New lawyer skills focus: Are you losing time?

I don’t know a single lawyer who enjoys billing.

I do know a bunch of lawyers who leave completing their time sheets until the end of the month.

That means that I know a lot of lawyers who lose time.

It isn’t a sexy topic .  There’s no way that billing can be sexy, unless it’s at the heart of a criminal case that brings a lawyer down — but that isn’t the kind of sexy any of us wants to experience.  None of us wants to work without billing for it, though, so it is an important topic and one that’s simple in the abstract but challenging for many of us.

So, what works?  Plenty of legal management programs offer billing software that allows you to enter your client and a description of your work and then to monitor your time when you click start and stop.  It can be a pain, but if you get in the habit, it works beautifully.  I was able to track my time far more accurately by using software and increased my billing (legitimately) by about 10%.

If you don’t like software, make your own time-tracking sheets.  You (or your assistant) can make up a table with each of your active cases and a space to track your time and a few notes about what you’re doing.  Just making brief notes throughout the day will help, especially if you then transfer that data to your “real” timesheets.

Or get a calendar that divides the day into 15-minute increments, mark what you worked on every 15 minutes, and use your calendar as your timesheet.  Of course, that really only works well if you bill in .25-hour increments; otherwise, it gets messy quickly and whoever transcribes your time (especially if that’s you) will not be happy.

I think the best tip of all, though, is to make it your habit never to go to bed without making sure you’re current on your timesheets.  Don’t go to bed angry with your spouse, and don’t go to bed with your time unrecorded.

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