The Law Firm Billing Problem in 2021

This is a guest post from Smokeball. Visit them virtually in the sponsor panel during ABA TECHSHOW.

In a report earlier this year, Smokeball CEO Hunter Steele found that changes in communication style, document creation, and sheer complexity of billing requirements have created an environment requiring very different practice management tools than those used 20 years ago.

Hunter and Smokeball US President Ruchie Chadha will delve deeper into this issue in a free CLE session for TECHSHOW attendees: Solving the Small Law Billing Problem.

Attendees will learn why they may be billing for only a fraction of their time spent, why accurate time tracking is just as important for fixed fee and contingency law firms as it is for those who bill hourly, and how to recover an average of two additional billable hours per day. This CLE will be presented live on Wednesday, March 10 from 12:00 – 12:30pm EST.

In addition to our CLE presentation, we’ll be offering four more exclusive learning opportunities to TECHSHOW attendees:

  • Two on-demand Tech Toks – “How Automatic Time Tracking Will Increase Your Profitability – No Matter How You Bill” presented by Senior Account Manager Alison Lupel, and “Strengthening Communication and Collaboration in Your Law Firm” presented by Training Manager Javier Rodriguez-Martin
  • Two chances to see Smokeball in action and participate in live Q&A with our Micro Demos: one focusing on Smokeball for personal injury attorneys, and one focusing on Smokeball for family law. Check your TECHSHOW schedule for more details!

In the meantime, read on for an excerpt of Hunter Steele’s report, “The Small Firm Billing Problem,” and be sure to download the full report to learn more.

Multiple large-scale studies have shown that fee earners in small law firms are billing, on average, only 2.02 hours per day. The first time I read one of these studies, I dismissed the stats as some kind of marketing ploy. Lawyers are always talking about reaching billing targets and filling out time sheets, and the majority I speak with are working 10+ hours per day. The studies must be wrong was my assessment.

After the second and third reports came out saying the same thing, I decided to dig in myself. I set about to understand two things. First, is this true? And then, if it is true, why is this the case and, more importantly, what is being done about it? Is there really a small law firm billing problem?

The deeper I dug into this topic, the more people I spoke with, the more data I crunched from thousands of small firm fee earners, the more intrigued and the more passionate I became. Fast forward two years and it is now not only my own obsession but the obsession of the entire team at Smokeball.

It seems there was a clear problem. Small law firms and their staff play a very important role within our communities, yet on average, they were billing for only 25-30% of their day. How are they to provide a great service, produce good results, employ staff, and build a great business when there is a fundamental problem with the unit economics of what they do?

We look forward to seeing you on March 10th to further discuss this issue!

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