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The dangers of lawyers not accurately tracking time

Noel Peel

Written by

Noel Peel


June 3, 2021

When shopping for goods and services on the internet we see lists of the “pros and cons” of just about everything, from requiring lawyers to report pro bono work, to selecting a music streaming service. At Smokeball we talk with our clients a lot about the benefits of cloud-based law firm management software, but not so much about the dangers of not tracking time in an efficient, consistent, and transparent manner. 

We often speak about the potential returns on investment (ROI) in new technology, the first point being the increase in billable hours associated with capturing all time by using an automatic time tracking software. We do not typically speak about “negative ROI,” but in the fast changing world in which we live, if you’re not moving forward you are losing ground. In essence, you are generating a negative ROI from your activities. 

Another way to think about it is to ask, “What is the cost of doing nothing?” After all, there are lots of good reasons for doing nothing:  

 “We’re too busy right now.” 

“We need more info.” 

“The person doing it left.” 

“The system we’re using is working (mostly).” 

Plus, doing something costs money, while doing nothing is free, right? In fact, doing nothing is far from cost-free. Here are a few of the ways that doing nothing can really cost your firm. 

Lost time is inevitable

Failure to keep time contemporaneously, usually required in sixminute increments using a hard copy system, leads to lost time. Waiting until the end of the day to record your time can lead to a 10% loss of time, while waiting just a day or two longer can cost you 25% or more. Smokeball’s automated time tracking system takes lost time out of the billing equation. You and the timekeeper will be able to see all time spent and then make a billing decision with all the facts in hand. No more wondering, “How much time do we really have in this?”  

Clients’ trust is put at risk

Legal work is expensive, there’s no two ways about it. Clients are invested in the work in many ways, not just via the monthly bill to be paid. If litigation, the matter has probably been brewing for months or years, disturbing sleep and serenity. If transactional, it is likely one of the most important matters the client is involved in. If family law, decisions and results will affect the client and others for a lifetime. Incorrect bills and missing or incomplete support for the bills rendered are one of the surest ways to erode client trust. Conversely, a well-organized and efficient office, characterized by modern methods and systems, builds trust and repeat business. 

Missed marketing opportunity

Search engine results can be enhanced by publicizing certain activities, especially pro bono work. Attorneys are encouraged to spend 50 hours per year on pro bono work, and also are often asked questions simple and complex by friends, family members, and organizations they may belong to. Failure to capture all those minutes and hours in a seamless manner robs you of an important marketing opportunity. 

Heightened compliance risk

Missed calendar dates, failure to follow up, and unidentified conflicts of interest are major causes of attorney discipline and disbarment proceedings. Failure to implement the type of robust and effective law firm management software that is widely available increases the risk of missed court dates and other avoidable missteps.     

Morale suffers

Timekeepers are the most important assets of a law firm. Employing a system that loses more time than it captures, causing the timekeepers to have to work longer hours to compensate for the losses, has the predictable effect of frustrating and potentially driving off your best people. 


A final negative associated with failure to implement a comprehensive, automatic time-tracking system is the lost peace of mind, i.e., worrying that you are not doing enough, doing it fast enough, that you are falling behind, etc. Contact Smokeball today for a free demonstration and get busy putting your mind at ease. 

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