Cast your mind back to the first time you had to prepare for a big court case – the endless hours of research, reviewing documents, and putting together your arguments. You worked tirelessly into the early morning hours with only one goal in mind: winning that case.
It was then you learned that a lawyer’s time vanishes like sand through an hourglass.
This feeling isn’t uncommon among lawyers. In fact, 75% of lawyers work unplanned overtime of around 140 hours each year. Lawyer burnout is real – and without proper time management, it’s inevitable.
Enter time tracking software specifically designed for attorneys. This powerful tool has been a game-changer in helping legal practitioners manage their workflow more efficiently while ensuring that clients are billed accurately and fairly.
But how do you convince your fellow attorneys or law firm partners that adopting such a system is worth it? How do you demonstrate its value beyond just another piece of technology cluttering up your already busy schedules?
The key here is focusing on what matters most: improving everyone's professional life by optimizing efficiency and maximizing revenue potential. And so, we're going to provide five practical tips on setting up time tracking software for lawyers, showcasing how this indispensable tool can revolutionize the way legal professionals manage their most valuable resource – time itself.
1. Accurately define your billable hours
Before you dive into using any time tracking software, it is of utmost importance that you and your team have a clear understanding of the distinction between billable and non-billable hours.
In essence, billable hours refer to the time spent on tasks and activities that can be directly charged to clients as a part of your service, while non-billable hours encompass the time spent on administrative tasks or other activities that do not contribute to your revenue generation.
To ensure the accuracy and precision of your time tracking efforts, it is crucial to establish effective communication with your team members regarding which tasks and activities should be classified as billable hours. In doing so, you can avoid confusion and maintain an accurate record of the time spent on billable tasks throughout the duration of a project or case.
Below are some examples of tasks that typically qualify as billable hours in the legal profession:
- Client Meetings: Time spent discussing case details, strategies, or updates with your clients.
- Preparing Legal Documents: Drafting, reviewing, or editing documents such as contracts, pleadings, or agreements.
- Reviewing Case Materials: Analyzing evidence, client files, case documents, or other materials relevant to a specific legal matter.
- Conducting Research: Investigating past cases or legal precedents, statutes, or regulations that pertain to your client's case.
In contrast, non-billable hours typically include time spent on activities such as:
- Staff or team meetings that do not directly address specific client matters.
- Professional or office maintenance tasks, like cleaning or organizing your workspace.
- Attending conferences, seminars, or workshops for professional development.
- Vacation days, sick leave, or other personal time off.
By taking the time to accurately define billable hours and effectively communicating this information with your team, you can easily track multiples on said billables and make sure daily team activities are aligned with your revenue goals. You’ll also impress clients with your seamless billing system.
2. Choose the right time tracking software for your law firm
When selecting a time tracking software for your law firm, it's essential to consider features specific to the legal profession. The right software, like Harvest, can significantly impact your firm's efficiency, ensuring accurate billing and time management. Let’s discuss the key factors to consider when choosing the most suitable time tracking software for your law firm.
Customizable billing rates
Legal professionals often bill clients at different rates based on their experience, expertise, or the complexity of the case. A good time tracking software should allow you to set multiple billing rates for different tasks, team members, or clients, ensuring accurate and fair invoicing.
Integration with legal billing systems
Your chosen time tracking software should be compatible with your firm's existing legal billing and accounting systems. This ensures a seamless data flow, reducing errors and making invoicing and client billing far more efficient.
Advanced reporting features
Detailed reporting features are crucial in keeping track of billable hours, project progress, and resource allocation. The software should provide customizable reports, enabling you to analyze and interpret data in a way that's most relevant to your law firm's operations.
Comparing and selecting the top time tracking tool for your use-case
Ready to find the right tool for your team? Work through the following steps to choose a time tracker that suits your needs perfectly.
- Create a list of potential software options: Research the market and compile a list of reputable time tracking tools, ideally those with a history of catering to law firms or those with customizable features geared towards the legal profession.
- Analyze the features: Compare each option based on the key features mentioned above, and consider any additional features that might be of particular interest to your firm, such as mobile app functionality, team collaboration tools, or security measures.
- Evaluate pricing: Weigh the costs of each software option against the features offered. Keep in mind that the most expensive option isn't always the best fit, so be sure to factor in the value each software provides for its price.
- Test the software: If possible, sign up for free trials or live demos of the top contenders to get a feel for their user interface, ease of use, and overall functionality. This hands-on experience will be invaluable in helping you make your final decision.
- Make your choice: Once you've thoroughly evaluated each option, select the time tracking software that best aligns with your law firm's specific needs, budget, and operational goals.
Choosing the right time tracking software is essential for law firms looking to improve efficiency and streamline billing processes. By carefully considering key features, comparing the top tools, and performing a thorough evaluation, you can select the software that will best support your firm's needs now and in the future.
