It’s fashionable to bash time billing.
These days it seems nobody – neither attorneys nor clients – likes the idea of attaching a dollar value to every minute spent on a legal matter.
Even so-called experts in law office economics disagree on whether hourly billing should go the way of the IBM Selectric typewriter. Other billing methods – flat fees, value pricing, contingency fees, or some hybrid formula – are touted as better, more profitable ways to charge for legal services.
But step away from the economics of the issue, and you will find ample justification for keeping careful track of your time. It’s a good strategy for all lawyers, not just those who bill by the hour, and for all types of cases.
5 Top Reasons for Recording Your Time
- It’s easy. And it need only take a minute or so each day. Choose from a wide variety of bundled office management programs, specific time-keeping software, or free downloadable apps. Or use a sheet of lined paper and a Bic pen.
- It keeps you balanced. To be most effective, your time-keeping should cover everything you do: personal, professional and social. See exactly what percentage of time is spent at the office versus home. How many hours are burned waiting in court for your case to be called. How long your lunch breaks actually last. How seldom you go to the gym. How rarely – or frequently – you indulge in activities purely for fun.
- It provides a reality check. Dietitians tell people who want to lose weight to start keeping a diary of everything they eat. Every. Single. Bite. This is because we have a tendency to underestimate the extent of our undesired behavior. We remember the whole-wheat bagel we had for breakfast and the modest portions we consumed at lunch and dinner – and we wonder why we keep packing on pounds. What we conveniently forget are all the in-between snacks, the 600 calorie mocha from Starbucks, the half a dozen Dr. Peppers at work, and the tub of ice cream at bedtime.
- It forces you to come up for air. We can get so immersed in a project that we lose track of time. By pausing to make a written record of what we did today and how long it took, we get a better grasp of the progress we’re making on any given matter. For example, we might discover that large chunks of our time are gobbled up by administrative work or legal research – tasks that are easily outsourced.
- It can be fun. These are the days of our lives. They are numbered, finite and valuable. It’s up to us how we choose to use them.
Getting control of our time is empowering – and it starts by knowing exactly how we are spending it.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.