The ABA Journal published an article titled “Why have automated timekeeping programs failed to gain a foothold in the industry?,” which I was grateful to be part of. In the article, Sean Laroque-Doherty explores how firms can get beyond the timecard, which is often the bottleneck and source of error in the billing process.
After exploring the possibility of eliminating the billable hour, the focus of the article turns to time entry technology, specifically passive time capture. In my contribution to the article, I discussed the origins of passive time capture, its historically low adoption rate and the promise of progressive time capture:
Time-capture technology started 20 years ago with software that crawled law firm systems to identify and capture time, says Gabriela Isturiz, president and co-founder of Bellefield, maker of iTimekeep. At law firms that deployed this passive time capture, only 10% to 15% of timekeepers adopted it—the common complaint from others was that timecards weren’t automatically created, Isturiz says. Sometimes it took more work to utilize the technology than simply entering time.
Allowing progressive time entry on mobile devices and in desktop applications for lawyers to capture time on their own terms increases user adoption, Isturiz says. Add the ability to validate timeslips against outside counsel guidelines, and you have a shorter path from work-in-progress to revenue. However, the technology’s promise to lawyers that they would never have to enter another timeslip remained unfulfilled.
The article then explores various time entry technologies that leverage things like automation and AI to help attorneys get the job done.
There are many different technology options (and non-technological options, for that matter) for time entry. Some work better than others, with varying levels of risk and accuracy. We remain firm that contemporaneous time entry is the gold standard in timekeeping behavior and that technology should exist to enable it to take place at its highest level.
The thing is, when it comes down to it, the decision to invest in a technology is not really about the technology, it’s about the user. The person, you know, the human being, juggling work with family, friends, interests and downtime and trying to give their best to each facet of their lives. It’s the technology that can provide the fastest, easiest and most accurate way for them to do what they need to do that is the winner.
Passive or progressive? Time capture or not? It’s a follow-up question to the core question, which is, “what does the timekeeper need in order to be able to perform time entry quickly, accurately and in compliance with internal and external policies, based on the way that they work in real life, in the real world?
In failing to address this need, technology has consistently fallen short of expectations and helped timekeepers earn a reputation for being resistant to technology, when all they really want is something that actually helps. Cultivating a deep understanding of the timekeepers’ needs is not only a path to the right solution, but a way to enable decision making that scales throughout technology advancements.
How do you go about understanding the core needs of your timekeepers? Share your comment below.