For many of us, tracking our billable hours can be a huge headache, but it doesn't have to be. Here's some advice to make billing a bit easier for yourself, your colleagues, and your clients.
Time is a precious resource for just about anyone these days—especially for lawyers who work by the billable hour. For a lot of us, tracking billable time can be a huge headache, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips that turn something we often think of as a “chore” into an opportunity to deliver exceptional service to your clients, and to get the most out of your own day.
Track your time, all the time.
You've probably heard this before, but you should be tracking your time contemporaneously with the activity you're billing. If you wait, you're likely to either under bill, cheating your firm, or over bill, cheating your client. In addition to losing accuracy, you’re also likely to waste time and energy trying to go through your calendars, call history, and notes to recreate your time.
If you can't access your billing software at that given moment, make a note on your phone and enter the time as soon as you are able. It is also a good idea to use a billing app when you’re traveling or “on-the-go.” If this isn’t possible, you can even use the “Notes” feature on a secure mobile device to get the job done.
Your entries should tell a story about your case.
The client should read your entries and know the story of her case. Go beyond the “what,” and also explain why tasks were performed. For example, instead of just saying you spent two hours on research, explain how the research was necessary to the overall strategy for the matter.
Part of this is also utilizing a precise and consistently-formatted style to share details of your activity. This will also help leave no question in the client’s mind about what happened in any given billed hour.
Pro tip: Reference a person by using their first initial and full last name, and do this consistently.
Your time entries are important pieces of communication with your client.
When making any entry, ask yourself: If I were the client, would I pay for this? Does each billing entry represent you, your colleagues, and your firm in the best possible way?
To ensure this, proofread for grammar, typos and misspellings as you would any other work product. Also follow any billing guidelines that client has put in place to ensure that you are making the process as easy as possible for both your client and your own colleagues.
At the end of the day, the end result of building better billing habits like these is turning each bill into another positive interaction with your client—one that truly communicates the value of your service and keeps that relationship strong.
Note: This post was adapted and republished with permission. You can find more advice from Frank on his site, miamimentor.com.