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Time Capture: Passive vs Proactive + Which is Best

Posted by Gaby Isturiz on November 7, 2019 at 4:49 PM


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Your firm’s time is your firm’s money. The more accurate your time recordings, the better your firm will be able to maximize its revenue potential. That’s the obvious part. The best way to actually do it? For starters, it depends on your firm, but there are a few things to consider. In this post, we’ll explore the difference between passive vs proactive time capture, and point out a few things to think about as you consider what might work best for your firm.

What is Passive Time Capture?

Passive time capture works by installing a myriad of software programs to constantly monitor everything timekeepers do with technology that can be tracked (email, documents, websites, phone, etc). The end result is a log full of activities that timekeepers have performed, relevant or not, that will require review in order to identify billable activities. This entire log of information needs to be assigned to corresponding matters and checked to make sure the duration in the log actually matches the duration of the billable activity performed. You could think of passive time capture as the high-tech cousin of reconstructive time entry.

The drawbacks of passive time capture:

#1: More Effort Required

The promise of passive time capture is that timekeepers do not have to actively track their time, but in short, the drawback is that reconciliation does need to take place at some point in time to ensure that entries are properly coded. Many timekeepers see this as “double work,” and they are not wrong. The narratives always must be reviewed and edits made to adjust items such as work hours, select task/activity codes or correct matter numbers. This means that timekeepers are essentially engaging in reconstructive time entry, which can mean that 25% of billable time gets lost and may not align with client demands put forth in Outside Counsel Guidelines.

#2 Adoption Challenges

Research indicates that passive time capture typically has an adoption rate around 7%, which is low. The likely reasons for poor adoption are the complexities of the user interfaces within time capture solutions on the market, steep learning curves and, of course, the manual work required to review time entries. The danger of poor adoption in a technology solution is that it reinforces a belief held by many timekeepers that they “aren’t good at technology,” when the reality is that the technology in question isn’t good for them. Because attorneys enter on average 5 to 8 timecards per day, most feel all this is overkill and more work.

#3: It’s a little Creepy

When passive time capture is in place, “big brother” is watching. Timekeepers know this. When every technological interaction is being monitored by solutions like this, it is often seen as intrusive. It can be demotivating and, generally speaking, timekeepers providing professional services, such as attorneys, dislike it. This feeds negative sentiments around technology use at the firm.

#4: Information Governance & Discovery Risks

Of course, information governance and security is paramount in this era that we live and work in. Information that is harvested via passive time capture means not only that there are many sources of the truth. With the other drawbacks listed above, is it really worth that risk?

What is Proactive Time Capture?

Proactive time capture uses the latest technology advancements, such as AI, machine learning and API integration (office, DMS, other apps) to offer timekeeping according to the terms of the timekeeper: going where they go, engaging on an as-needed basis, and taking action automatically to make time entry easier, faster and more enjoyable for timekeepers. Proactive time capture is rooted in the philosophy that timekeepers do and should own their time, but they need an easier and more convenient way to account for it.

Contemporaneous time entry has been, is, and will continue to be recognized as the “holy grail” of time entry. Proactive time capture makes it easier for timekeepers to leverage technology to accomplish contemporaneous time entry and reap its financial and operational benefits.

#1 Accurate time entry

Since proactive time entry is rooted in contemporaneous timekeeping, firms can experience the benefits of the most accurate form of time entry while relieving the timekeeper of some of the administrative burden of creating a timecard.

#2 A faster path to revenue

Automating functions such as verifying compliance with outside counsel guidelines as part of the timekeeping process, eliminates cash flow delays due to rejections and appeals and puts the firm in a more competitive financial position.

#3 Give timekeepers what they really want

Let’s be real. No attorney has ever recapped their day during dinner with their partner and said “today was great, I got to work on my time entries.” Time entry is a necessary step, of course. However, what timekeepers really want is to spend their job practicing their profession, not recording their time. Proactive time capture is the future of time entry and it’s only just the beginning.

When considering time entry for your firm, look beyond the promise of a “magic bullet” and consider practical terms, such as how likely your timekeepers are to use the technology, exactly how (step-by-step) it will deliver on its promises, how it will impact your firm’s overall financial and competitive situation and how it will scale to meet your firm’s future needs.

Bellefield believes that it is imperative for timekeepers to have the ability to work the way they want to work. In order to recover more time, time entry must function from any app that the timekeeper is using (email, documents, calendar, etc.), which is why we developed the first-to-market integration with MS office.

Have you dabbled in passive time capture? Share your firm’s experience below.

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Topics: Time Capture

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