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Top Five Ways to Increase Your Billable Time (Without Working Longer Hours) by Seth Rowland Chrometa,
Top Five Ways to Increase
Your Billable Time
(Without Working Longer Hours)
by Seth Rowland
Chrometa, LLC
1029 H St.
Suite 103
Sacramento, CA 95814
(888) 340-6425
adam@chrometa.com
www.chrometa.com
Top Five Ways to Increase Your Billable Time (Without Working Longer Hours) Chrometa, LLC 1029 Hadam@chrometa.com www.chrometa.com A recent survey found that law - yers work three hours for ev - ery two they bill. (Google How Attorneys Track Their Billable Time , Maximize Your Billable Time, Jan. 5, 2010.) Picture a publicly traded company that disclosed it had only billed (for- get about collecting) two-thirds of the items it sold. The Board of Directors would reprimand and probably ter- minate the CEO, CFO, and CTO for failing to develop processes to pre - vent this catastrophe. Shareholders would file class action suits. And yet, this scenario is essentially the current state of most, if not all, law firms. This situation exists for many rea - sons, including: (1) administrative overhead, (2) reasonable accommo - dations to the financial circumstanc - es of clients; (3) write-offs for poor results, and (4) write-offs for training new associates. And then there is the significant amount of non-billable time spent by lawyers just reconciling their time — over two hours per week on average. But none of these factors explain the majority of the unbilled time. The reality is there is no legiti - mate business reason for the major- ity of unbilled time. So the question arises — how can you increase your billable time? 1. Practice Accurate Timekeeping If you bill clients by the project or the hour, you need to keep accurate records of time spent on each job. For hourly clients, keeping correct timesheets ensures you get paid for all the work you do. Legal ethics rules also require you to accurately track your time. A number of firms have switched to flat rate or fixed fee billing. Technically, these firms don’t need to “track their time.” However, until the use of docu - ment assembly technology (so-called expert systems) becomes more com - mon, even these firms need to track their time to determine the profitabil - ity of alternative billing models. They need to track attorney productivity as well as assess whether their fixed fee pricing adequately covers their cost of doing business. For hourly clients, keeping correct timesheets ensures you get paid for all the work you do. Legal ethics rules also require you to accurately track your time. For administrative work, keeping cor- rect timesheets reflects the amount of time that you have “invested” in bettering your firm. If you invest sev - eral hundred hours in developing a set of automated templates, it is im - portant to know how much “human capital” was expended in developing productivity tools. When your clients ask why you charged $2,000 for an estate plan that took you two hours to create with a document assembly engine, you can point to the hun - dreds of hours your firm invested to reach that level of efficiency — and more importantly the quality of the finished product resulting from that investment. 2. Record Your Time Concurrently “Attorneys fail to bill from 10 to 25 per- cent of their legitimate billable hours as a result of bad recording habits, being overwhelmed, disorganization, and poor team management,” writes Dustin Cole, president of Attorneys Master Class. This means that a firm with $1 million in gross billings leaves as much as $250,000 per year on the table for work performed but never billed. Page 1 " id="pdf-obj-1-3" src="pdf-obj-1-3.jpg">

Top Five Ways to Increase Your Billable Time (Without Working Longer Hours)

Chrometa, LLC 1029 H St. Suite 103 Sacramento, CA 95814 (888) 340-6425 <a href=adam@chrometa.com www.chrometa.com " id="pdf-obj-1-9" src="pdf-obj-1-9.jpg">

Chrometa, LLC

1029 H St. Suite 103 Sacramento, CA 95814 (888) 340-6425

A recent survey found that law -

yers work three hours for ev - ery two they bill. (Google How

Attorneys Track Their Billable Time , Maximize Your Billable Time, Jan. 5,

2010.)

Picture a publicly traded company that disclosed it had only billed (for- get about collecting) two-thirds of the items it sold. The Board of Directors would reprimand and probably ter- minate the CEO, CFO, and CTO for failing to develop processes to pre - vent this catastrophe. Shareholders would file class action suits. And yet, this scenario is essentially the current state of most, if not all, law firms.

This situation exists for many rea - sons, including: (1) administrative overhead, (2) reasonable accommo - dations to the financial circumstanc - es of clients; (3) write-offs for poor results, and (4) write-offs for training new associates. And then there is the significant amount of non-billable time spent by lawyers just reconciling their time — over two hours per week on average. But none of these factors explain the majority of the unbilled time. The reality is there is no legiti - mate business reason for the major- ity of unbilled time. So the question arises — how can you increase your billable time?

1. Practice Accurate Timekeeping

If you bill clients by the project or

the hour, you need to keep accurate

records of time spent on each job. For hourly clients, keeping correct timesheets ensures you get paid for all the work you do. Legal ethics rules also require you to accurately track your time.

