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.
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.
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.
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!