For law firms, the usual productivity metric is the billable hour. Here are some ways you can get the most out of your day while reducing non-billable and wasteful time, allowing you to increase your billable hours.
Capture Every Billable Hour – Before you begin working on managing your time more efficiently and increasing your billable hours, you should first focus on collecting, documenting and invoicing the hours you’re already expending. To ensure all billable hours get invoiced:
- Document time spent for each client each day. Law firm management software is a simple, efficient way to accomplish this. If you are using manual timesheets, keep a running log during the day, so nothing gets missed.
- Bill for email time. Forward a copy of all client emails to yourself or your assistant to ensure the time spent gets invoiced.
- Get a case/matter number at start of any engagement. This may seem insignificant, but taking care of this up front makes it clear to a client or other attorney that you are going to bill them. It also eliminates the time (which is non-billable) required to chase it down later.
Use Resources Intelligently – The current benchmark for annual billable hours is 1800-2000, or about eight hours a day. That can be tough considering the many non-billable hours spent on things like marketing, networking, and managing the firm itself. One way to maximize your billing hours is to delegate other, non-billable tasks to clerical or administrative staff. Those could include:
- Sorting/prioritizing email and physical mail
- Reading and summarizing relevant articles and posts
Law firm management software is also helpful, in that it streamlines client communications. If the software has a communications portal, for example, clients can keep updated regularly without taking up your time, thus eliminating phone tag and other time wasters.
Manage Your Time – This is a highly effective way to ensure you are working on the right things, eliminating waste from your schedule and maximizing your billable hours.
- Set goals – Monthly, Weekly, Daily.
- Establish a daily task list that ties into your weekly or monthly goals.
- Clarify your priorities and plan your day the prior evening.
- Review at the end of the week to determine how much progress you’ve made toward your goals.
- Actively manage your email:
- Turn off notifications – they just cause a loss of focus
- Remove personal email from your business inbox
- Unsubscribe relentlessly; remove yourself from auto feeds
- Set up “non-interruption” blocks of two hours at a time when you aren’t to be disturbed. During these blocks, focus on high priority tasks – preferably ones that can be billed.
Events conspire daily to try to rob you of your productivity. You need to be disciplined to ensure that you don’t get sidetracked. The reward will be higher productivity, more billable hours and more success for your firm.