If you think keeping diligent time records is only for attorneys billing by the hour, the experts have a tough-love message for you.
“If you don’t care about your business, don’t track your time,” says Joyce Brafford, director of partner relations at ProfitSolv.
While all private practice lawyers will benefit from improved time tracking, Brafford’s warning particularly addresses the many who are comfortable with their flat fees — and therefore decide they don’t really need to tally their 0.1s.
If you’re not tracking your time in the moment, she says, then neither you nor your client truly know the value of your time. This means throwing money away regardless of hourly, split-fee or any other kind of alternate billing.
In a time where prices for everything have risen, for example, even clients being charged flat fees want to know how their money is being spent, notes Laura Kennedy, a legal technology consultant and co-founder of Circle Management Group.
“The attorneys are getting smarter, the firms are getting smarter,” she says. “And they’re looking at alternative billing methods to try to make their clients understand the value of their time.”
Fortunately, the duo notes in a recent episode of the Non-Eventcast podcast, several tools now available make time-tracking easier than ever.
Brafford and Kennedy agree that the most efficient tracking system is what’s known as a “passive timekeeper.”
That’s a piece of software that runs in a computer’s or smartphone’s background — and at a minimum logs details about what programs have been active and for how long.
Kennedy calls the tool “my lifesaver.”
She notes that the best passive systems can detect what the subject lines of emails were, who called on the office’s internet-based phone system, and much more information that makes accounting for a client’s time easier.
“So are you in Microsoft Word? Are you opening a new document? What’s the title of that document?” Kennedy says.
She notes that Rocket Matter Track is among the most innovative recent tools because it collects these kinds of specifics.
“And that’s kind of important here, right? Not all passive timekeepers are created equal.”
But if that sounds like Big Brother is watching, Brafford notes that individual privacy controls demonstrate Rocket Matter Track isn’t designed to be a micromanagement tool.
For convenience, the system automatically sorts emails, documents, web searches, and other data into clients’ timecards — but that data is first saved on the local computer or smartphone and not uploaded to Rocket Matter.
The attorney using the system confirms what Rocket Matter sorted, or drags and drops items to a time card, and only then is it included in a record that’s integrated with billing software.
“So you know, if you’re really burned out at work, and you’re looking at, you know, flights to Cancun or something like that, you obviously don’t want to bill that to a client,” Brafford says. “You always have the ability to self audit, it is on your local machine.”
“It truly is private,” she adds.
For other time tracking options and much more — including what the gang thinks about everything from Microsoft Word’s long-lost Clippy to their loathing for the term “AI” to even Dave and Buster’s — listen to an informative 32 minutes with the podcast link below.