Building a Better Law Firm: An Interview with Sean Antone Hunt, Esq.
After years working successfully at a large insurance defense firm, Sean Antone Hunt had a vision.
âLarge law firms are inherently conservative,â said Hunt. âThat tends to limit creativity and hinder adoption of technology. I wanted to move faster.â
So in 2009, Hunt broke out on his own and started his own firm to give clients more personalized attention and greater efficiencies through improved use of legal technology.
Initially, Huntâs idea was to provide a client portal so clients could access to their cases and files. But as he left the law firm, more and more of his clients followed. As a result, he soon found that his original plan of working solo was impractical.
Using technology to leverage the abilities of his small firm, he found that he could provide his clients with a superior level of service and communication.
Today Hunt and two associates practice insurance and commercial, corporate defense work for
clients including Unilever United States, Macyâs, J.C. Penney, Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division, U.S. Foodservice, Farmers Insurance Group, Arch Insurance Company and the City of Memphis.
âWe represent large corporations that are self-insured for matters such as premise-liability claims,â says Hunt. âWe also represent local municipal governments in Section 1983 and âslip & fallâ claims. Clients turn to us for our expertise, or when they lack sufficient in-house resources to handle the volume.â
Hunt started using Bill4Time.com soon after the formation of his firm. âWeb-based time keeping is really the only way to go,â said Hunt. âWe can capture our time records any time, from any location, while the details are fresh.â
He and his associates use Dragon (Dictation speech recognition software) to dictate time entries, so having a time billing application with multiple software platforms was important. âWe need to capture time on iPad, iPhone, desktopâŚanyplace, anytime we work for clients,â said Hunt. âBill4Time has all these options.â
Since time billing records are subject to attorney-client privilege, Hunt actually uses Bill4Time as the primary record of client interactions.
While most attorneys enter a single sentence for a time billing entry, Hunt uses Bill4Time to enter paragraphs of detailed work descriptions. There are two reasons.
The first is to benefit clients. Hunt wants his clients to have a strong sense about every aspect of their legal matters. Detailed descriptions give his clients insights and confidence about the way cases are being handled.
âWhen reading a time entry, Iâm looking for a detailed overview of the associatesâ billing activities,â said Hunt. ââDo the billing records accurately capture a logical train of thought?â and âCan a client read the billing records (and notes) and immediately understand how the matter is being handled?ââ
The second reason is more practical.
âI tell all my associates to follow the âBus Ruleâ when making time entries,â explains Hunt. âWhat I mean is that âif you were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, could I or a coworker jump right into the case and be effective for the client?â This requires making timely, detailed time entries when the work is fresh in their mind.â
Regardless of the reason, Hunt advises associates to think carefully about writing time entries.âBefore you make a time entry, ask yourself why did this work needed to be done by a lawyer and not a secretary. Clients are certainly asking that same question, so it pays to write time entry descriptions that demonstrate weâre being careful with client spending.â
At the end of the month, Hunt generates all firm invoices in a few hours. He uses the summary invoice function in Bill4Time to present clients with an abbreviated invoice, and also provides a more detailed invoice so clients have the option of seeing the detailed work descriptions.
When clients pay an invoice, the firm uses the QuickBooks connector to download all Bill4Time payments and invoices into QuickBooks. The firm’s accountant then simply uses a backup copy of the firm’s QuickBooks data to quickly prepare all legal and accounting paperwork including employment tax forms and tax returns.
Legal Spend Management
Legal spend management software (such as LSS, Counsel Link, Tymetrix) are popular with Huntâs corporate clients. So having a time billing software solution that supports all available versions of LEDES (Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard) is important.
âEvery spend management solution has their own LEDES quirk,â says Hunt. âOur exported invoices need to speak each LEDES dialect or else we donât get paid.â
One of the claimed benefits of legal spend management software is to use AI (artificial intelligence) to examine electronic legal invoices, then challenge expenses that look erroneous or excessive. Hunt claims his firmsâ invoices are rarely challenged, a fact he credits to the ease of capturing detailed time records so close to the event.
âFirms with vague or disordered time entries are the #1 target for spend management software,â commented Hunt. âBecause our invoices are quite detailed and make sense, we rarely have our invoices challenged by the algorithm.â
Over the years, Hunt has noticed certain algorithms mislabel invoices for review, so heâs trained his associates to avoid seemingly innocent punctuation or descriptions in time entries.
âFor example, in Counsel Link, using a semicolon, ampersand or colon will cause a bill to be kicked out,â says Hunt.
Certain words — such as âscheduleâ, âcoordinate,â or âcallâ — may also trigger exceptions, a consequence of what Hunt speculates is the algorithm trying to identify non-legal tasks that were better handled by a secretary or paralegal.
In the end, Hunt states that a legal invoice is a reflection of your professionalism. âWe take pride in the fact that, even though weâre small, Bill4Time brings legitimacy to our firm since our invoices are every bit as detailed and professional as our larger competitors.â