I am building a solo practice as part of an incubator program and, as such, my bottom line is crucial. In order to succeed, I have to be careful about the money that comes in as well as the money that goes back out. Therefore, when I first launched my practice, I knew it was important to optimize my income by using reliable and accurate timekeeping practices, but I also knew that I needed to find a system that was not unnecessarily expensive. This led me to develop a system to track my time using Google Calendar.
My system is incredibly simple: I created a separate calendar in my Google account called “Law Office Billing.”
I log any billable work on that calendar by creating an event that corresponds to the date and time worked. I use the Event Name field to track which client the work was for and the description filed to track exactly what work was completed during that time.
If I incur an out of pocket expense or mileage for a client I track that as an all-day event.
When it is time to invoice my clients, I log into Google Calendar and view my Law Office Billing calendar in agenda view so that I can easily enter the information into Quickbooks.
I have developed several tweaks to this system since I have started using it. For example, I color code each event to correspond with my invoicing practices—events are red, yellow, or green depending on whether the corresponding invoice has been sent and/or paid. I search for a client’s name in order to view billable time for only that client. I use the Duplicate Event command to copy events such as hearings and court dates from my personal calendar to my billing calendar. I generate a timesheet each month and save it in .PDF format by printing the agenda view of my calendar and the accompanying event descriptions to a .PDF file.
This has been a perfect solution for me. It’s cloud-based so I can access my time sheet and log my time whether I am working from home, from the office, or from the coffee shop down the road. It’s flexible and easy to use. It takes only a matter seconds to log my time so it is not overly cumbersome. I can access my calendar on any computer including my smart phone. And, it’s completely free to use.
I hope this advice is helpful to those of you building a practice on a shoestring budget. Good luck!