Time Tracking Tips for Busy Attorneys
Billable hours are at the heart of any successful law firm, but far too many attorneys still treat tracking and billing for those hours as an afterthought. Keeping track of your time doesn’t need to be difficult. With the right approach and software tools, attorneys can spend less time tracking their hours while increasing the accuracy of their time tracking.
Why accurate time tracking is key
Many attorneys still jot down their hours by hand at the end of the day (or end of the week). This may seem like the least intrusive way to track hours, but it also comes with significant downsides.
Attorneys who track their hours by hand are much more likely to lose track of billable time, especially if they’re relying on memory to make time entries. In fact, attorneys who wait until the end of the day to record their hours lose around 10% of their billable time. Attorneys who wait till the end of the week tend to lose even more. Over the course of a whole month or year, that can add up to a lot of lost revenue.
Tracking hours by hand or making time entries inconsistently makes accurate invoicing more difficult. When it comes time for your firm to send its invoices for the month, you’ll have to track down your handwritten time entries and manually enter them into your invoices. And if those entries get lost? You may be forced to write off billable time.
Accurate time tracking facilitates better reporting and allows your firm to gain valuable insights into its productivity and profitability. Without accurate records of how many hours your attorneys are spending on billable vs. non-billable work, it’s hard to get a sense of how efficient your firm’s processes are. Comprehensive time tracking is also key to setting profitable rates, especially if your firm is offering alternative fee arrangements, like flat-fee billing. If you aren’t tracking the number of hours a particular matter type takes to complete, you’ll have no way to set profitable fees and ensure that these matters stay on budget.
Five tips for better law firm time tracking
Overhauling your firm’s approach to time tracking can seem like a challenge. If you want to improve timekeeping practices at your firm, break the process down into actionable steps. These time tracking tips and best practices help attorneys track their time more quickly and accurately without turning time tracking into a daily hassle.
1. Invest in a law firm time tracking software
The best step you can take toward better time tracking is to implement digital time tracking tools. Whereas pen and paper time entries are easily lost and must be manually entered into invoices later, the right time tracking software can allow your attorneys to seamlessly track time as they work using timers.
A good legal practice management software allows you to start and stop timers or create time entries from anywhere in the software, or even track time directly from your email and document software tools. This way, attorneys can always track time seamlessly as they work, without dropping what they’re doing to make a new time entry.
These time entries can also be attached directly to matters so you can use them to populate invoices and ensure accuracy. Attorneys will save valuable time during invoice creation, eliminate the chance of data entry errors on invoices, and make it much easier to keep accurate, comprehensive timekeeping records as they work.
2. Block out your tasks ahead of time
Creating a prioritized to-do list of each day’s tasks can help you track time more accurately and with less hassle. If you start each day by laying out the projects and tasks you plan to work on, you can even create a separate time entry for each before you get started. That way, as you move between tasks, you can simply switch timers and seamlessly track your time without losing minutes in-between.
3. Make time entries immediately
It’s tempting to power through the day and worry about time tracking later, but trying to keep your hours straight in your head leads to lost billable time. It’s important to enter time as soon as possible.
Make it a practice to start a timer immediately as soon as you start a new task (or get into the habit of making your time entries as soon as you finish a task).
4. Keep time entry descriptions short but specific
One advantage of careful time tracking is that it makes it easier to explain the charges on your clients’ invoices—but that’s only possible if you’ve kept track of those details!
While there’s no need to go into exhaustive detail every time you start a new entry, make sure that you at least include a brief description of the task at hand before you start tracking your time.
5. Don’t forget to take advantage of reporting
Another benefit of digitally tracking your hours? It makes it easy to run detailed reports and assess your productivity. Ideally, you should be running regular reports at least once a month to take stock of how your firm’s hours are being spent.
Perhaps one of your attorneys is spending too much time on non-billable work or certain administrative tasks are taking up way too much of everyone’s day. If you spot this issue sooner rather than later, you can resolve workflow bottlenecks faster and reassign tasks where necessary.
Ready to take the tedium out of accurate timekeeping? Rocket Matter can help.
Rocket Matter’s legal practice management platform comes complete with a whole suite of legal time tracking tools. Our cloud-based solution allows your attorneys to seamlessly track their time from anywhere in the software. Time entries can be made from nearly any device, so busy attorneys can accurately track their time on the go.
To see how Rocket Matter can help you streamline your law firm time, sign up for a demo today.