Two Tips : Time Billing and Resources
Published to: West Virginia Lawyer - Tips and Techniques
on July 19, 2012 1:32 pm
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Finding time for two blogs is an interesting challenge, but mostly it is a hectic summer, with lots of mowing, a stormy week without power, and daylights savings time that has slowed down the posts.
1. My method for keeping track of my time billing is hardly state of the art, but it works for me.
a. I use a proprietary Access database that I first started using with Appleworks and then converted to Microsoft Works. I trust that anyone who has commenced their practice in the last 30 years has a commercial billing program.
b. I dictate my time entries using: 1. My Outlook calender; and 2. my e-mails.
c. I usually just review my inbox. When a client questions a bill, we “audit” the file including my “sent” e-mail, which usually adds 10% to the bill. This is not a punitive measure, and I only bill .1 hr. per item, not .25 as some lawyers do. But, it provides a little cushion so the picky client can see I do more that they may first think.
d. My last post outlined some new dictation methods I am devising, but maternity leave of my paralegal Jamie has squelched my move to “digital dictation” for six months.
e. So, I dictate to a mini-cassette and place it on my billing clerk’s desk.
f. Trouble is, I often forget where I left off, so I do not know where to start. I may dictate the same day’s entries twice and leave a gap so that I receive a note on the day’s entries, “e-mails missing”.
g. We have just started having my billing clerk listen to the last few entries first, and sending me an e-mail that I left off at a certain date and time. That should solve that problem.
h. The secondary advantages of dictating time entries from my e-mail is; 1. That I send and receive LOTS of e-mails, which accurately track what I do on a case and, since I have 4-5 assistants, allow me to recover something for our interaction without actually having to bill separately for their time. That saves the clients money too!
2. My second “tip” is that I continue to add dozen of articles, forms, and checklists to a DropBox folder that I called “Colleague Articles”. For colleagues I know, I am happy to “share” this DropBox folder. I respect copywrites so I share with a limited number of people and encourage them to subscribe to the publications they find most useful, but for a lawyer starting out, or even an experienced one, this folder has many valuable tips and resources.
This stuff may be “nuts and bolts”, but any lawyer who is not capturing and documenting his/her time, even in personal injury or other contingent fee cases, is cheating himself out of income, failing to protect himself over billing questions/complaints, and failing to protect himself for malpractice claims. And, when the fees are reversed, such as an insurance bad faith claim, having proof of what you did is essential.
And the “colleage articles” have been culled from hundreds of articles and dozens of publications, and some are forms created by me for my practice. The small group of friends who has access to this folder has a “treasure trove”.
This post was written by Burton Hunter