Heading into 2021, lawyers and law firms everywhere are optimistic about things “getting back to normal.” Returning to their offices and the on-prem tech and tools they sorely missed, the feeling for many is one of relief.
Yet for some, the feeling is of unmistakable opportunity. These lawyers understand the disruption of the past year was not something to be endured, but embraced, because now there is a new normal, one that offers better tech and tools for the delivery of legal services. More profitable ones, too.
In 2019, lawyers in private practice billed, on average, about 2.5 hours per day. (See, 2019 Clio Trends Report, https://www.clio.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/2019-Legal-Trends-Report.pdf.)
2020 wasn't much better, with lawyers capturing only 31% of their billable time. (https://www.clio.com/resources/legal-trends/2020-report/.)
That means lawyers “getting back to normal” are getting back to losing, or leaking, about 2/3 of every billable workday to non-billable activity. In light of this, their optimism is difficult to understand.
The problem is not that lawyers fritter away their days. Rather, they stay busy working on behalf of clients and simply neglect to bill for everything they do.
Typically, lost billable time is incremental. Lawyers don't forget to bill for a three-hour meeting, but often do for a three-minute email or a thirty-second phone call. Indeed, the average professional services business leaks hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue every year, factoring in minutes lost to smaller tasks. (Harvard Business Review, Gretchen Gavett; "Workers Are Bad at Filling Out Timesheets, and It Costs Billions a Day," January 12, 2015.)
Compounding the problem are inefficient and outdated time tracking methods, such as manual entry. (ABA Law Practice Magazine, Laura Keeler; "Tracking Time to Save Time," March 1, 2019.)
The lawyers and law firms who have reason to be optimistic about the future employ tools that allow them 1) to work from anywhere; 2) to bill from anywhere; and 3) to capture billable time for smaller tasks automatically.
Take Sean Martin, for instance. A lawyer in Nashville who has been practicing for over 20 years. His firm, Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC (www.mhpslaw.com), is completely cloud-based, from their phone system to their practice management and time and billing tools.
“For our phone system, we use RingCentral (www.ringcentral.com). It allows us to make and take office calls from anywhere. We don't have to use our personal mobile numbers. Accessible by an app on any mobile or desktop device, we’re not tied to a landline either.”
For practice management as well as time and billing, Sean's firm uses Clio (https://www.clio.com). “With Clio, we have access to our entire practice from any mobile or desktop device. Client information, notes, documents—everything. Plus, billable time can be entered easily from any mobile or desktop device and invoicing is a snap as well. So much better than the old way.”
Time Miner (https://www.timeminerapp.com) is the tool that ties it together, automatically capturing billable time for RingCentral calls and texts and Outlook 365 emails, and then exporting time entries into matters in Clio. “Time Miner goes back and finds billable activity for typically small tasks, like calls, texts, and emails. It creates individual time entries for billable activity and exports that data to the appropriate matters in Clio. By automatically capturing time that is usually missed, we are adding directly to our bottom line. We love it."
By using RingCentral, Clio, and Time Miner together, Sean is able to serve his clients from home or the office—or anywhere else—and to capture all of his billable time for doing so.
While Sean considers himself one of the lawyers who sees opportunity heading into 2021, he's fine with sharing the view. “Lawyers should be using technology that enables them to do their important work more efficiently. Offices are great, I love my office, but I also love the freedom that the new tech and tools provide. I like being more profitable. Most of all, I like being able to practice law from my home or the park or wherever I happen to be.”
Category: Post COVID