Maximize Your Billable Hours with These 10 Time Tracking Tips
If you had a dollar for every time a lawyer wanted more time in the day…well, you’d probably have enough to retire.
Time is always in short supply for law firms, especially for firms with limited resources. This means the ability to prioritize tasks and increase efficiency are the name of the game.
The good news is that if you’re looking to operate a lean law firm, there are a multitude of ways to maximize billable hours and get more out of your day. For many firms, this starts with time tracking and the small but impactful techniques firms can implement to generate compounding gains.
With timekeeping best practices, you can streamline multiple areas of your practice, from invoices to project management. Here are 10 time tracking tips to maximize your billable hours today!
1. Track as you go, not at the end of the day
If you track time when your work is done for the day, you’re probably losing time. The longer you wait, the less accurately you remember details.
Lawyers who wait until the end of the day to track their time can lose more than 10% of billable hours. Plus, you may not have detailed records of what you worked on and why—an essential component in client transparency.
For an easy fix, track your time as you go. For an even easier fix, though…
2. Track ALL your time with an automated tracker
You should absolutely track time as you go. But instead of using sticky notes that cover your monitor or a notebook that gets buried under piles of paperwork, use an automated time tracker.
With automated time trackers, legal professionals can track time quickly and easily, whether they’re in the office or at the courthouse. Automated time trackers can also sync with your billing software.
This automation makes client billing faster than ever, and it helps generate valuable time and expense reports so you can analyze how your team spends their time.
Here’s another tip: instead of just tracking your billable hours, track how you spend time throughout the day, including breaks and non-billable tasks.
The result is a clear picture of how much time you spend on each client or case type and how administrative tasks eat into your billable time. Use the data to identify areas where you can improve your team’s efficiency and productivity.
3. Be aware of what counts as a billable hour
In addition to the actual casework, there are client meetings, research, administrative tasks… If you aren't clear on what's billable, it's hard to maximize your billable time.
Consider the following:
- Does the task consist of legal work?
- Does it align with industry standards for billable work?
- Did the client request or consent to you performing the work?
- Can the task be allocated to a specific client?
- Is the task necessary to advance the client's interests?
4. Describe your time spent in detail
No one wants a client disputing their bill. This delays collections and eats into billable hours. When you track time as you go (Tip #1), make sure to detail a full description of your activities (just “research” isn’t going to cut it).
Clear descriptions of time spent inspire client trust and reduce the likelihood of disputes, helping you stay available for billable work.
5. Make sure everyone in your firm uses the same time tracking system
If you leave everyone to their own devices, they’ll all have a different method of time tracking. And come invoice time, you’ll all have a headache reconciling each person’s time records.
Save yourself the headache and streamline operations by creating an office-wide time-keeping standard. Draft a written policy, have an employee training session, and onboard new team members straight into that system.
With a standardized system, invoices can go out faster, and the billing process doesn’t take up as many non-billable admin hours.
6. Send invoices through an integrated billing and payment system
When your automated time tracker is integrated with your billing and payments system, there are significant opportunities to open up much more billable time for your law firm and get paid faster.
With legal billing software, firms can send invoices electronically for instant receipt, save time with batch billing, and enable online payments for clients for faster payment. This also leads to less time spent on awkward collections calls—a win for everyone involved.
7. Automate non-billable tasks where appropriate
Billing, invoicing, and time tracking aren’t the only non-billable tasks you can automate. The more tasks you can automate or streamline, the more time you get back in your day. Consider document automation options, eSignature solutions, and even AI to help generate client communications.
Just remember to adopt automations slowly.
Too much automation at once, without proper planning, rollout, or team buy-in, is a recipe for frustration for clients and team members. Implement one automation at a time, see how it works for your team, and move forward from there.
8. Use data analytics to identify and resolve issues
You can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s a problem.
Review your time tracking reports on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis to spot any issues and make informed, data-driven decisions so you can operate with increased productivity and profitability.
9. Make the most of your team structure
Take advantage of your team structure and delegate non-billable tasks to your administrative team (who are likely best at handling organizational matters).
If your reports indicate that associates or partners are performing too much non-billable work, consider allocating certain tasks to administrative assistants or paralegals who bill at lower rates. By opening up your higher-billing team members to more billable time, you’ll increase profit.
10. Give yourself enough time to get things done
For firms that use alternative fee structures, use your time-tracking data to build more accurate flat fees for clients.
Underestimating a project’s length or the amount of work required to close a case can lead to lost revenue. With the improved data from automated time tracking, you can build more accurate fees that improve profit and maximize your billable hours.
Take your time tracking to the next level
Rocket Matter’s automated time tracker and legal billing software feature the tools you need to maximize your billable hours and profitability.
Schedule a free demo to learn more!
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