Timekeeping — I know, a subject that you would rather not discuss. It is burdensome and annoying and the situation is getting worse. Now law firms are starting to require timekeeping on a daily basis and penalties for not submitting billable time in a “timely” manner.
UGH! Daily, really? Yes, daily. And you should be glad that you are an organized woman, who is capable of multi-tasking and compartmentalizing effectively. YOU can do this. It is going to be a lot harder for lawyers, who do not have those skills. Think male lawyers, here! Trust me, it is going to be a lot harder for them. I have seen it in action.
Above the Law reported recently that the “proper keeping of time for all of those billable hours generated by toiling associates has never been more important.” Of course, because law firms are struggling to find every possible source of revenue as they recover from a recession that was devastating to the profession. As a result, law firms are initiating some new “motivational” techniques to get the cooperation of lawyers in reporting billable hours on time.
Fulbright & Jaworski describes its new policy as an effort to “minimize unnecessary loss of billable time due to delayed time entry.” The new policy requires attorneys to record time on a daily basis and includes exemptions for “exceptional circumstances” that are not very liberal. AND, the kicker is that only time reported in accordance with the new policy will be considered for the purposes of bonuses. OUCH!
So, how outrageous is this? After some insinuation that this policy is really harsh for associates seeking bonuses, ATL finally recognizes that there is no problem if associates just follow the rule. We are surrounded by rules, this is just another one. AND, in my experience this one is a blessing in disguise. Here’s why.
I have a little experience with recording billable hours. I have seen attorneys do it well, and I have seen others struggle to recreate a month of billable time. That is not only excruciatingly painful, but it is anything but efficient, as the law firms recognize. Fulbright & Jaworski is not the only firm initiating these new policies. I am aware of others with similar punitive policies, and I am sure that many other firms will follow suit.
Here’s some advice based on my personal experience. I always recorded my time at the end of each day. I kept a running record of time billed during the day and transferred that information to a time sheet or electronic recorder at the end of each day. Call me obsessive, but it worked then, even without the motivational techniques, and it will work now.
With that small effort, you not only will have a “real time” daily record of your billable time, but you also will have a running tally to compare with your targeted annual billable hours. It helps a lot when you want to take some time off for a vacation. You enjoy yourself more when you know that you have “time” to spare.
Got for it. Do the right thing and make it easier on yourself at the same time — even if your firm does not yet have a policy. It will pay off.
And be thankful that you are a woman — for whom this kind of thing comes naturally!