Let’s be honest. Tracking time and then generating invoices is the least fun part of being a lawyer or running a law firm.
You went to law school to practice law, that’s your passion. Yet without the essential task of tracking your time well, invoicing promptly and collecting money, there’s no way to keep your practice going!
Can your firm honestly say it’s collecting all the billable time possible? According to a recent Legal Trends Report by case management provider Clio, lawyers are not as productive as they think they are. Clio found that the number of billable hours worked and collected were dramatically lower than previous surveys based on self-reported data.
So how can your firm increase billable hours? Here are seven best practices to ensure that every hour possible is captured and billed accordingly.
1. Written Time Tracking Policy
Time is money for your firm. Breaking for a 90-minute lunch may be fine in your firm, but that’s a $350 expense that would probably need partner approval if you treated that time as money. The answer is for your firm to establish a written time policy. This policy should include the items we’ll cover below. The simple exercise of writing down a policy can change the mentality and culture of your firm.
2. Establish a Firewall Between the Invoicing and Time Entry Processes
Making sure all the billable time is entered should not happen at the end of each month when draft invoices are being created. Ideally, you want to eliminate the time between actually working on a billable item and when the time entry is made. Establish a policy where time entries are reviewed and confirmed each week. With this in mind, your billing admin person will not be scrambling from one lawyer to another at the end of the month when the billing lawyer questions if all the billable time is on a draft invoice.
3. All Time Entries Must be Completed Before End of Day
Many lawyers will wait until maybe Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. to calculate and enter their time for the week. This ends up being a game of fill in the blanks as they try to get to the 40-hour mark. By entering and checking their time at the end of each day, there’s no need for the end of the week guessing game.
4. Capture ALL the Time, Not Just Billable
This is one of those ways to really count time as money. If lawyers know where ALL the time has been spent, they can adjust and shift resources accordingly to maximize efficiency and use of time. Perhaps you are spending 7 hours a week on a task that could be or should be outsourced or handled by a non-billable employee.
5. Do A Review of Missing Time Once a Week
Have we mentioned it’s a good idea to separate time keeping from billing? Review every Monday the missing time from the previous week. Because there is very little time elapsed, it makes it easier to rectify missing time.
6. Close Out the Time Entries Every Week
This is a super powerful way to make sure time is entered the day of work completed. Your timekeeping software should allow you closeout each week so timekeepers don’t have the option to modify or create time entries from the week before.
7. Commission Incentive for Proper Time Keeping
Consider paying your timekeepers based on a commission of funds received (and NOT just how much was billed). When timekeepers know that their efforts to track time quickly and efficiently will affect their own paycheck, you’d be amazed how well they can become at this task!
It’s time to shift the thinking on how time is considered for your law firm. Implementing these seven suggestions will help you to capture more time and bill more efficiently, which in turn allows for more time to bill!
About the Author
Scott Clasen is the director of marketing at TimeSolv Corporation, a leading online billing and timekeeping solution for law firms of all sizes. Originally created in 1999 by Thomson Reuters Elite, TimeSolv helps thousands of lawyers each year bill more time and collect more money.