Tips to Help Lawyers Increase Billable Hours
As a lawyer, you’re keenly aware of how many hours you bill on an average day.
Billables are the lifeblood of your law firm and the key to operating a successful legal business, and there are ways to maximize them without sacrificing your sanity or personal life.
From hiring phone answering help to enacting minimum time increments, here are some tips lawyers like you can use to maximize billable hours.
1. Bill as you complete work, not at the end of the workday
Some lawyers enter their time at the end of each day. This can feel more efficient than stopping to enter your time after every task, but it’s not necessarily the most efficient way to increase your billable hours. Plus, it’s easy to forget about all of the small tasks you do when working on a case.
Instead of waiting, try noting your billable time at the competition of every task. This ensures more accurate time tracking, which can naturally increase the number of billable hours you earn each day.
2. Delegate non-billable tasks (like phone answering)
If you own and operate your own law firm, you can’t bill for every hour you spend working on the business.
When you’re in charge, you’re not only responsible for client work. You’re also responsible for keeping the administrative side of the business running smoothly. You need to make sure the phones get answered, remember to order office supplies, manage your calendar, answer client inquiries, and a whole lot more.
This time takes away from billable hours. To maximize your earnings, it makes sense to delegate as many administrative tasks as possible.
You could hire a dedicated office manager, receptionist, or legal assistant. For many lawyers, this can be a great solution. Other lawyers want a more flexible option, one that doesn’t require hiring, vetting candidates, training, and managing employee benefits. Those lawyers opt for virtual assistants and virtual receptionists.
When your firm is operating at peak efficiency, you’ll have more time to dedicate to serving your clients.
3. Bill in minimum time increments
Establishing minimum time increments for billing is an ethical and accepted legal practice, as long as the client understands the arrangement. Popular minimum time increments for lawyers include 15 minutes (one-quarter of an hour) and six minutes (one-tenth of an hour).
This practice allows you to bill for all work done on a case, even a three-minute phone call.
4. Minimize the possibility of billing complaints
When a client disputes their invoice, it’s not just inconvenient. It also takes time away from billable hours, which makes it tricky to maximize your earning potential.
So, make sure every time entry includes a complete description of the task. Instead of writing something vague like “phone call,” detail who you spoke with and what the call was about. A few words can save a surprising amount of time in billing disagreements.
5. Use the right time tracking software
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to time tracking software. Choosing a tool can be overwhelming, but the array of choices mean you can easily find the best fit for your firm.
For example, if you often work on the go, look for a tool with a robust mobile app. If you already have billing software that you like, many programs can integrate into the tools you already use. The right tool will save time and streamline billing so you can focus on client work.
When you use all five of these tips at once, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how possible it is to maximize the billable hours that you put into your legal work.