you and give you the ability to schedule your calendar far in advance. You might also want to include a quarterly and annual calendar that includes things that don’t happen but once or twice a year. For example, you will need to schedule your medical exams, vehicle maintenance, lawyer conferences, tax filings etc.

Stay Focused

The trick to capturing more billable time is avoiding distractions while you’re working on a task. Even if work related, checking your email, posting on Slack, and listening to your voicemail can eat up valuable minutes and hours. It’s better to do all of your emailing once a day along with other administrative tasks so that you can get more done during the workday and bill more hours.

Keep A Diary

If you’re unable to record certain tasks in your time-tracking app, those tasks should be recorded in a tasks diary that records tasks to complete and tasks that have already been completed. In this diary you should include the start and end time of the task. Transfer these hours to your time-tracking app as soon as you can, preferably by the end of the day.

Record All Hours

Even if you can’t bill for time spent on a task, you should still track that time. Knowing how much time you spend on non-billable tasks it critical data when it comes to managing your time and billing as many hours as possible.

Don’t Procrastinate

When you’re busy being a lawyer, time-tracking can feel like drudgery. Some lawyers put off recording their billable hours until the absolutely last minute. This type of procrastination can cost the law firm money. When you don’t record your billable hours immediately, there’s a higher likelihood that you will record the time worked inaccurately or that you will forget the details about what you did. This can inevitably cause billing disputes and lost revenue.

If you want to capture and bill more time, you will need to plan your day and internalize the habits that make you more productive and meticulous about time-tracking. Schedule a customized demo of Smokeball to see how you can capture (and bill) more time than ever before!

By |May 16th, 2019|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.

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