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The Truth About Legal Timekeeping

Price competition, commoditization of legal work, alternate service providers, compliance pressures, P3 (pricing, project management, and process) initiatives, and consumer-based technologies have all changed modern timekeeping.

And, while these market forces and pressures may cause us to question everything related to time capture, there are certain undeniable truths worthy of discussion.

Popular falsehood: “The billable hour is dead,” or “The end of the billable hour.” These are the most overused and abused statements in the business of law!

Our truth: It’s no longer about the “billable” hour, a very myopic output metric. It’s about the cost of production, and in professional services organizations (including firms) that means measuring the amount of work expended to deliver a service which is measured simply by the “hour,” a universal input metric. It’s as simple as “we deliver services; what is the cost of producing the service; assert the hours as the metric, track the hours, and codify them as billable, pro-bono, business development, etc.

Our truth: Super metrics will further validate timekeeping KPIs. Firms have been tracking standard financial KPIs like realization, leverage, and net income per partner for many years. Over this period, the quantity of hours was a given (the billable hour model), and firms’ KPI focus was more often downstream, post work-in-progress. In contrast, introducing a metric to measure quality of time inventory goes upstream and directly addresses work-in-progress. The velocity of time capture metric is clearly an upstream gauge that, when measured at the beginning of the firm transaction cycle, will serve as a good litmus test/indicator for all other sub metrics and KPIs. If your velocity metric is on track, then chances are so is your other downstream KPIs since they are all in part related to this super metric.

Seize the Opportunity… at the Intersection of Time

Let’s face it, time capture is not going anywhere. In fact, it’s even drawing extra attention from firm management with the ability to engage every lawyer in the firm. Extend past the standard time capture comfort zone and leverage the “moment of time capture” and user experience for other value-adds. Examples include case notes, expenses, and even more obvious the capture of future hours (i.e., forecasting) to support P3 initiatives by delivering workload-type information for the firm’s project and pricing officers. The keys to this equation are people, process, and technology, and the moment of time capture provides a unique opportunity where engagement is predictable and guaranteed.

Compliance vs. Revenue: Healthy Co‑existence or Conflict of Interest?

Firms are being forced to be compliant against increasing firm and client rules while still striving to maximize revenue through fluid time capture. Are firms recognizing that compliance delivered at the wrong time and to the wrong audience can compromise revenues? Look at compliance and revenue as separate phases within the timekeeping process. Time capture compliance and revenue compatibility can coexist. Find a system that supports a process that is lenient on capture at one stage to the timekeeper role while strict on compliance at a later stage to the finance/administrator audience. This is the blend that you should aim for and the way to implement outside counsel guidelines effectively with the least cost to your firm.

Consumer Technology and Timekeeping—Like Apple Pie and Ice Cream

Lawyers dislike time entry and often procrastinate in the entry of time. They will look for and accept the “magic pill” at any opportunity to relive the pain. AI and passive time capture are examples of “pills” that were proven less effective than advertised and with many side effects. On the other hand, lawyers, as power users of consumer technology, are fully engaged to a level that it is natural reflex if not a compulsive behavior. Marry these two, and you get efficient time entry that makes contemporaneous capture a habit-forming exercise. Timekeeping developed with consumer level experience is the force that is strong enough to swing the pendulum toward best-of-breed timekeeping solutions.

If you have enjoyed our realities of legal timekeeping, we encourage you to download the “Timekeeping Manifesto—10 Truths of Legal Timekeeping” in its entirety.


Tikit is one of the largest suppliers of technology solutions & services to legal & accountancy firms, and is part of BT Group. Tikit's client list totals more than 1,450 firms globally, including 90 of the UK's top 100 law firms, 250 US law firms, 12 of the top 20 European law firms and 18 of the UK's top 50 accountancy firms. Click here for more information.

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