Why is time tracking necessary for a law firm?
Tracking time is crucial for all businesses. This is especially true for law firms and other businesses that have hourly fees.
As you know, lawyers, paralegals, and other law firm employees don’t spend their days exclusively working on big projects. Moreover, many tasks – phone calls, for example – can take only a couple of minutes.
A law firm looking to increase its profit needs to find a way to include these smaller tasks into its invoices. Otherwise, they will be losing a significant amount of billable time, since the smaller tasks can add up to quite a sum. Time trackers like Time Analytics are the optimal solution to this problem, as they cover and justify all items on an invoice down to the minute.
However, accurate billing is only one of the reasons to start tracking time. Time Analytics also offers valuable insights into your company’s progress through key performance indicators. These indicators (KPIs for short) quantify the state of any business and present them comprehensibly. Hence, they can offer insights into the inner workings of your company, such as top and low-performing lawyers, team performance, profit and loss accounts, etc.
Without further ado, let’s see how time tracking can help your law firm.
What are the categories you can track?
Time tracking per employee
Tracking time per lawyer, consultant, paralegal, etc., is one of time tracking’s biggest benefits. Even though it doesn’t directly increase billable time, it will give you valuable insights into the way your employees spend their days. With time tracking per employee, you can
- Understand the way your employees structure their workdays
- Discover unproductive behaviors and find their causes
- Track overtime and days off
- Identify the top performers as well as employees who may need some guidance
- See the difference between effective and ineffective business practices
Tracking Work Task time
Gaining a deeper understanding of how your employees manage their tasks is another positive influence work hours tracking can bring.
Firstly, tracking time per work task can help you make accurate estimates for future clients. Secondly, if some lawyers or teams are significantly slower than their peers while doing the same type of work, you should probably consider adding team members or a mentor.
On the other hand, you can discover weak spots in your workflow and mistakes while delegating tasks. Time tracking can point you to the solutions, whether they include reorganizing your business, hiring additional attorneys, or outsourcing some of the tasks.
Tracking Client time
The success of a law firm doesn’t only depend on the company itself. The quality of collaboration with different clients is equally important for profitability. Understanding your clients and the specifics of your contracts compared to the actual work you do for them is a great way to determine if you need to make adjustments to your future projects.
As result, tracking time per clients can help you:
- Track the profit coming from each client
- Allocate costs to clients and make profit assessments
- Identify most and least lucrative clients
- Calculate the optimum fees for specific tasks and projects
- Negotiate more favorable contracts with existing clients
Time tracking per project
You cannot assess the profitability or efficiency of your company if you don’t track time per project. As we have previously mentioned, a large portion of a lawyer’s or paralegal’s tasks take very little time to complete. It is important to know the profit margin coming from law-related projects compared to the profit coming from advisory and other activities.
Time tracking process insights
Simple time tracking
There are many time tracking software solutions for law firms. Some take up a lot of time and effort in day-to-day tracking. In an industry where each minute is important and makes up the total billable time, it is important to be able to log time quickly and efficiently. In other words, you should look for a platform that will give you the most data with as few fields to fill as possible.
The initial setup of the time tracking system is important as well. You should weigh in between high customization options and a streamlined system that will be reliable and simple for all team members right from the start.
Which values should you track?
There are different levels and types of tracking. Some tracking platforms offer stricter tracking options, such as screenshots and keystroke monitoring. Others, on the other hand, allow for more freedom and less micromanagement. These solutions are more convenient for a law firm, as the ultimate goal of the time tracking process isn’t to make sure everyone is working for 8 hours straight but to measure productivity.
Generally, employees are more likely to accept a trust-based time tracking platform and use it to its full potential. This way you’ll avoid implying distrust or invading your legal team’s privacy. Additionally, taking screenshots of your employees’ computers can be against the GDPR depending on your location.
Repetitive task management
When it comes to time tracking in an industry that deals with many small tasks, it is important to be able to filter through the logs quickly. That is why creating recurring tasks is a crucial feature of time tracking software for law firms.
Through this feature, you’ll enable your team to create new entries in a couple of clicks and dedicate more time to their tasks.
Billable rates for a law firm
Defining planned billable rates for each client and employee is a crucial part of task management for a law firm. Yet, the realistic billing rate is an even more important factor. Determining both of these values is one of the most critical conditions for calculating the company’s profitability.
Time tracking software should automatically account for an attorney’s default billable rate as the tasks are being performed. Another option is giving the employee the option to set up their rates manually. Finally, the time tracking platform can allow the implementation of a billable hours chart. This method is a great option if you want to save time.
Tracking and comparing billable rates is crucial for knowing the realistic rate. The realistic rate is calculated by dividing the total profit by billable hours invested in the project per employee. You can only do this once the project is completed and charged for.
Cost (rates) management
Cost rates are comprised of the employee hourly rate, which is based on their salary, and the hourly rate coming from the general expenses. Time tracking can calculate cost prices of projects and clients by drawing defined cost rates automatically.
