Guide to time tracking best practices for lawyers
Law firms don’t make revenue unless they invoice for the work they do, and they can’t invoice accurately unless they track their time. So how did inefficient, costly time-tracking practices get ingrained in so many legal practices?
A few benefits of optimizing your time-tracking processes include:
- Reduced non-billable time—and increased billable hours
- Improved operational efficiencies
- Better billing rates
But another way to look at time tracking is this: you have to do it, so why not do it well? Follow these time tracking best practices to make the most of your energy.
Prioritize Tasks Based on the Matter
The average to-do list is made up of dozens of items, all for different matters. It may be tempting for many attorneys to jump from matter to matter to snag all the low-hanging fruit—but task switching can drain your energy and productivity.
Task switching, or context switching, is the practice of mentally shifting between unrelated items throughout the work day. Research shows that it takes around 9.5 minutes to refocus on a task after task switching. While task switching is inevitable during the day to some degree, trying to group similar tasks can help save you time throughout the day and increase your firm’s revenue.
Automate Time Tracking
From invoicing to marketing to scheduling meetings, automation tools help lawyers reduce time spent on dozens of repetitive tasks. Why not use automation to simplify the time tracking process, too?
Software-based time tracking tools allow attorneys to track time on every project with the click of a button. No more jotting down time estimates on sticky notes or wasting time drafting detailed descriptions of work completed. Today’s time tracking tools allow you to label each entry, simplifying the time tracking process. Additionally, these tools integrate with your calendar, so items like meetings or calls are automatically added to the time sheet.
Legal-specific time trackers are particularly helpful for busy law firms. Legal time tracking software that integrates with billing or accounting can help firms ease the monthly billing burden by automatically populating invoices each month. Most importantly, legal-specific trackers ensure compliance with legal billing standards by deactivating multiple timers and attaching all time entries to the relevant matter.
Track Time in Real Time
In the middle of a hectic work day, setting aside a few moments to track time may feel like a burden. But according to the American Bar Association, waiting to track time is more costly. Even logging time at the end of the day can cost you 10% of your billable time in time tracking errors.
Most attorneys bill by the tenth of an hour, which means you’re recording time in 6-minute increments. This requires precise billing that’s virtually impossible to record correctly by memory. Without a painstaking manual time tracking method—whether with a timer or a pen and paper—you’re likely to underestimate or overestimate the time spent on tasks. That means either you’re not getting paid for work you completed or you’re going to overbill clients, which is an ethical violation.
The simplest, most profitable, and most compliant option? Track your time worked while you’re working. Start a timer each time you begin working on a task, and click to stop time once the task is complete—it’s truly that easy.
Use a Cloud-Based Time Tracking Platform
Some legal billing software is only available to be downloaded on a server, which means you must be in the office to use it.
As all attorneys know, though, a lot of billable work happens outside of the office. From lunch meetings to late-night phone calls to midday court appearances, attorneys need the ability to track time from wherever they’re working.
Enter cloud-based software. Cloud-based time tracking is available online, which means you can access it from your phone, laptop, or desktop. Easily accessible software ensures that you’ll get paid for the work you do, even when you’re working on the go.
Use Analytics To Review Your Performance
Software-based time tracking provides you with a wealth of information at your fingertips. For instance, you can easily analyze which activities took you the most time or how many hours you spent on a fixed-fee contract over time. These analytics can help your firm to identify areas of inefficiency, accurately bill for fixed-fee contracts, and analyze individual employee performance like never before.
With these insights, you might provide additional training on certain firm practices, rework your pricing model, or promote a particular employee. The possibilities are truly endless.
But while a plethora of data is available, many firms don’t take the time to review their performance and make changes. After implementing a software-based time tracking tool across your firm, run monthly or quarterly reports to glean valuable insights into your firm’s practice management.
It’s Time To Make the Change—Switch To CosmoLex’s Practice Management Software
CosmoLex’s practice management software does more than ease your time tracking woes—it also simplifies the billing, payment, and accounting processes, so your minutes spent tracking time can work for you instead of against you.
CosmoLex’s time tracking feature is packed with bonus tools to help prevent leakage and increase revenue, like Money Finder, our foolproof way to double check unbilled events, and contextual billing, our automatic categorization tool that ensures all billable items are properly labeled.
When you’re ready to stop wasting time on inefficient time tracking practices, partner with CosmoLex for a fully integrated practice management solution packed with features that benefit your firm. Try it for free or schedule a demo to see for yourself how CosmoLex can improve your firm.
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