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The Art of Writing a Timecard: 6 Must-Haves

Posted by Daniel Garcia on May 9, 2016 at 2:13 PM


On this blog we often discuss the importance of adhering to good time entry practices. We emphasize the importance of contemporaneous time entry and stress the need for creating positive habits. We do this because we strongly believe that contemporaneous time entry simply produces better-quality timecards than any other method. This is important because good timecards don’t delay your invoicing, are less often questioned by your clients, get paid quicker, suffer less write-offs, and, ultimately, get you more money for the work you are already doing.

So what makes a better timecard? In this blog, we’ll review the tactical characteristics of the highest performing time entries at today’s top law firms.

6 Characteristics of the Best Time Entries


#1: Accuracy

Does the time recorded on the time entry accurately reflect the actual time spent on the task, and how detailed is the description? When it comes to accuracy, time entries should show the exact amount (as opposed to ballpark) of time spent with a detailed description of exactly what was accomplished. The last thing you want is a client questioning the length of a meeting you had with them.

#2: Granularity

The more granularity, the better for both the client and the firm. Highly granular time entries ensure that the correct codes are selected, that there are small amounts of time allocated to a breakdown of tasks with specific task codes associated, rather than lumping all of the time together under an aggregated code. When your clients analyze your bills you will get penalized for anything that resembles block billing.

#3: Completeness

Are your time entries consistently complete? Time entry rockstars are sure to complete all of the 6-8 fields found on a typical time card, rather than provide partial information.Timecards with missing information will delay the invoicing process and may even cause your invoices to be rejected, which creates more work and delays payment.

#4: Timeliness

How quickly or contemporaneously is time entered into the billing system? Velocity is important because the faster the data enters the system, the more accurately reporting can be done, such as completing risk assessments and forecasts or checking work completed against retainers. A timecard written on a notepad or stored on an Excel spreadsheet does the firm no good.

#5: Efficiency

How much energy does it take to create the time entry? A time entry that involves a single touch by a single person is much more cost-effective and requires much less energy than a time entry that is dictated by one person, then transcribed and added to the system by another, not to mention the back and forth needed to fix any miscommunications or missing information.  

#6: Clarity

The timecard, although it might not be obvious, is a very important form of communication with your clients. How attorneys write a timecard can tell a lot about how much the firm cares when the client receives the invoice. Timecard descriptions should be detailed, clear and unambiguous.

“The more descriptive the time charges are on an invoice, the more likely it is that a client will understand the work being done, appreciate the effort being made on his/her behalf, and the more likely payment will be made timely. A lengthy description is not necessary. A concise description will do the job,” says Gianfranco A. Pietrafesa, a partner with Archer & Greiner.

Based on the above, are there areas of improvement for you to make on your time entries? For most firms, this means eliminating reconstructive time entry and fully embracing contemporaneous time entry.

As we said above, the timecard not only is the unit of revenue of law firms, but also a form of communication with the clients.

“Far too many lawyers do not know how to prepare time charges. They fail to appreciate that an invoice is a form of communication with a client. The contents of an invoice should be prepared with the same thought and effort as a letter to be sent to a client.” - Gianfranco A. Pietrafesa

Following these best practices will allow firms to achieve more accuracy in billing, faster billing cycles, reduce write-offs and foster a better relationship with their clients.

How would you rate your time entries? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Topics: Time Entry/Time Keeping

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