A number of firms have switched to flat rate or fixed fee billing. Technically, these firms don’t need to “track their time.” However, until the use of docu -

ment assembly technology (so-called expert systems) becomes more com - mon, even these firms need to track their time to determine the profitabil - ity of alternative billing models. They need to track attorney productivity as well as assess whether their fixed fee pricing adequately covers their cost of doing business.

For hourly clients, keeping correct timesheets ensures you get paid for all the work you do. Legal ethics rules also require you to accurately track your time.

For administrative work, keeping cor- rect timesheets reflects the amount of time that you have “invested” in bettering your firm. If you invest sev - eral hundred hours in developing a set of automated templates, it is im - portant to know how much “human capital” was expended in developing productivity tools. When your clients ask why you charged $2,000 for an estate plan that took you two hours to create with a document assembly engine, you can point to the hun - dreds of hours your firm invested to reach that level of efficiency — and more importantly the quality of the finished product resulting from that investment.

2. Record Your Time Concurrently

“Attorneys fail to bill from 10 to 25 per-

cent of their legitimate billable hours as a result of bad recording habits, being overwhelmed, disorganization, and poor team management,” writes Dustin Cole, president of Attorneys Master Class. This means that a firm with $1 million in gross billings leaves as much as $250,000 per year on the table for work performed but never billed.

Top Five Ways to Increase Your Billable Time (Without Working Longer Hours) Chrometa, LLC 1029 Hadam@chrometa.com www.chrometa.com One reason attorneys fail to bill is “they don’t remember” — and eth - ics rules say not to invent. The so - lution is simple. When you finish a task, bill it. Note the time spent on the task. Identify the client and mat - ter, and then briefly describe the work performed. You can adjust and edit these entries before adding them to a bill and sending it out. Given the wealth of legal billing applications — both software and Web-based appli - cations (software as a service) — you should be able to find a suitable solu - tion for your firm. Traditional time tracking systems require you to enter your time throughout the day. Sometimes, this method becomes impractical even for the most diligent among us. It’s inevitable that you will lose bits and pieces of billable time. 3. Use Your Calendar Software Everyone has a calendar, paper or electronic. Whether you use Micro - soft Outlook or a legal-specific prac - tice management application, you can use your calendar as more than a scheduler. Instead, it can become your first line of defense in planning your day and recording your time. Use your calendar to “schedule work” and to “document work” you have performed. This method works like a time sheet but it’s more concrete. For example, when meeting with a client, calendar the meeting, includ - ing the start and the finish time. If the meeting runs over, adjust your calen - dar to reflect the actual time of the meeting. When drafting a document or conducting research, run a stop - watch or timer and note your start and finish time. With many practice management programs, you can con - vert these calendar items into a billing entry with a single mouse click. 4. Use Time Capture Software as a Safety Net Traditional time tracking systems re - quire you to enter your time through - out the day. Sometimes, this method becomes impractical even for the most diligent among us. It’s inevitable that you will lose bits and pieces of billable time. It may seem small but it adds up. With time capture software, you can prevent these bits and pieces from falling through the cracks. Time cap - ture software works by automatically recording your computer activity — what you worked on, when, and for how long. For example, it will track time spent writing in a word process - ing file, using a legal research Web site, reading and writing email, and much more. You can generate a comprehensive report of your day’s activities to help create your time entries. You may be surprised at what turns up — not just lost billable time but wasted time as well (it happens to the best of us). A growing number of mobile apps perform the same function on smart - phones. They capture all your tele - phone calls, which you can then con - vert into billing entries. Some of these apps sync with practice management systems. Cost recovery systems, a close cous - in of time capture software, can also help. For example, if you spend a lot of time on your office phone, your cost recovery system can create a Page 2 " id="pdf-obj-2-3" src="pdf-obj-2-3.jpg">

Top Five Ways to Increase Your Billable Time (Without Working Longer Hours)

Chrometa, LLC 1029 H St. Suite 103 Sacramento, CA 95814 (888) 340-6425 <a href=adam@chrometa.com www.chrometa.com " id="pdf-obj-2-9" src="pdf-obj-2-9.jpg">

Chrometa, LLC

1029 H St. Suite 103 Sacramento, CA 95814 (888) 340-6425

One reason attorneys fail to bill is “they don’t remember” — and eth - ics rules say not to invent. The so - lution is simple. When you finish a task, bill it. Note the time spent on the task. Identify the client and mat - ter, and then briefly describe the work performed. You can adjust and edit these entries before adding them to a bill and sending it out. Given the wealth of legal billing applications — both software and Web-based appli - cations (software as a service) — you should be able to find a suitable solu - tion for your firm.

Traditional time tracking systems require you to enter your time throughout the day. Sometimes, this method becomes impractical even for the most diligent among us. It’s inevitable that you will lose bits and pieces of billable time.

3. Use Your Calendar Software

Everyone has a calendar, paper or electronic. Whether you use Micro - soft Outlook or a legal-specific prac - tice management application, you can use your calendar as more than a scheduler. Instead, it can become your first line of defense in planning

your day and recording your time.

