Ask a group of private practice lawyers for a list of their pet peeves and, before long, the subject of billable hours will inevitably arise.  For most lawyers, even many who work on contingency cases and flat-fee matters, billing time is considered a necessary evil.

Even if you religiously track time spent on your client matters, though, your billable hours are NOT telling you 5 things you really need to know to create more of what you want and less of what you don’t.  Your billable hours won’t tell you:

  • How much time you spend on administrative tasks
  • How much time you are spending on networking and business development
  • Your “capture ratio,” in other words, how many hours you have to spend at work to reach your billable hours target
  • How much time you are spending on distractions and workday socializing
  • How to get more time to enjoy life outside the office

The only way you can get that information is by tracking ALL of your time, particularly your time that is NOT billable.

When you track all of your time, whether it’s billable or not, you will learn critical information that will help you get more clients, put more money in your pocket, create time for your own professional development, and allow you more energy to relax and enjoy what you’re doing when you’re not working .  Here’s what you’ll find out when you document and analyze your non-billable time . . .

  •  How much time you are spending on administrative tasks and what that’s costing you in terms of hours you could be investing in serving clients or bringing in business. Applying your billable rate to those hours will reveal the true financial cost of those activities and may serve as the impetus to outsource some of those back-office tasks to someone who is highly skilled in that area, but less expensive.  Do those tasks need to be done? Absolutely. But not necessarily by you.
  • Where, when and how much of your time is being allocated to networking, marketing and other business-development activities and which of those endeavors is actually working. That data will allow you to make choices – maybe you need to ramp up your business development (or just be more consistent) or eliminate the activities that are not paying off.
  • How to decrease the number of instances in which you get to the end of an 11 hour day and wonder how you could have only billed 5. When you ask, “where did my day go?” you’ll actually know the answer and can make adjustments if you wish.
  • How to build some downtime and socializing with colleagues into your day without mindlessly losing precious hours. Taking mental breaks and developing relationships with your coworkers are important for doing good work, building camaraderie and enjoying your job.  But by noting how and when you may be letting downtime get away from you, you’ll be able to make sure the breaks you are taking improve, and don’t diminish, your performance as a lawyer.

How will tracking ALL your hours help you get more of what you want and less of what you don’t?

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