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Why Timekeeping Software is Valuable for Fixed-Fee Law Firms

Dana Moran

Written by

Dana Moran


November 28, 2022

Timekeeping software

Traditional law firms that bill by the hour have an obvious need for timekeeping software. Billing and income for these firms are entirely reliant on accurate, comprehensive capture of time spent on client work, best captured by an automated time tracker.

On the other hand, firms that operate primarily on a fixed-fee basis might not seem to have the need to track time. But using timekeeping software to automatically track your time can provide your fixed-fee firm with incredible benefits. You’ll provide better services and grow your profits.

Provide evidence of work

Implementing timekeeping software creates a digital paper trail, allowing you to demonstrate your valuable casework to clients. However, attorneys and staff at fixed-fee firms are likely unaccustomed to manually tracking their time and will likely cause a fuss if asked to do so.

Smokeball’s billing software for attorneys features an automated time tracker, so your team’s time is captured while they work. You create an accurate record of all work in our legal practice management software, and in Microsoft Word and Outlook, without adding additional tasks to your team’s plate.

A clear, digital record of exactly who worked on what file, what they did, and when they did it is incontrovertible evidence in the face of a malpractice claim or a dissatisfied client. Your fixed-fee firm won’t need to rely on employee recollections or hasty manual records to show your work. This important documentation creates peace of mind, giving you confidence that your firm is protected.

Manage your staffing levels

Until you know how long projects actually take, it is impossible to gain a clear picture of how well your team handles its workload. Fixed-fee work, like straightforward personal bankruptcy, uncontested divorce and will drafting, usually involves standardized forms and processes. But that doesn’t mean every employee takes the same amount of time to complete the tasks or that every client’s file requires an identical amount of attention.

Automatic timekeeping software creates a data-driven record of how each staff member handles routine matters — information that’s especially important in an era of hybrid work. Over time, you can properly assign work and understand each staffer’s skills and sweet spots. Your firm will grow much more targeted and intentional about making assignments and understanding when it’s time to take on new clients, fueled by automated time tracker data.

Furthermore, productivity data is crucial information as you consider hiring new employees. Automatic timekeeping software helps you fully understand exactly how much work you have and how much time is needed per client or task. Your fixed-fee firm’s profitability hinges on having just the right staffing level to fulfill your needs.

Understand the profitability of each case

When you automatically track each employee’s time, that data is also linked to the related case. View your activity in Smokeball’s timekeeping software by client, project, or task, and you may find some surprising information.

For example, you might learn that your fixed fees are too low for the number of hours your team puts into each case. You could also discover that a fixed fee model hinders your profitability. Or it may provide reassurance that you are exactly on track for your profitability goals — or are ahead of the game. No matter the results, the data is priceless.

Armed with a clear understanding of your profitability, you can confidently manage fixed-free client expectations, allowing your firm to funnel clients according to their economic benefits.

How Smokeball tracks your firm’s time with an automated time tracker

Understanding your fixed-fee firm’s productivity and profitability requires a complete record of all activity. Smokeball’s automatic timekeeping software tracks individual work by employee (attorney and staff) across multiple platforms for every client and every project. Work done in Smokeball, Word and Outlook is automatically recorded, and data insights are systematically provided.

Yet Smokeball’s data is more than just a timesheet. Our Firm Insights Dashboards break down your automated time tracker’s data in the way that’s most valuable to your firm.

Firm Insights Dashboard Types

  • New Business Insights:
    • What it shows: Use this report to analyze firm trends. You can quickly understand what matters have been opened in the past week, month and year, broken down by matter type, referral source and responsible attorney.
    • Why it’s valuable: This report can help you understand where to spend money on advertising, marketing, hiring, and business development.
  • New Matter Insights and Lead Insights:
    • What it shows: Use these reports to analyze each lead source, including referrals and matters opened within various time frames, from your New Business Insights report.
    • Why it’s valuable: New Matter Insights + Lead Insights helps you understand which people or referral resources bring clients through your door.
  • Fee Insights:
    • What it shows: Use this report to understand your fees created over time, seeing them broken down by fee type, top clients and top matter types.
    • Why it’s valuable: Fee insights help you follow up with delinquent clients, adjust your fees and spot areas of growth.
  • Smokeball Activity Insights:
    • What it shows: Use this report to see whether your firm uses Smokeball to its full potential. Review the number of matters created, files stored, documents automated and other Smokeball actions in a week.
    • Why it’s valuable: Your usage report benchmarks your usage compared to similar firms. It’s also a great way to see whether you’re ready to activate a new area of automation, or if certain firm members could use more focused Smokeball training.
  • Hourly billing performance insights:
    • What it shows: Use this report to review your firm’s average daily billing performance. You can also break down this data by fee-earner.
    • Why it’s valuable: Understand what work you’re billing daily, and the number of lost billable hours. You can also see if a fee earner bills what seems like too many hours on a particular task. They may need some coaching and guidance.
  • Custom reporting:
    • What it shows: Whatever you like!
    • Why it’s valuable: While almost every report you need is readily available in Smokeball, you may have created or used custom reports in the past. If the required data already exists in Smokeball, our team can build you a custom report.

Insights from Time Tracking Software

With Firm Insights, you have the data-driven capacity to understand how new business is playing out; whether referral sources are profitable; how much time is actually spent per client, task, or project; and actual time spent on standard processes and tasks. You may discover hidden time costs for certain clients and jobs or that your best client or best employee isn’t who you assumed. This detailed data also allows you to avoid overworking your staff on matters that don’t pay off.

Harness the power of your fixed-fee firm’s data with Smokeball’s automatic timekeeping software. You’ll gain an edge over the competition and guide your firm confidently into the future.

Learn more about
the benefits of time tracking

Download our free infographic, “8 Benefits of Smokeball’s Automatic Lawyer Time-Tracking Software.”

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