If you’re not watching your money, you’re probably losing money. And in a post-COVID-19 world with more attorneys and clients working and interacting remotely, timekeeping is more critical now than ever before.
OK, so we all know the straightforward reason why good timekeeping is critical for a lawyer (or any professional) who bills by the hour: it’s how revenue is generated. However, there are additional benefits to instilling a good timekeeping culture that law firms can’t ignore.
When time is tracked accurately and properly, it reinforces ethical transparency in your billing that benefits both the firm and its clients. Clients are less likely to pick apart a detailed invoice and dispute how much time certain activities took, especially compared to a traditionally vague “block billing” approach. And with fewer hours slipping through the cracks, you’ll likely increase the amount that you bill — and ultimately collect.
But how can you instill a better timekeeping culture within your firm?
Of course, securing buy-in from attorneys and staff won’t happen overnight. It’s essential to frame the change as an opportunity to improve the practice and increase revenue, not a bureaucratic policy that will make their lives harder — because when you implement the right system properly, their lives will only get easier.
Here are a few tips to help your firm transition to a sound timekeeping practice:
Some accounting firms lock employees out of their system if their time isn’t logged by Monday mornings! As with most initiatives, forcing new protocol upon employees with little to no input or context is rarely successful. So how can you foster a culture of good timekeeping without becoming a billing overlord?
“When time is tracked accurately and properly, it reinforces ethical transparency in your billing that benefits both the firm and its clients.”
Promoting self-ownership of timekeeping, instead of a top-down dictatorial approach, is a significant piece of the puzzle. Particularly when it comes to nonbillable or “administrative” tasks like time tracking, busy lawyers will almost always take the path of least resistance. Therefore, you should make it as easy as possible for employees to track their time.
If you’re employing the right tools, timekeeping should be an easy part of the workflow, not a dreaded chore. A platform that can help you track time (and even prompt you on how to allocate it upon entering) removes a substantial administrative burden, especially compared to tracking on paper or in a spreadsheet and then adding up hours after the fact.
Ideally, your timekeeping system should also be used to streamline the prebill review and invoicing process. Housing both of these processes within one platform streamlines the front end and back end of the process, making billing as a whole more efficient, ethical and effective.
Accurate timekeeping is the lifeblood of any law firm, yet many aren’t following simple practices that would make it much easier and accurate. At a time when every scrap of incoming revenue is needed, cleaning up a firm’s approach to timekeeping can go a long way to improving the bottom line.