3. Establish task categories and codes for improved time tracking & organization
One effective method for streamlining your firm's time tracking process is the implementation of task categories and codes. Task categories represent broad classifications of various work types, while task codes provide more specific descriptions of individual tasks within these categories.
Establishing task categories and codes will enable your team to quickly and easily log their billable hours using a time tracking software. Consequently, this will provide a more transparent and detailed picture of how their time is being allocated in various projects and tasks. This practice also helps in identifying areas that require improvement or adjustments to better cater to your firm's needs.
For instance, in the legal profession, task categories could include research, document drafting, client communication, and court representation. Within each category, task codes can be assigned to individual tasks, such as:Research
- R01: Legal research for case law
- R02: Legal research for statutes
- R03: Legal research for procedural rules
- D01: Drafting pleadings and motions
- D02: Drafting contracts and agreements
- D03: Drafting discovery requests and responses
- C01: Writing client correspondence
- C02: Phone consultations with clients
- C03: In-person client meetings and consultations
- CR01: Preparing for court hearings
- CR02: Representing clients in court
- CR03: Assessing and strategizing post-hearing actions
By using clearly defined task categories and detailed codes, your team can optimize their time management, improving efficiency and productivity in the workplace.
4. Integrate other platforms and time management tools
Effective time management within any organization is vital for maximizing productivity and staying on target. By integrating your time tracking software with other management tools, such as project management and accounting software, you enhance your firm's workflow, achieve greater efficiency, and create a stronger foundation for continued success.
Integration with project management tools
Incorporating your time tracking software with established project management tools (e.g., Asana, Trello, Basecamp, etc.) can greatly improve the overall management of tasks, project timelines, and resource allocation.
This integration allows you to seamlessly track deadlines, monitor progress, and prioritize resource distribution to ensure the smooth running of projects from start to finish.
Integration with accounting software
Another crucial aspect of integrating time tracking software is with your accounting software (e.g., QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, etc.). By doing so, you can automate your invoicing, revenue tracking, and financial reporting processes, simplifying the management of billable hours and related expenses.
An automated approach not only reduces the chance of errors and omissions but also allows for better tracking of each project's financial success.
Optimize your firm's time management & billing processes
Choosing time tracking software that offers extensive integration possibilities can have a significant impact on the way your firm manages its time, resources, and finances.
Implementing these integrations and harnessing their full potential will make a noticeable difference in the overall efficiency, productivity, and success of your organization.
Start exploring the integration capabilities of the time tracking software you choose, and take advantage of these features to optimize your firm's time management and billing processes to drive growth and sustainability.
5. Train, motivate, and support your team during the transition
Integrating new software into a team's workflow, especially something as critical as time tracking, can certainly present challenges. As a result, it is vital to properly train and motivate team members, keeping them engaged and ensuring a seamless adoption process. Here are some key steps to accomplish this:
Provide comprehensive training on time tracking software
Ensure that your team members fully understand the features, functions, and proper usage of the time tracking software. Offer in-depth training sessions and provide resources such as user guides or video tutorials. You’ll empower your employees to navigate the software confidently and efficiently, leading to more accurate time tracking.
Establish open communication channels
Maintain open lines of communication, so your team members feel comfortable asking questions, raising concerns, or sharing feedback on the time tracking software. By fostering a supportive environment and addressing any issues that arise, you will enable team members to fully embrace the new tool and become proficient in using it.
Emphasize the importance of accurate time tracking
Help your team understand the value and importance of accurate time tracking for both their personal growth and the firm's overall success. By highlighting the benefits, such as improved time management, more transparent client billing, and a better understanding of project progress, your team members will be more likely to track their time diligently and consistently.
Foster an environment of motivation and support
Encourage your team members to stay motivated and committed to using the time tracking software by recognizing and rewarding their efforts. Regularly monitor their progress and provide constructive feedback, or consider implementing incentives such as recognition or bonuses for consistent, accurate time tracking.
With the right support and motivation, your team will be equipped to make the most of this valuable tool.
Wrap-up: Boost your law firm's efficiency with Harvest
By putting into action the five crucial tips we've shared in this guide, your law firm will be on the fast track to setting up and getting the most out of time tracking software.
Harvest, our incredibly user-friendly and effective time tracking solution, has all the features and integrations talked about in this guide – making it perfect for law firms aiming to step up their game in managing their time.
Not only is Harvest compatible with a bunch of project management and accounting tools, but it also fits seamlessly into your existing workflows. You can easily add Harvest to your law firm's day-to-day operations without missing a beat!
When selecting the right time tracking tool for your law firm, it's crucial to find a solution that offers customized billing rates, secure, integrated billing systems, and reporting features that help you analyze and interpret operational data.
Harvest's free legal case management template helps you organize and prioritize cases by type, court dates, status, and more.