lawyer's gavel, clock, agenda and money to track billable hours

How do lawyers keep track of billable hours?

A lawyer’s work is a very complex mix of tasks that go beyond serving the clients.

Conducting meetings, phone calls, and sending and replying to emails are just a few of them. Some of these tasks can count as billable hours; others don’t, and there’s the constant switching between them during a workday.

So, how do lawyers keep track of billable hours? 

Keep reading this article to explore the main techniques used nowadays to keep track of billable hours in law firms and discover if there’s a better, more efficient, way to do it.

How do lawyers keep track of billable hours? 5 Traditional strategies

First and foremost, it’s important to define what billable hours are. According to US Legal:

“Billable hours refer to time worked on business matters that will be charged to a client according to a contractual rate.”

Usually, it’s the attorney’s job to keep track of its billable hours. However, that can be a complicated task. Why?

During the span of a day, a lawyer can work on several cases, with billable hours relating to several clients.

There’s also administrative work that counts as non-billable hours. Therefore, it’s important that the lawyer in question can take note of the exact number of billable hours they worked and to which client they pertain, to avoid over or underbilling their time.

There are several techniques used by lawyers to keep track of their billable hours. Let’s discover some of them. 

1. Calendar

Manually filling tasks and hours on a calendar, by day, week, or month is a commonly used technique. However, it’s arduous work and subject to failure.

2. Email service

Managing cases entails a constant flow of emails. Going through a day’s worth of emails is a technique commonly used by law firms to keep track of the daily tasks and hours spent on different clients.

Even though emails are accompanied by a timestamp, it’s still not a rigorous way to track the billable hours.

There are still several tasks that don’t require email communication, which could be forgotten when this method is used.

3. Day in review

Writing down the tasks by memory is still a common practice at law firms. Even though it’s a good self-feedback exercise, it’s still not an efficient way to track time.

Our memory is subject to flaws and it’s almost impossible for someone to remember every minute of a workday.

4. Phone calls

A similar technique to the email service mentioned above, and with the same type of issues.

Even though each task has a timestamp, a workday is not made of phone calls. Therefore, this technique would have to be used as a complement to other time tracking methods and tools.

5. Excel sheets

A quicker technique to track and count billable hours. However, it still relies on manual work and memory. If the hours aren’t registered right at the end of each task, there’s still room for error.

3 Disadvantages of using the “traditional” billable hours tracking techniques

1. Under (or over) billing the clients

With all these techniques being manual, there’s an increased chance of counting more (or less) working hours than the ones that were actually worked.

This can result in two things: under billing, which is bad for the lawyer, who is not being paid the entirety of their service, and over billing. This last one is even more serious and can even end up in the loss of clients and cases.

2. Too much time spent registering tasks and hours

Manually tracking time and tasks is time-consuming.

It can even become a task in itself, which is not recommended, especially for a lawyer, who surely already has his pipeline filled with more important tasks.

So, avoiding this manual work would be the ideal scenario.

3. Only one technique isn’t enough for a complete analysis

Looking at each of the traditional time tracking techniques, one thing becomes obvious: depending on only one isn’t enough for a complete overview of tasks and hours.

And sure, you could always combine them, and make a complete report on all the billable and non-billable hours. However, does that sound very efficient?

Traditional billable hours time tracking techniques might be a free and simple way to track billable hours. Nevertheless, they’re also extremely time-consuming.

And for demanding jobs, such as the lawyers have, it’s important that administrative tasks are optimized to be successfully performed in a short amount of time.

How can lawyers optimize the tracking of billable hours? Through a time tracking app, of course.

Time tracking: the best method to track billable hours

Knowing how your time is spent during a workday is very important, especially if you’re an attorney working with hourly fees arrangements. With a time tracking app, this becomes easier. How? Let’s check.

With a time tracking app, you’ll be able to:

  • Track every hour (and even every minute) of your working day. You just need to start and stop the tracker, with a simple click of a button. 
  • Create segmentation with several clients, allowing you to assign billable hours to each one of them easily. 
  • Create reports to analyze and see if your time is being well distributed and how you can optimize it. 
  • Bill the right number of hours for your work and get paid what you actually deserve. 

Ready to start using a time tracking app for your billable hours? If so, discover how Timeular can streamline and optimize your billing process.

Timeular - billable hours time tracker

Timeular: the best tool for lawyers who want to time track the right way

Taking back control of your time – sounds good, especially if your time is tied to specific fee arrangements regarding several clients. And with Timeular, the process is even easier.

By using Timeular’s time tracking app, you will be able to take advantage of all the benefits we listed above, and more:

  • Discover an effortless time tracking tool, with shortcuts available on your desktop. No need to jump from window to window to start tracking a task: just click on the button and start working.
  • Use Timeular’s app on all operating systems (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux)
  • Timeular’s app syncs it with 3000+ apps, so all tasks get accounted for.
  • Use Timeular’s time tracker dice, improve your focus time and automatically track your hours just by flipping it. It’s that easy!

Billing hours is easier with time tracking

Hourly fees are still the standard model of work for lawyers and law firms. That said, it’s time to move on from the traditional time tracking strategies, to find a way to optimize the process.

The future is digital, and time tracking apps might be just what lawyers need to fairly bill their hours while having time for more important tasks. However, if you’re still skeptical, why not see it for yourself?

Try Timeular for free and start optimizing your working hours today.

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