All-encompassing timesheets are some of the time tracking software’s most important features. These reports play a significant role in the confirmation of working hours. They help track breaks, overtime, vacation or sick leaves, etc. Some countries have pronounced them a mandatory document for paying your employees.
Timesheet templates and models are a useful shortcut, but they can’t answer every company’s needs. If you are planning to create a detailed timesheet for full-time equivalents, you shouldn’t forget:
- Activities per client
- Work details
- Total hours invested
- The ratio of billable and non-billable hours
- The hourly billing rates
Time reports and insights
Contrary to popular belief, controlling your team’s every move isn’t the primary purpose of time tracking. The data you collect over time shouldn’t be disregarded. Instead, it can be turned into different reports that indicate both positive and less profitable business decisions. These reports are a great tool that can help any higher-up make positive changes to their law firm. Once you know where your problems are stemming from, you can hire additional help, restructure the workflow, or suggest a productivity tool that could help your employees.
Time Analytics offers an intuitive dashboard comprised of different analytics – track time, clients, team members, tasks, and projects in real-time and notice trends and changes.
Time and invoicing
Our platform enables you to generate accurate itemized invoices that account for each task done for a client. The bills come from attorney timesheets and include all relevant data.
The importance of this metric comes from its necessity to calculate individual client and project profitability indicators. It is impossible to get these values without tracking costs per work hour.
How to track costs per client and project?
A high-quality time and expense tracking platform can automatically draw the price of a work hour with all direct and indirect expenses and allocate them to projects.
The system sets up the cost rate for each employee by default. You can calculate the total cost rate by adding the pay rate to the overhead cost rate.
Our platform also offers an easier option that only requires setting up the pay rate. If, for example, the gross salary is $1500 per month with an average monthly working time of 150 hours, the pay rate ends up being $10. This is how you can find out the gross expenses. The next step is adding the overhead rate.
If the total overhead expenses (renting the office space, utility and internet bills, different supplies) add up to $7500 monthly in a company with ten employees, the overhead costs per employee are $750. Once you divide this sum by the monthly working hours, the overhead hourly rate will be $5.
In other words, the total cost rate is $15. You should enter this rate for each employee into the program so it can automatically add the expenses to the projects and clients the lawyer is working and tracking their time with. You do this by multiplying the time logged by the hourly rate.
Now you can see how much each activity, project, or client costs you without calculating and allocating the expenses manually.
Essential KPIs any law firm should track
The company’s average billable rate
The company average billable rate is the average amount of money your company receives working for your clients. This KPI is crucial to any law firm. You should compare the average billable rate to the planned billable rate. This way you’ll know whether you are meeting your goals or not.
Billing rate per employee
Keeping your eye on employee billing rates makes determining your most productive attorneys easy. This indicator shows the hourly rate you charge your clients for a specific employee.
If you want to assess your employees realistically, you need to track the realistic monthly billable rate and compare it to the total cost rate.
Costs per client/project
This KPI is the sum of company expenses allocated to a client or project. Time tracking is crucial to figuring out these costs, as it is necessary for calculating expenses.
This metric is important because it can facilitate cost budgeting in the next budgeting cycle.
Time utilization represents the ratio between billable and non-billable hours. It is especially important for law firms, as it points to how much time the attorneys are dedicating to making a profit and how much to non-billable activities.
Project billable rate
It is important to know your project billable rate, as this metric shows whether your projects are bringing you profit. It is a good indicator of whether you need to increase your rates in the future.
This KPI is calculated by dividing total project revenue by total hours invested in that project.
Client billable rate
You can calculate this metric by dividing the total income by the total hours spent on a client. It shows the average billable rate per client.
Billing rate utilization
This KPI represents the difference between the planned (expected) and achieved profit. You can calculate by dividing the realized billable rate by the planned rate.
Work task structure
Knowing how much time each task takes up, and understanding task structure helps companies adjust their workflow and increase efficiency.
There are two general types of reasons for overtime. The first one regards realistic company needs and may require you to delegate tasks again or add more attorneys to a specific task. On the other hand, overtime can come from unproductive behaviors. In that case, you will probably have to find specific problems that make your team members less productive and find solutions for those problems.
There are many time tracking benefits in the field of law. Even though time tracking platforms aren’t a popular solution among employees, using them the proper way can alleviate the growing pains. If the lawyers and other personnel use the system well, they can benefit from time tracking themselves, as the indicators can help them structure their workdays more efficiently.
However, you need to be careful with the implementation of time tracking systems or time blocking app. This is especially true if your partners, attorneys, paralegals, etc. are more experienced and set in their ways. Hence, you will need a system that allows a lot of flexibility and benefits for the users. Time analytics offers many useful features, a clean and intuitive interface. Using our system can also point out the employees who are overwhelmed with work, as well as the attorneys who can help them by taking on some of the workloads.
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