The Dark Side of Attorney Time and Billing Software: Knowing When to Unplug

Technology makes us more productive. Even since the invention of the wheel and the lever our civilization has been using technology to get more work out of people. Unfortunately technology can be a two-edged sword and it’s important to ensure that the flexibility of cloud-based time and billing software and other tools doesn’t burn people out.

Law Firms in the Old Days

It wasn’t that long ago that computers were huge machines used by universities and big corporations. Law firms didn’t use that technology. It was all about paper files and face to face contact. Most of the work was done in the office, since it wasn’t practical to let attorneys take sensitive case files home. When the day was done, work was over.

We look back now and shake our heads at how clumsy the system was. Clerks pored through rooms full of file cabinets to get case information. Attorneys lugged boxes of papers into court. Old files might be archived onto microfiche but even those files started to take up a lot of room after a while, and searching them was a nightmare. Files got misplaced, papers got damaged in floods and fires, and a host of other problems plagued the system.

New Technology, New Problems

Computers allowed attorneys to maintain records in little boxes on their desktops. Office networks allowed attorneys in a firm to share files with the click of a mouse. And cloud technology has put time and billing software for lawyers at the fingertips of any attorney from any location. Lawyers now have access to billing and case records from anywhere.

Unfortunately that has led to some attorneys putting in more hours than is good for them. Since work is always available, it’s easy to keep working after you get home. It’s impossible to get away from work. With a wealth of information at our fingertips, lawyers don’t even get a break as they drive over to the law library for research. Overwork is leading to burnout and high turnover in law firms.

What’s The Answer?

There is a growing movement in businesses, not just law firms, to move away from 24-hour access to information. Companies like Goldman Sachs are actually discouraging their employees from working weekends. Volkswagen deactivates worker email at the end of a shift. Some companies are moving away from internet research because the internet also brings distractions.

Just because legal billing and accounting software and other tools allow you or your attorneys to work from anywhere doesn’t mean you should. Sixteen-hour days don’t make anyone more productive. Instead they just lead to burnout, more mistakes and high turnover. Technology gives the option of flexible work schedules but we all have to know when to clock out.

Be smart about your attorney practice management software. Use it to manage your time more effectively. Put in smarter hours rather than more hours. Achieve a balance between work and personal time, and you will live a longer life and be a better attorney.

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