The benefits of time tracking solutions in the legal consultancy business.
With the availability of mobile technology, capturing billable time has become quite convenient for service providers and practitioners across multiple industries, including law firms and legal consultancies. But not all lawyers on the market have fully adopted time tracking software solutions to help manage their practice. While some prefer the old-fashioned pen to paper method, others are simply unaware of how easy time tracking software actually is to implement.
Without proper time tracking, it can be difficult to keep track of work hours and billable time. After all, you probably have more important things to do than keeping an eye on the clock?
In the past, time tracking had to be done by filling out time sheets, accompanied by tedious arrangements with the administrative assistant. The result: calculating and tracking billable hours could take days before they were manually entered into the billing system of your legal firm. It just weren’t cutting it in terms of efficiency.
Luckily, times have changed.
What is time tracking?
By definition, time tracking is essentially the process of measuring and documenting the number of hours worked by an employee or practitioner. As most legal consultants charge by the hour, tracking accurately is imperative.
Practice management solutions are often more capable and comprehensive than the simple time tracking systems available on the market. With the right technology at hand, law firms and practitioners can keep track of additional data – not just work hours.
Different Time Tracking Methodologies
Besides the pen and paper method of tracking work hours, there are a few other technologies that have long been quite popular among law firms. Let’s take a closer look at a few:
The Spreadsheet Method
The spreadsheet method, with either Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, is probably the most common method of keeping track of work hours ever since personal computers became a common tool in offices.
Spreadsheets are super flexible and way easier to use when it comes to recordkeeping. The application can be easily implemented to manage up-to-date records of how much time a person is spending on specific projects or tasks. As an employee time tracking app, all one has to do is create five columns with the following designations; Date, Task/Activity, Start Time, End Time, and Total Hours Worked. They may also opt to include additional columns for Client Name and Hourly Rate, if and when applicable.
The spreadsheet can be configured so authorized personnel will have access to the file and are free to enter additional data whenever necessary, like when a new project is created or when a new client has been taken in by the firm. For accessibility and collaboration purposes, the Excel spreadsheet may also be uploaded to just about any cloud platform, so workers with internet connectivity can easily access the file from just about anywhere.
While the spreadsheet method is very inexpensive, it does have a few issues. Compared to the far more advanced technologies and time tracking platforms available today, spreadsheets are more labour-intensive, prone to man-made errors, and inaccuracies.
The Software Method
Time tracking applications are most certainly a leap forward from Microsoft Excel. Time tracking apps allow users to record billable hours and time spent on tasks almost effortlessly. All one has to do is open the app, click on start time, do their work, and click on the stop time once they’re done with their task. The data is automatically logged into the system for later reference.
Time tracker apps are commonly used in various industries, and they are a popular software for law firms, medical practitioners, and professional service providers. Most of these types of software solutions provide users with more than just the time spent on work or on each individual project. They also provide information the actions the employee made while on the clock, which applications they’re using, which websites they visited, and which aspect of the task they spent the most time on. In other words, it’s bordering an HR software solution.
While time tracking apps can be very efficient, easy to use, and pretty accurate in providing useful information about what the employee is doing while on the clock, some workers may find the software solution as a breach of their privacy. Despite that, many legal firms and law practitioners who outsource certain administrative tasks to third-party service providers online find time tracking apps very helpful.
The Automated Approach
While the basic time tracking software requires users to manually start and stop the timer, there are a number of automated systems, including time tracking legal software, which you can download and install. These automatic time tracking solutions work passively, meaning they work in the background and are on all the time.
The biggest advantage with automatic time tracking is that users will never have to worry about forgetting to start the timer or stopping it when they’re done working. The downside is that such applications are less accurate compared to other software applications available in the market. This is because there’s really no way to determine when the user is actually working on a task, or if they’re just spending time on personal activities.
As a solution for time tracking for lawyers, medical professionals, and other service providers, automatic time tracking apps can be difficult when collecting specific data to bill clients.
The Project Management Software Approach
Plenty of businesses use project management software to keep track of their team, check their progress, and improve collaboration. These systems come with a time tracking tool that seamlessly monitor how much time employees spend on tasks, as well as billable hours for contractors and third-party providers.
Project management solutions allow users to figure out exactly how they spend their time. Many of these are available as cloud solutions, providing easy access to information wherever you may be.
The main downside of this time tracking approach, however, is the pushback from certain employees, as they may see it as an invasion of privacy. That pushback may fade over time as users realize that the system might actually benefit them. Project timelines, workloads, project collaboration and handoffs, law firm billing – all of these processes can be improved greatly with the right project management and time tracking solution.
Practice Management Software for Legal Firms
For solicitors working in busy law form, proper case management is just as crucial as time management. And this is what legal practice management systems can offer.
Running a legal practice can be challenging and complicated without the right personnel and the appropriate tools in place. Managing court documents and client cases, accounting, and keeping track of billable hours – these are just a few of the many time-consuming aspects of running a successful law firm.
Luckily, there are software solutions and applications available that make these processes way more manageable and easier for everyone involved. Whether you’re looking for a good time tracking tool or a unified legal practice software solution that can help you manage virtually every step of your legal practice. It’s time to spend less work hours on administrative tasks, and doing more of what actually matters – your job.