Successful attorneys value their time just as much as they value their money. So, they understand how important it is to use each hour of the day wisely, and accurately track those hours for proper billing and profit maximization. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all process for meeting these goals. However, there are methods and tools that, when used together, can create a template of efficient time management and tracking within your law practice. With adequate planning, systematic reminders, and timely tracking, you can promote the efficient use and documentation of your firm’s valuable time.
The first tools for efficient attorney time management involve proper planning. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. I know it’s an overly used cliché, but it still rings true. Your lawyers handle countless daily tasks for numerous clients. If they have no system of planning in place, they are likely missing out on opportunities to maximize their billable hours. By requiring, or at least strongly suggesting one or more of these strategies, you can help them better utilize the hours in their day.
- Weekly planning – The beginning or end of a work week provides a perfect planning opportunity. For one, you can organize your thoughts by writing down all the tasks and responsibilities swirling around in your head. Secondly, it helps organize your tasks by urgency, so you can at least start the week with some feeling of control over your calendar.
- Time blocking – This is a planning strategy that many busy professionals find useful. You essentially organize your workday into specified time periods for working on each task. Instead of a long to-do list that will likely never get completed, you proactively decide how much time will be spent on your weekly tasks. Experts say it helps you view your time more realistically and stay focused on the task at hand.
- Proper delegation – Your support staff is there for a reason. Yet, many attorneys fail to recognize how the delegation of duties can maximize billed hours. Your firm’s attorneys may prefer to do everything on their own or perhaps they don’t trust support staff members to correctly handle certain tasks. Both scenarios are problematic. You pay good money to compensate your support staff. So, let them contribute to the growth of the firm.
- Control distractions – Whether its unexpected telephone calls, a ridiculously filled inbox, or those funny social media posts, distractions can quickly throw your attorneys off their game and steal their time. Control these unwanted interruptions. I highly doubt that personal social media accounts need to be checked in the middle of the workday. Time blocking applies here as well, with scheduled blocks of time for returning emails and phone calls, instead of addressing non-emergencies throughout the day.
Even people with incredible memories forget something at one point or another. Within a law practice, if that forgotten task is something as important as a court date or filing deadline, it could mean serious trouble for the attorney and your firm. That’s why reminders are such useful tools. They’re a safety net for a memory that is often unreliable. Consider these options:
- Electronic reminders – With countless task apps on the market, every phone, computer, and tablet can be used to generate task reminders. Simply choose the one that best suits your needs. Then enter important meetings and deadlines into the app as soon as you learn about them. When the time approaches, your electronic device will remember and give you a reminder.
- Daily calendar review – It only takes a few minutes to sit down and in the morning and review your calendar for your most important tasks. This works even better if you include your paralegal or secretary because two memories are almost always better than one.
Once you’ve planned the hours of your day and completed your tasks, it’s time to make sure your tracking is complete. Time tracking is essential to client billing, which is essential to getting the firm paid. So, it’s a task that needs to be handled correctly every time. Effective legal billing software is your most valuable tool for effective time tracking. The right features can take this task from tedious and inaccurate to quick and precise. Here are some of the options you should look for when choosing the right legal time tracking system for your firm.
- Mobility – Time should be tracked immediately following completion of a task. By waiting or procrastinating, you increase the likelihood of not accurately remembering what was done and how long it took to complete it. System mobility allows your attorneys to record their time from any mobile device, so even tasks completed away from the office can be immediately tracked.
- Availability – Many of the legacy legal time tracking systems claim to offer mobility. Yet, they require an internet connection for use of the system. Even in the highly connected world we live in, internet capabilities are not guaranteed. You need a time tracking system that is available for use even when the internet is not.
- Ease of use – What good is a time tracking system that none of your attorneys can figure out? Time tracking needs to be quick and easy. Otherwise, it becomes another tedious task that no one wants to complete. Find a system that is user-friendly and offers adequate customer support for training and troubleshooting.
TimeSolv expertly meets each of these time tracking needs. Their cloud-based system can be used from any electronic device, whether there is an internet connection or not. Your attorneys simply open the app to enter the time or start the tracking timer. When an internet connection becomes available, the mobile tracker will automatically sync with the main office system.
With some planning, a few friendly reminders, and an efficient time tracking system, you can provide the members of your firm with a template for efficient time management. To learn more about all of Time Solv’s tracking and billing benefits, click here to take advantage of their free trial period.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a freelance writer with a passion for law. Through her business, The Legal Writing Studio, she helps legal professionals deliver effective written messages. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.