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The Case for Contemporaneous Time Entry: How Better Timekeeping Leads to More Billable Hours

Posted by Gaby Isturiz on November 11, 2016 at 9:09 AM

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Today’s attorneys are under a ton of pressure.

Facing a myriad of daily demands, the modern mobile attorney works daily to balance the demands of their work and personal lives. A typical day is comprised of activities aimed at keeping clients happy and maintaining trust, delivering on heavy caseloads, caring for kids or elderly family members. If it seems like attorneys are always working, it is because they are.

 In this era of 24/7 communication, client work is likely to be completed at untraditional times and places. A client call might happen on Saturday morning, while watching the kids’ soccer game. Furthermore, client work might be completed on a drive home, in a waiting room or during the “catch-up” hour just before bed.

Of course, the ability to work from anywhere has many advantages. However, if the attorney is doing work here, there and everywhere, how can they be sure that all of their time is being recorded? Interestingly, much of this type of work is completed in small bursts of time - which means that it is likely to amount to larger amounts of hours worked, but less likely to be documented accurately.

So, here we are. The conversation almost always goes back to the billable hour, doesn’t it?

Billable hour requirements aren’t new to attorneys. However, in recent years, billable quotas are on the rise. While many firms are increasing salaries for associates, billable requirements are increasing too. For attorneys looking to receive a bonus, billable requirements are trending upwards as well. For those attorneys that aren’t top billers (in number of hours), there could be steep consequences that impact career success. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Faced with client pressure to keep down costs and industry competition to achieve the highest profits, law firms now frequently assess which lawyers are worthy enough for the top rungs of partnership. Those who don’t bill enough hours or bring in enough business are quietly asked to leave or demoted from the so-called equity tier. In a survey of law firm leaders from late last year by legal trade publication the American Lawyer, 56% said they planned to take away equity from partners in the coming year, and 67% said they planned to ask partners to leave.”


The Invisible Time Is Costing Your Firm More Than What You Think

For today’s attorneys, it’s not just important to get all of their time in, but to make sure that their time is accounted for. It is far too easy to misplace a time entry scribbled on a post-it note or to lose time through poor estimates. For today’s attorneys to be successful, they should strive for complete time entry - this speaks to the very real challenge of capturing all of the small things that an attorney does during the ordinary course of a day (for the benefit of a client) from the moment they wake in the morning until they go to sleep at night - when they are not at their desk or in front of a computer.  

All professionals today are subject to fall victim to this “invisible time,” time completed in small increments while on the go, or simply just away from their desks, which is either unaccounted for or inaccurate. On average, this “invisible time” can account from 0.1 hours (6 minutes) all the way to 1 hour per day, adding up to tenths of thousands per attorney and even millions for law firms.


5 Facts You Need to Know About Contemporaneous Timekeeping

The solution is contemporaneous time entry. In today’s era of 24/7 communication and remote work, contemporaneous time entry is a must-do for attorneys. Here’s what you should know:

  1. Firms are leaking time due to poor timekeeping habits.  63% of firms reported losing time due to poor practices, such as conducting reconstructive time entry. 
  2. Contemporaneous time entry makes it easy to capture time in small increments. When timekeepers record their time in the same day that a task is completed, there is 60% more likelihood of recording smaller tasks that would have otherwise been lost.
  3. Attorneys who do not record time contemporaneously may lose as much as 25% of the billable time. Even if lawyers are billing on a flat-fee basis or contingent-fee basis, real-time timekeeping is a best practice.
  4. Mobile timekeeping is a must for contemporaneous time entry. With mobile timekeeping, at least 85% of time gets entered contemporaneously.
  5. Contemporaneous time entry on a mobile timekeeping App will help you capture more time. Attorneys that use mobile timekeeping enter 15% more time than those that do not.

Contemporaneous time entry represents the gold standard in timekeeping. Today’s top performing firms and their attorneys are practicing contemporaneous time entry to capture complete time entries, increasing success for both the firm and the attorney.

How has contemporaneous time entry impacted your billable hours? Share your experience in the comments below.

Topics: Time Entry/Time Keeping

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