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Guest Post: Survey Says . . . Law Firm Timekeeping is the Pits

We’re pleased this week to have received the guest blog post that will follow from Brett Owens, CEO and co-founder of Chrometa, a time-tracking solution used, in the main, by attorneys. (If Chrometa sounds familiar to you, it’s because I reviewed the product for the ABA’s GP|Solo magazine; you may find my review linked from here.) Brett, a Cornell man, much like our own Rodney Dowell, set to creating Chrometa following his tiring of hearing time tracking complaints emanating from an attorney friend. Brett below covers two surveys related to the difficulties attendant upon attorney time tracking, and features two products capable of easing the burden. (I’ll let you guess what one of those products is.)

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Hate tracking your billable time? You’re not alone.

Legal consulting firm Adam Smith, Esq., recently conducted an extensive survey of the timekeeping habits of attorneys, including querying them as to their general sentiments toward the infamous billable hour.

Results showed that there is, apparently, no love lost for the billable hour method of timekeeping. Such disenchantment with the system, and frustrations in seeking, and not finding, effective ways to capture time, however, mean that money slips away from firms, through the inefficiencies brought about by ad hoc time capture measures executed by their, largely unsuccessful, would-be time captors.

The Adam Smith survey responses returned as follows:

-Surprisingly (or, rather, not suprisingly), lawyers hate timekeeping: “The bane of my existence” and “The worst part of law firm life” being representative comments.

-The average leakage (that is, the failure of lawyers and other timekeepers to report all billable time), ranges from $20,000 to nearly $40,000 annually, per individual.

-The overhead costs of keeping time are very heavy, represented by a mean 3.1 hours/individual/month devoted to filling out timesheets. The mean billing rate of respondents was $438 per hour, indicating an imputed cost of $16,294/person/year.

If you want more, you can review the entirety of the survey results here.

But, we’re not done with surveys quite yet. Last year, Chrometa conducted its own survey, querying over 500 solo and small firm attorneys on their timekeeping habits. Similar to their large firm counterparts, as represented by the Adam Smith study, the solo attorneys and small firm managers responding to Chrometa’s survey indicated that they, too, dreaded the time capture process, and that they, too, were losing out on money, in attempting to capture the service time that they had rendered to clients.

The highlights of our survey were as follows:

-Respondents estimated that, on average, they only accounted for 67% of their legitimate billable time.

-Respondents indicated that, each week, they spent over 2 hours simply reconciling their time.

-The most common timekeeping methods ascribed were simple, handwritten notes and/or spreadsheets.

You may review the complete results of our survey here, at my “Maximize Your Billable Time” blog.

If I may summarize the combined results of these surveys, I think that they indicate that: traditional timekeeping sucks. This, of course, begs the question: What can be done to improve the process?

There are electronic timekeeping methods available to the modern practitioner. Obviously, Chrometa is one; and, you may visit our website for further details on our product offering, as well as taking a look at Jared’s review of our product. Smart Time, sponsor of the Adam Smith survey, offers an excellent time capture system for medium- to large-sized law firms. If you can relate to some of the survey responses reviewed above, then perhaps it’s time for you to check out an electronic/web time capture system, so that you may escape from the timekeeping nightmare otherwise faced by so many of your peers.