To jump to the punchline, there is a way forward to help fee earners bill more, and we uncovered it. Smokeball enables law firms to bill on average two hours more per day without charging their clients more, equating to additional billings of $137,000 per fee earner per year.
How can this be possible without billing clients more? It is through the combination of two powerful tools. First, the unique automatic time and activity tracking built into Smokeball (we call this AutoTime); and second, through our best in market productivity tools that allow law firms to power through their work, and cutting out hours spent on unbillable administrative work.
Accurately track the work you do
Smokeball has long been lauded by our clients for our productivity features. Our investment in beautiful integrations to Microsoft Word and Outlook, advanced document automation and pre-automated forms, our advanced file management and time saving task, workflow, and event management features allows our clients to get more than 30% more work done in the same number of working hours.
Smokeball’s hybrid cloud platform allows you to have all the benefits of a cloud application (no server, work from anywhere, security, back-ups and peace of mind) while still a rich interactivity with your desktop, MS Word and Outlook: all the work tools small law firms use to get work done every day.
As a result of these rich integrations and years of engineering refinement, Smokeball is today able to track all activity performed on a case, timing it to the second. Every time an email is drafted and sent, or received and reviewed, we track it and associate it with the case. Every document that is created or reviewed, we track it and associate it with the case. Every task, event, message and even data entry is tracked for every user, on every case, every day – without timers, timesheets or any human interaction. This data is the key to all firms increasing their billings.
For time-based cases, your time sheet is created for you as you work. No longer do fee earners have to remember every activity and write it down, or enter it as they go, or review their work at the end of the day, week, or even month to try to create a time sheet for billing. Our clients need only spend a small fraction of their time reviewing the time entries created for them and making small adjustments where necessary so it is ready for billing. For email and document review, this means no more missing out on a myriad of short interactions. AutoTime captures all of these interactions, adds them up and bills in one clean time entry per day.
The combination of AutoTime with Smokeball’s productivity features means that time-based fee earners are easily capturing more than 4 hours a day, for work that has been performed in the most productive way – the software has done the administrative heavy lifting! This means the firm bills more, but clients don’t pay more.
For fixed fee or contingency matters, getting the work done faster and more efficiently means decreasing the time it takes to do the work. This means you’re spending less time at the same hourly rate, therefore increasing the average hours billed per day.
Further to this, with Smokeball fixed fee firms have the benefit of looking at their cases at an individual, practice area or staff level to know if they are profitable or not. Knowing how much time has been spent on a matter, and how much is billed, allows firms to adjust pricing, resourcing, or productivity to ensure they are building a profitable and successful law firm.
We see clients moving some practice areas from time-billed to fixed fee with confidence, as they now know the cost base for this work. In other cases, we see firms change from a pure fixed-fee billing paradigm to a blended billing system where cases that blow out shift to time-billed at a predetermined time.
From a resourcing perspective, our clients see opportunities to potentially use more cost-effective staff members to do more of the day-to-day work on their fixed fee work, using their most experienced fee earners’ time more deliberately in their cases.