What if I told you that you’re cheating yourself, your staff, and your clients every day and that the fix would take no time or effort whatsoever? Both are true, so read more about how you must approach your only valuable commodity as a lawyer.
Start Believing That Every Minute of Your Time is Valuable
Lawyers, unlike other business professionals, cannot manufacture a saleable widget to be reproduced and re-sold over and over to the tune of tremendous profit in a short period of time. A maker of widgets can perhaps create 10,000 in an hour and sell them all for the same price raking in huge profits for little work. A lawyer is not a maker of widgets and never can be. A lawyer’s only valuable commodity is time, and until Elon Musk figures out how to do so, time is finite and fixed.
We operate under the assumption that our value is results-based. While that is true in the broadest sense, a lawyer can sell themselves to clients for a finite amount of time per day. A lawyer (or a lawyer’s staff member) cannot double-bill two clients for the same time period, and thus, a lawyer has only 24 hour-units of value to divide and deliver. When put into that context, it’s a wonder why so many lawyers today are nonchalant with timekeeping. Each undervalued or underestimated minute of work time is lost forever. Not keeping meticulous track of each minute of a lawyer’s day at worst cheats clients (if later the lawyer overestimates their work) and perhaps equally as bad cheats the firm and its employees out of profit (if the lawyer routinely underestimates and underbills clients).
Let’s run an all-too-realistic calculation for one single day of work on a case. You’re a darn good family lawyer who bills $250 per hour for your time. You’ve been working on a divorce case intermittently throughout the day last Monday. Your total time worked on the case (unbeknownst to you) was 5.6 hours. That means your value for that case on that day is $1,400. At about 7 PM on that Monday, as you were about to log all your time for the day thinking your memory of the time spent was pretty good, your phone rang and your son was feeling sick during basketball practice. You head straight to the garage, grab your car, and off you go to pick him up. The next day is busy with a court appearance in the morning, and the next opportunity you have to sit and record your time on the divorce case is Thursday morning. Oh, and your secretary filed the scratch paper you jotted your loose timekeeping on in her locked cabinet. Good luck!
First, you will likely undervalue what you did for the case on Monday. Most attorneys actually justify to themselves billing fewer minutes as they try to recreate time days later. Let’s say you do pretty well on your estimates and remember 5 hours of the 5.6 actually spent. That means without even issuing a bill, you’ve already discounted, simply through miscalculation, about 11% of Monday’s work on the case. Now let’s get to the bill. Likely, you’ll see the entire invoice for the month and imagine your client is seeing it and have a heart attack. “I’m not worth that much and he probably won’t pay it,” you’ll say to yourself. You knock another 15% off the invoice. Now your work on Monday is down to just over $1,000 out of the $1,400 you’re rightfully owed, and the client hasn’t event peeped yet. You get the picture–extrapolate that almost $400 left on the table over months and years, and the results are staggering.
But what’s the way to avoid this mess? Automatic time tracking.
Time Tracking Should Take No Time At All
Automatic time tracking is the way of the future. If you are relying on your memory and instincts to bill clients, you are likely cheating yourself and your firm. Implementing an automatic time tracking solution, like that available with Smokeball, means you have acknowledged that your time and the time and efforts of those who work with and for you is valuable and worth more than zero. Let your legal software track each minute of your day for you, and stop losing valuable minutes. Your firm depends on it.