Learning how to manage the expectations of billable hours and the stress they can bring may seem like an insurmountable task. Fortunately, new law office technology and more efficient and comprehensive record-keeping tools can ensure you stay on track and even help you exceed your billable hours requirements.
Maximize Billable Hours Expectations
Invest in time-tracking technology. Consider how better tools could help increase your efficiency. For example, try using an app, such as iTimeKeep, that enables you to easily and accurately record billable hours on any device you choose, wherever you may be, as well as integrate that information into your firm's billing and time-tracking systems. You can also invest in a legal practice management program that syncs with your calendar and to-do list, automatically recording the time spent on various tasks into your billable hours. Time-tracking software can also produce reports on the time you've spent on each matter so you can double-check your minutes.
Promptly record your hours. Record everything — even tasks of short duration. You may not realize how many hours you'll lose if you fail to record minor but billable tasks, such as drafting emails, having a short phone conversation with a client or doing some quick Internet research. All of those small duties you spend a few minutes on each workday can really add up over the course of a year.
Manage your email. A simple way to cut down on lost time is to check your email less often. Email is an essential tool for any attorney, of course, and some of the time you spend on email correspondence is billable. However, by taking a more disciplined approach to managing your email – for example, glancing at it less frequently and scheduling specific time slots to check for incoming messages -- you can actually save yourself a great deal of time.
Also, you may want to turn off the alert that signals the arrival of new messages -- you don't want a distracting notification popping up on your screen when you're working on a billable task. Another tip: Take your name off unnecessary email lists so you can cut down on messages you receive at your work address.
Manage stress outside of work
Don't forget to set aside time for yourself, so you can maintain work-life balance. Reserve an hour each day to hit the gym or a few hours every week to have dinner with friends.
Also, don't let your vacation days go to waste because you're concerned about falling behind at work. While you need to meet your annual quota of billable hours, it's important to take time off to recharge. Burning out will only increase your stress level and make your goals more difficult to achieve.
Meeting billable hours requirements doesn't mean you have to get caught up in a seemingly endless cycle of staying at work late and coming into the office on weekends. Using law office technology to its best advantage, diligently recording all tasks you perform, and managing the time you devote to email during the workday are just three simple but effective ways to increase your billable hours while decreasing your stress.