Maximize Billable Hours: An overview of law firm time-tracking software
Effective time management is an essential element of a successful law practice, and efficient timekeeping is an important part of that equation. As lawyers in 2023 navigate the business challenges of running a profitable law firm, the value of time-tracking technology is clear: The more time captured and invoiced, the more revenue is generated. For that reason, choosing the right timekeeping technology for your law firm is a pivotal decision and an important investment in your firm’s long-term financial success.
However, with a burgeoning array of tools available, selecting the most suitable option for your firm can be a daunting task. There are many options to choose from, including stand-alone timekeeping tools and those built into legal billing and law practice management software.
In this article, you’ll learn about the benefits of timekeeping software and will be provided with guidance to assist you in choosing the right tool for your law firm’s needs. In addition, you’ll find a list of time-tracking tools for solo and small-firm lawyers—both stand-alone and integrated within other software—to assist you in making an informed decision. Understand that the list is not comprehensive but includes some of the more popular or notable options currently available.
Before we take a look at some of those tools, understand that the software programs discussed in this column are cloud-based, and therefore all data will be housed on servers owned by a third party. Because you’ll be entrusting your law firm’s data to a third party, as part of your ethical obligations (which include technology competence), you are required to thoroughly vet the technology provider hosting and storing your law firm’s data. This duty includes ensuring you understand how that company will handle the data; where the servers on which the data will be stored are located; who will have access to the data; and how and when the data will be backed up, among other things.
Why use time-tracking tools?
One of the biggest business challenges law firms face is accurately capturing all billable time. By using online and mobile billing tools, law firms can increase the amount of work captured and invoiced to clients. Modern cloud-based time-tracking software simplifies the timekeeping process and encourages lawyers to track time as they work, thus avoiding the need for them to repeatedly re-create their workday in the face of a blank timesheet at the end of the day, week or even month.
When enhanced features are built into online time-tracking tools, this type of software becomes more useful, enabling law firms to capture and invoice even more billable hours, thus increasing profitability. For example, some platforms include passive timekeeping tools, which work in the background to capture lost hours by tracking all activities performed on a computer, mobile device or software program.
As evidenced by data from the recently released MyCase + LawPay 2023 Benchmark Report Part 1, software with passive time-tracking capabilities can significantly boost a firm’s bottom line. According to the report, lawyers captured significantly more time when using passive time-tracking software, billing an additional 64 hours of billable time on average in 2022, which amounts to an additional $22,425 invoiced per lawyer (assuming a $350 per hour billing rate).
Choosing time-tracking software
When researching timekeeping software, keep in mind your firm’s unique needs, including the technologies already in use. Determine whether a stand-alone tool will do the trick or if you’ll need to invest in more robust software that includes time-tracking functionality, such as legal billing software or law practice management software.
Keep in mind that the tools listed below offer varied functionality and cater to different facets of time management. Ultimately, your choice should be guided by how well the software aligns with your firm’s work processes, operations and objectives.
Since I last wrote about time-tracking tools in 2020, much has changed. There has been significant consolidation in the legal technology marketplace, with many notable acquisitions, funding rounds and new software products released. The time-tracking category has not been immune, and the changes have impacted the products available.
Timekeeping tools to consider
If your firm already uses or is considering investing in practice management software or billing software, there are most likely time-tracking features included. But every platform is different, so make sure to obtain a full understanding of the timekeeping functionalities available.
Law practice management software systems like Rocket Matter, Clio, or ActionStep, along with comprehensive legal billing software such as LawPay Pro or TimeSolv, typically enable lawyers to capture billable time from any location using a laptop or desktop computer. Many of these solutions also offer a mobile app equipped with the capability to input billable hours from any mobile device.
There are a number of benefits to using time-tracking tools embedded in practice management or legal billing software. First, the timekeeping feature is often integrated into the subscription cost of the software package. And any billable time recorded is automatically linked with the appropriate case, a capability that streamlines the process of generating, modifying and sending invoices. Inefficiencies are reduced since there’s no need for duplicate entry of time data from a stand-alone time-tracking software program into another software program.
If you’d prefer stand-alone timekeeping software, you have options, but note that the products available have changed quite a bit since I last wrote about this category. Some software products covered in 2020 are not listed below because they have been expanded to full-fledged law practice management systems. Others expanded beyond the legal space into the general business category. There are also some new entrants into the legal space that were not available when I last wrote about this category of software.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few stand-alone tools for law firms to consider:
- Chrometa: A general-use time-tracking tool that integrates with a number of legal software products; pricing starts at $19 per user per month.
- Time Miner: A mobile time-tracking app that captures time spent on calls, texts and emails from your mobile device; pricing is $12.99 per device per month or $124.70 per device per year.
- LawGro: Artificial intelligence-based timekeeping software that includes passive time-tracking functionality and integrates with several legal technology software products; pricing starts at $39 per user per month or $29 per user per month when billed annually.
No matter how you look at it, it’s clear that the benefits of time-tracking technology have the potential to propel your law firm toward greater efficiency and profitability. But choosing the right tool is essential. When conducting your research, make sure to take advantage of any free trials, get input from key stakeholders, and ensure that the software you ultimately choose includes the features needed to achieve your firm’s legal billing goals.
Rest assured your careful research and planning will pay off. By embracing innovative time-tracking technology, you’ll be ensuring your firm’s future success. Your hard work will put your firm at a competitive advantage, and your investment will ultimately improve its bottom line.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based attorney, author and journalist, and she is senior director of subject matter expertise and external education at MyCase, a company that offers legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com and Above the Law; has authored hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.