Lawyers are paid for the time they spend on casework, whether it’s consultations, case meetings, or court appearances. Administrative tasks, such as balancing the books, organizing files, managing busy calendars, answering phone calls, or addressing marketing strategies can take up a significant portion of the day – all on non-billable time. In fact, administrative burdens are so cumbersome to small firms that some lawyers consider administrative time among the top challenges they face. Workloads have skyrocketed over the last year, even posing issues for retention. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce legal administrative time and limit administrative tasks for lawyers, leaving them to focus on the job they’re paid to do.
What is Billable Time?
Non-billable hours don’t have context without billable hours. Billable time is all the time a lawyer spends working on a specific client case, such as drafting emails, researching case information, or appearing in court.
Conversely, non-billable time is the time spent on tasks that may be vital to the function of the law firm, but don’t pertain to specific cases. This is time that lawyers can’t charge clients for and may include legal marketing, education and seminars, timekeeping, and phone calls.
Balancing billable and non-billable hours can be challenging. Some non-billable hours are inevitable, such as professional networking events and legal education, but they never belong on an invoice.
Some non-billable time can be reduced, automated, or outsourced, however, such as bookkeeping and time tracking. Here’s how lawyers can reduce administrative time:
1. Time Tracking
Tracking time is among the most important legal administrative tasks at a law firm. Accurate time tracking ensures that lawyers are billing for all the hours they work on a case, but tracking using paper notes or Excel information on the back of an envelope doesn’t cut it.
Like organization, digital tools are the best way to keep time accurately and efficiently. Digital time-tracking tools use automated processes with cloud-based storage to keep up with time logs for casework like research and meetings. Practice management systems, like Bill4Time, have built-in timers to record time easily even if they’re jumping between projects. Bill4Time’s Google Calendar integration makes this process even easier by allowing lawyers to create time entries from a single calendar event. Whether your calendar is updated on the Bill4Time platform or Google, the bi-directional synchronization eliminates the need for duplication and improves time tracking accuracy.
The obvious answer to how to reduce administrative time for lawyers is by outsourcing administrative work. Most large law firms have an extensive support staff to help with these tasks, but the extra expense can be a challenge for small firms.
If the budget is tight, law firms can hire as-needed help, such as a virtual paralegal or part-time positions to address administrative needs. Contractors help with tasks like bookkeeping, marketing, web development, and design, or fielding phone calls without adding a full-time position.
Delegating can relieve some of the administrative burdens, but it’s not the strong suit of most lawyers. In some cases, the administrative tasks are piled on one person because they choose to do it all themselves.
Lawyers should prioritize the workload and focus on the tasks only they can do, such as case research or client calls. Beyond that, the tasks can be delegated to the appropriate team members as needed to ensure that everything gets done.
4. Better Organization
In addition to tasks that take time to complete, some lawyers waste time looking for the supplies they need. Client files, past case files, or basic office supplies can take time to find, which can turn a quick task into a significant chunk of the day.
File maintenance and organization are critical to a smoothly running law firm. Lost files and misplaced documents not only waste precious non-billable time, but they can lead to malpractice suits. Also, if your clients are evaluating your capability based on your organization, a messy desk or frantic search for files can leave a bad impression.
The best way to stay organized is with digital tools. Searching for documents stored online is a matter of a quick toolbar search, rather than hours spent rifling through paperwork. Bill4Time offers a cloud-based document management solution that provides lawyers with the security and confidentiality they want, along with an efficient organizational system that makes accessing documents more convenient.
5. Practice Management Systems
Practice management systems are a great way to reduce legal administrative tasks. They offer automated systems specifically designed for law firms and legal professionals. In addition to timekeeping, practice management systems can automate and streamline administrative tasks like client records, case matters, billing, email management, and more.
Furthermore, practice management systems use cloud-based operating systems, so lawyers can access any information within the system at any time, from any device with an internet connection. So, while taking taxi rides, waiting for a client at a courthouse, or meeting a client for lunch, a lawyer can track time, create events in their calendar, take notes, and more on the go with the reassurance their information is accurate and in one place.
Reduce Legal Administrative Tasks with Legal Technology
Non-billable hours and administrative tasks are part of doing business at a law firm, but lawyers can take numerous steps to reduce the administrative burden and focus on billable tasks. One of the best ways is with digital practice management systems, which track time and automate tasks like billing and time tracking. With solutions from Bill4Time, law firms can become more productive, efficient, and profitable with automated processes designed to cater to the needs of legal professionals.