Use your calendar to “schedule work” and to “document work” you have performed. This method works like a time sheet but it’s more concrete. For example, when meeting with a client, calendar the meeting, includ - ing the start and the finish time. If the meeting runs over, adjust your calen - dar to reflect the actual time of the meeting. When drafting a document

or conducting research, run a stop - watch or timer and note your start and finish time. With many practice management programs, you can con - vert these calendar items into a billing entry with a single mouse click.

4. Use Time Capture Software as a Safety Net

Traditional time tracking systems re - quire you to enter your time through - out the day. Sometimes, this method becomes impractical even for the most diligent among us. It’s inevitable that you will lose bits and pieces of billable time. It may seem small but it

adds up.

With time capture software, you can prevent these bits and pieces from falling through the cracks. Time cap - ture software works by automatically recording your computer activity — what you worked on, when, and for how long. For example, it will track time spent writing in a word process - ing file, using a legal research Web site, reading and writing email, and much more.

You can generate a comprehensive report of your day’s activities to help create your time entries. You may be surprised at what turns up — not just lost billable time but wasted time as well (it happens to the best of us).

A growing number of mobile apps perform the same function on smart - phones. They capture all your tele - phone calls, which you can then con - vert into billing entries. Some of these apps sync with practice management systems.

Cost recovery systems, a close cous - in of time capture software, can also help. For example, if you spend a lot of time on your office phone, your cost recovery system can create a

Top Five Ways to Increase Your Billable Time (Without Working Longer Hours) Chrometa, LLC 1029 Hadam@chrometa.com www.chrometa.com report of your phone logs and auto- associate telephone numbers with a particular client file. Time capture software works by automatically recording your computer activity — what you worked on, when, and for how long. 5. Spend Less Time Reconciling Your Time You know the drill. You sit around for a while and think about the work you did for the past month. If you are “good” you engage in this reconcili - ation at the end of each week. You basically conduct “forensic analysis” by reviewing email and documents. Staying late to reconstruct your time gets old pretty fast. It’s pure admin - istrative work (i.e., unbillable). Even worse, it typically results in under-bill - ing and lost revenue. By tracking your time concurrently when possible, and using cost recovery and time capture software as a safeguard, you can re - duce and even eliminate the need to reconcile your time. Conclusion You work hard. You’re entitled to ev - ery penny you earn. While implement - ing the tips in this report may require changing your routine a bit, they’re no more onerous than trying to re - construct your time and much less prone to under-billing. Seth Rowland, Esq. was named TechnoLawyer Consultant of the Year in 2002 for his work on document assembly and law practice automation. He is a nationally known technologist whose company, Basha Systems LLC ( www.bashasys.com ) , has helped many law firms build customized practice management and workflow solutions. Basha Systems currently offers consulting services for Amicus Attorney, Time Matters, Advolo g ix, HotDocs, Exari, and DealBuilder. Please visit Seth’s blog ( www.bashasys.info ) . Page 3 " id="pdf-obj-3-3" src="pdf-obj-3-3.jpg">

Top Five Ways to Increase Your Billable Time (Without Working Longer Hours)

Chrometa, LLC 1029 H St. Suite 103 Sacramento, CA 95814 (888) 340-6425 <a href=adam@chrometa.com www.chrometa.com " id="pdf-obj-3-9" src="pdf-obj-3-9.jpg">

Chrometa, LLC

1029 H St.

Suite 103 Sacramento, CA 95814 (888) 340-6425

report of your phone logs and auto- associate telephone numbers with a particular client file.

Time capture software works by automatically recording your computer activity — what you worked on, when, and for how long.

5. Spend Less Time Reconciling Your Time

You

know

the

drill. You

sit around

for a while and think about the work

you did for the past month. If you are “good” you engage in this reconcili -

ation at

the end of each week. You

basically conduct “forensic analysis” by reviewing email and documents. Staying late to reconstruct your time

gets old pretty fast. It’s pure admin -

istrative work (i.e., unbillable). Even worse, it typically results in under-bill - ing and lost revenue. By tracking your time concurrently when possible, and using cost recovery and time capture software as a safeguard, you can re - duce and even eliminate the need to reconcile your time.

Conclusion

You work hard. You’re entitled to ev -

ery penny you earn. While implement - ing the tips in this report may require changing your routine a bit, they’re no more onerous than trying to re - construct your time and much less prone to under-billing.

Seth Rowland, Esq. was named TechnoLawyer Consultant of the Year in 2002 for his work on document assembly and law practice automation. He is a nationally known technologist whose company, Basha Systems LLC ( www.bashasys.com ), has helped many law firms build customized practice management and workflow solutions. Basha Systems currently offers consulting services for Amicus Attorney, Time Matters, Advologix, HotDocs, Exari, and DealBuilder. Please visit Seth’s blog ( www.bashasys.info ).