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In search of lost time: Tracking and recording time

Tracking and recording time is one of those daunting tasks that no one ever warned you about in law school. Regardless of your billing structure, you should be tracking and recording your time. If you bill by the hour, it is essential that you keep accurate records of your time. Failing to track time can add up. Say you bill at an hourly rate of $300. Missing a mere six minutes a day decreases your bottom line by about $30 a day, resulting in a total loss of approximately $7,500 a year. Even if you do not bill by the hour, keeping your time can assist in calculating flat fee case values.

In a typical day, most attorneys are bombarded with a variety of matters. You are constantly required to switch gears throughout the day, from your office to court to a client's office, from telephone to email to document drafting and more. If you still sit down at the end of each week to reconstruct and record your time for that week, you are both wasting time and losing money. It may be nearly impossibly to recall one day's events, let alone weeks on end. Here are some tips to track and record time:

  • Make a habit of tracking and recording your time contemporaneously. Don't wait until the end of the week or even the end of a day.
  • Use a computer to track and record your time. Microsoft Word and Excel are two simple solutions for manual recording. But, better yet, use a computer program that automatically tracks and logs your time.
  • If you do track your time manually, keep your time tracking document open on your computer, available on your mobile device, or otherwise easily accessible to you all day long.
  • To avoid double entry (i.e. you track manually and your assistant inputs records into a billing program), input your time directly into a time and billing program, or into a program that can export your time logs into your billing program.
  • Use time tracking programs or apps that are compatible with your mobile device, phone, and e-mail. Automatic trackers can track and log phone conversations, texts, e-mail and more.

Although rolling out a new system may take time and resources, you will not only save time and money in the long run, but you will also avoid those daily/weekly time tracking frustrations. Don't waste your precious time searching for lost time, instead make changes in your time tracking and recording processes now.

Tip courtesy of Heidi Alexander, Law Office Management Assistance Program.

Published February 21, 2013

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To learn more about the Law Practice Management Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members, contact LPM Section Chair Thomas J. Barbar or Vice Chair Cynthia E. MacCausland.
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