According to the Law Society Gazette article by William Robins this week Fee earners are under the cosh again with regards to timesheets and billing targets, with one London firm locking partners out of their computer systems as a punishment for bad time-keeping.

Time recording isn’t always fully embraced by fee earners. When they are working on a challenging case, juggling lots of facts and recording complicated evidence in a variety of formats getting into the habit of recording their time can often slip to the bottom of their priority list. As Robins’ article points out for partners, as well as earning fees, they are running the firm, running the the team and running client relationships.

Man holding a blue clock

Robins goes on to say that “partners are walking away from firms over unreasonable management behaviour and billing targets” and that their focus is better spent on winning “quality work that is profitable and fits with the ethos of the firm”. Whilst he makes some excellent points, the fact remains that time is the law firm’s most precious commodity and a good Practice Management System should make it so easy for fee earners, at all levels of the firm, to record their time it becomes second nature and less of a chore.

The Time Factor on this subject is worth a read.  It is a blog, written by Select Legal’s Systems Limited Head of Marketing, Joanne Hunter which explains why a firm can expect to generate an extra £100K+ per fee earner per annum by valuing, managing and catpuring time just a little bit better than they are currently.  It gives another perspective on how law firms can meet, or possibly even exceed, their billing targets without having to resort to ‘stick’ approach (of carrot/stick fame) referred to in the Gazette article.

Select’s blog advises anyone concerned about the financial impact of wasted time across their law firm to review the firm’s time from three perspectives:

• How you value time
• How you manage time
• How you capture time

There are 3 calculations in the blog  that could be applied to any law firm.  Hunter multiplies up time wasted and looks at a conservative level of billing that could be hemorrhaging from a firm’s bottom line relating to each perspective – i.e. ‘valuing’, ‘managing’ and ‘capturing’ time. The ‘capturing’ time example looks at ‘the short email’. When a fee earners send short emails to a client they may argue that capturing it and billing it would take longer than it actually took to send the email in the first place. As a result many fee earners don’t bother charging for their shorter emails. The scary figures in The Time Factor Blog look at the number of billable time units each fee earner could be missing out on  if they don’t capture and bill for their short emails.

A good practice management system should provide integration with your chosen email system and should not only automatically file any incoming or outgoing emails against the relevant case, but it should also record fee earner time spent on emails, either automatically recording a 1 x unit of time, or giving a simple prompt allowing the fee earner to quickly type in the accurate number of units.

Select Legal Systems Limited, authors of LAWFUSION – the popular legal practice management system for law firms – has developed the entire system, including its time recording module, with the fee earner at its heart.  For more information about Select Legal Systems and LAWFUSION please call 01482 567601 during office hours or you can submit your enquiry online outside of office hours.