How to Track Billable Hours: Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices

how to track billable hoursThis question is for the lawyers and others who have to keep track of your time — what are your best tips and tricks on how to track billable hours? If you’re a lawyer who reviews time sheets (either at a firm or in house), we’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s acceptable, what’s NOT acceptable, and what’s a red flag for you… It’s been a while since we’ve discussed time management, so let’s ponder…

Here’s Reader C’s question:

I thought it might be fun to do a post about all things billing. For newer attorneys, or those interested in transitioning from gov’t/etc., it could be really useful to learn the general rules and what more senior attorneys look for on their bills. For others it would be interesting to see tips/tricks for billing, key terms, billing as a way to market to clients and other related things. (E.g., my firm sends out a billing insert of a short article with each month’s bills).

Great question, Reader C! In my experience people tend to fall into two categories here: the obsessive billers who keep track in 6- or 10-minute increments — and the people who will definitely, totally get you those timesheets from six months ago asap. (We’re right on top of it, Rose!) The more cases and billable matters you have to keep track of, the more you have to be the first, obsessive person — whereas if you’re stuck on one never-ending project (doc review, anyone?) you can swing towards the second end of the spectrum.

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The Best Siri Hacks to Boost Your Productivity

the best siri hacks for productivitySince getting my iPhone 7, I have been shocked to find that I’m actually using Siri. I thought I’d look into some useful Siri productivity hacks to share, as well as ways to make Siri better (there has to be a way, right?) for a fun discussion today. Are you using Siri to boost your productivity? (Or Cortana, or Alexa, or Google Home?) What are your favorite Siri hacks for productivity and otherwise getting stuff done? (And a general question that’s more office-related: In general do you use dictation as an office hack, either via dictation software or dictating memos for your assistant to transcribe?) 

My favorite Siri hacks thus far:

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The Kind of Magical Billable Hour Tool

billable-hour-tool Speaking of focus and time management, now is a great time to mention: our friends over at Women’s Lawyer News have a new and updated version of their Billable Hour tool available just in time for 2017. After a 60 second setup, this spreadsheet will help you estimate where you are now versus your billable goal for the year, as well as show you how many hours you need to bill each day to hit that goal. Heading to a conference or taking a few days off because you’re sick or on vacation? The spreadsheet can tell you instantly how many hours you’ll need to make up those unbillable hours. The tool is $35, available for download here2017 (Kind of Magical) Billable Hour Tool

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How to Manage Your Time

How To Manage Your Time | Corporette2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to manage your time — but you may also want to check out our other discussions on time management.

How do you manage your time, either to meet billable minimums, stay motivated and productive, or to fit everything into your life? (2016 mini update: do check out this cool billable hour spreadsheet tool.) February is time management month — and we haven’t talked about how best to manage your time in a while. Here’s Reader T’s question:

Would you consider doing a post on billable hours – specifically, what people’s minimum requirements are, and how they go about meeting and/or exceeding those minimums? My firm requires 2000 hours and I had a horrible time last year just making the minimum. I swore this year would be different, but it seems I am back to my old ways. What do people do to stay continuously motivated and productive?

I recognize that this question is geared toward the lawyers who read your site, but maybe others have similar goals/requirements that they have to satisfy?

Great question!  I haven’t been in a billables environment for a while (and even then, my firm had no required minimum), but time management is something I still struggle with daily, so I’m curious to hear what readers say. My top tips are: [Read more…]

How to Make the Most of Your Productive Times

Pomodoro Kitchen Timer for Action Logging, originally uploaded by AndyRobertsPhotos.I’ve written before about how I love to get up early because that’s my most productive time of the day — but I don’t think we’ve ever talked about how to optimize those productive hours to get the most stuff done. I have my own tricks; I’d love to hear what you guys use as well. (I usually can be focused enough without time management techniques during this time — but they can be super helpful during other times of the day. Pictured: Pomodoro Kitchen Timer for Action Logging, originally uploaded by AndyRobertsPhotos. )

1) Know what you want to do. I always find this time is best to focus on ONE THING, not a whole to-do list. I don’t even WRITE my to-do list until later in the day, to be honest. When I get up early, I do the one thing that I need/want to do, and nothing else.

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Time Management, Down to Minutes

timemanagement

2016 Update: Don’t forget to check out our more recent discussion of the best ways to manage time, as well as this magical billable hour spreadsheet tool

Reader M writes in with a question about time management and billing fun…

There was a discussion a few weeks ago regarding timekeeping methods for those of us enslaved to the billable hour. I would LOVE to see a whole post on this. It’s been a hot topic among the associates at my small firm lately, particularly with the increased scrutiny our bills are getting from clients in the late economic times. What do people use to keep time? How efficient are people? Am I normal to have to spend 10 hours in the office to bill 8, or does that mean (a) I need to stop messing around so much (I’m looking at you, online shopping and Corporette threads!), or (b) I need to bill more aggressively? Any helpful tips on being descriptive in bills (5.9 hours for “organizing files”??)?

Tough question, and I’m very curious to see what the readers have to say.  I remember being told, as a summer associate (many moons ago and in a very different environment than we find ourselves today) that “everyone bills differently — some people get that flash of brilliance on a case in the middle of the night, or in the shower.”  (Um, for the record, I never billed any time for showers or middle-of-the-night-tossing-and-turning — not that work thoughts didn’t ever intrude on “private” time.)  (Pictured: Pocket Watch Clock, originally uploaded to Flickr by Svadilfari.) I’ll also point out that it varies from client to client — some prefer you to bill in quarter hours, others in tenths of the hour; some will let you get away with “Drafted brief” as your description; others will want “Researched and wrote section of brief on copyrightability.” [Read more…]