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March 02, 2012

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Allison Shields

Jack,

I agree than an attorney's rates, regardless of how they are calculated, need to take into account the work that they do that may not be billable to a particular client. But the fact is that no matter how well they keep track of time and what software they use, they're not really charging by the hour, and the hour isn't really what the client is paying for.

I don't think billing in six minute increments solves any problems with "non-billable time." For most tasks, if you're completing the task in six minute increments and switching between multiple tasks at once, you're probably taking more time to complete all of those tasks than you would if you did them one at a time, and the quality of the work is generally going to be inferior. It's a fiction, and it works to neither the lawyer's nor the client's advantage.

Jack

"it isn’t uncommon for lawyers to be sitting in their offices for 12 hours and have only 6 hours of billable time on a time sheet at the end of the day"

There is nothing wrong with that if your hourly rate reflects such amount of non-billable time and at the end of the week you get enough money.

Also six minutes increments method solves some of the issues with non-billable time, switching between tasks and losing context.

In order to no waste time for the calculations you just need the right tool like http://MrTickTock.com which supports quick start/stop counter, tasks switching, six minutes method, comments and other.

Anna

Gyi, I think you pointed important things about the time tracking. Because beside the billing purpose, time tracking is also important for the later analysis of the recorded data. If you are using a good time tracking tool you can choose what information you will get in the reports and how often you need to receive those reports. I'm using now a desktop app - www.timetrack.eu, but there is also a version for mobile devices available. What I like the most about this tool is the possibility to set the automated reports that are sent on my email.

Thomas L. Bowden Sr.

Timothy - Judges are often wrong - as evidenced by the fact that we have courts of appeals. It will take time and patience, but ultimately the profession can overcome its misguided fascination with the Marxist Labor Theory of value which never made sense even in the 19th century as to manual laborers, not to mention 21st century knowledge workers.

Allison Shields

Summer,

Thanks for your comment - but my point is that I don't think tracking time is the best way for lawyers to either bill clients (if they have a choice) or manage the work that is being done in their offices. While I can see the utility of programs that track what you are doing on your computer for certain things, I don't think this is any better than the ways that attorneys traditionally track time now (most often, using practice management software with timers that allows them to enter the time contemporaneously).

Summer Daza

I am also into tracking time no matter if it's billable or not. Tracking your time when working is very important nowadays. With this, you would know how much time you were spending on a certain task. You could analyze if you could do it a little faster or what you have done that took a lot of your time.
Personally, I prefer the web-based online time tracking tool like Toggl. However, if you need help or a guide on finding an alternative time tracking software, I've just recently read a blog that have tips. You might find it useful. You might find it interesting.
http://www.timedoctor.com/blog/2010/11/16/5-reasons-why-most-time-tracking-software-is-flawed

Allison Shields

Gyi,

Tracking time generally is one thing, but the traditional methods of tracking time for attorneys are more time consuming than they are worth and put the emphasis in the wrong place. But you do make an excellent point about what attorneys should do once they have that information. Unfortunately, the incentive for attorneys who bill by the hour is to reduce efficiency and increase hours, rather than the other way around.

When not billing by the hour, attorneys can use general time information to inform turn-around time, workflow and productivity and seek to improve not just efficiency, but effectiveness.

Thanks for engaging in conversation with me on Google Plus on this issue - if anyone would like to see it, check it out here:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/117235644077949816393/posts/cb9xTKRUSF3

Gyi Tsakalakis

Hi Allison,

Whether you bill for your time or not, time is a resource and should be tracked.

Do lawyers track other resources at their firm, like say, money? Hopefully.

But tracking time is only the beginning. The next step is what you do with your time data?

Do you analyze it? Do you take action to be more efficient.

Allison Shields

Timothy,

As I've mentioned in other blog posts (including those referenced in this post), unfortunately, where there are fee shifting provisions or other instances in which the courts will be reviewing or setting fees, lawyers have no choice but to charge by the hour, which necessitates tracking time for their billable activities. Hopefully courts will begin to place more emphasis on the other elements that determine whether a fee is reasonable and stop relying so much on the amount of time spent, but until that happens, you'll need to do what the court requires.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Timothyevans

I must track my time, at least on matters with fee-shifting provisions. The judges I have talked to specifically reject the proposition that you can test the reasonableness of a lawyer's fee without examining how much time was spent on the matter.

In hypotheticals I've posed to judged where a dispute has arisen between a lawyer and his client, they have unanimously opined that no fee could be reasonable without the lawyer proving how much time was spent on the matter.

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