Efficient Time Recording for Law Firms – Case Study

This is a short case study that examines how one firm increased its productivity by 370 chargeable hours per month, simply by recording time more efficiently.

This well run firm has been time recording for many years on the LEAP system. They know their software and its functionality well – or at least they thought they did. This is a war story that will shock you.

Time Recording Policy

Although the staff knew they were obliged to record time, the reality was that the staff did so on the urging of the partners based on what they individually felt was right. We suspected that there had been no proper training on how to properly record time – even for those solicitors who had been recording time for years.

We find that in most firms even the partners themselves disagree on what the firm’s time recording policy should be.

As a simple test, ask three different people in your office these questions (assuming your “policy” is to record 6 minute units):

  1. What do you record if you have a 5 minute discussion with a client?
  2. What do you record if the call goes for 2 minutes
  3. What if goes for 15 seconds?

In firms where the partners agree on the detail of the policy and where the partners stand shoulder to shoulder pedantically insisting that the policy be observed, they will immediately enjoy the colossal difference just like this firm did.

In fact this firm saw this change within the first 4 weeks of the policy being introduced. (And which has existed consistently since too).

Putting it negatively, we have also found that the implementation of this policy, as with the other key policies we call The Four Law Firm Pillars™ by the partnership will determine how much additional time is recorded. If the partners are half hearted about it or the staff know some of them don’t really accept it (and the staff can spot this a mile away!) then your firm will struggle to enjoy the financial benefits it brings.

This is as much about the vision and leadership of the partners as it is the policy.

We introduced a workable Time Recording Policy into this firm. They have about 20 people time recording, ranging from PA’s to senior solicitors. They operate in what might be termed a “poor” suburban location. We talked to the management first and adapted the template we initially provide, to suit the firm and its needs.

The leadership team argued the policy privately and the discussions were vigorous.

Training

We provided a training session for staff including a Power Point demonstration and properly explained why the firm was focussing on time recording as well its importance from the firm’s perspective. We emphasised the benefits from the employee’s perspective and also from the client’s.

We trained them to utilize their software properly, in a practical way dealing with day-to-day real issues. Every staff member then knew exactly what their time targets were. Certainly some ‘got it’ earlier than others but the difference was immediate and significant – an extra 370 hours per month in client time recorded.

That was over 12 months ago and the firm has continued at this higher level ever since.

The bottom line

Do the maths. If you assume the average hourly rate was $200 as it includes some support staff members, that works out to be $200 x 370 = $74k per month. That is an additional $888k per annum in additional client time recorded. Yes you should reduce this by say 15% to allow for the realisation rate (the amount of time that doesn’t find its way into a bill).

That is $754k straight on the bottom line for a 23 member firm.

If you feel like an overseas trip and want to have your firm generating better revenues, do what this firm owner did, and enjoy a well-earned overseas holiday. He did so on the third month after this was introduced (and we didn’t even take that into account in the figures above)!

And the answer to the time recording questions…all three should have one unit recorded. Why the last one? What if the phone call was: “I’m just calling to say I accept the offer.” Is that something that deserves recording? Of course it is.

So the message is to record everything when you do it. If it is unfair or inappropriate then when the bill is being done it should be reviewed. So many people every single day discount their time and the partners never even know about it because it is simply not recorded.

If you want to know more about The Four Law Firm Pillars™ and how marketing is inexorably linked to these pillars and you want to grow your firm call us today to find out how.

Peter Heazlewood 0407 018 109

About the author

Brian Hicks

Brian Hicks

Brian has more than twenty years’ experience in marketing and management across diverse industries including legal, real estate, tourism and technology. Brian lives in Sydney with his wife and two daughters.

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