Ask Daliah: Ways to record, bill and save those minutes at work
THE REACTIVe way
If work and life keep you busy, use mobile apps to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Before technology, lawyers had their hands tied behind their backs. Dialing into a server or a desktop on the weekends to enter time made it an insurmountable task. In a week slammed with juggling phone calls from clients, court appearances, interruptive status requests from partners, researching case law, drafting discovery and filing motions, even the most efficient billing workflow was at best a four-step process:
- At the end of the day or, worse, at the end of the week, try to recall what happened.
- Write the time down on a Post-it/notepad/back of your hand.
- Manually enter data into a billing system.
- Approve the slips for accuracy and consistency.
Today, Arauz recommends using apps such as Zapier, Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to help convert your reactive life into a proactive billing system.
Zapier integrates with things that keep your thoughts and work in order—Dropbox, Wunderlist, QuickBooks, RingCentral, Excel, Clio, Basecamp. Zapier can automate your lawyer life, track the work you perform, and keep it all together in one app that communicates with all the others to make sure nothing gets lost.
Similarly, you can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to dictate your time entries when you don’t have time to write it all down. The technology and accuracy of capturing what you are saying has improved dramatically over the years, as has the convenience of being able to email or send your dictation via text. I often dictate on long road trips or when I’m walking to the courthouse.
Don’t forget the apps that complement your desktop or cloud practice management software. Most of them can dial phone numbers or email directly from the app, which in turn captures the time as billable behind the scenes.
the PROACTIVE way
Interruptions distract from efficiency and, ultimately, from capturing all your time. Build blocks of time into your schedule, so that you aren’t pulled in five directions at once and only accounting for 2½ of them.
If “shiny objects,” such as flashing voicemails, text pings or unread email counts are disruptive, create a calendar for concentration. Try a schedule as follows and adjust as necessary:
- Priority emails, 8 to 8:30 a.m.
- Priority phone calls, 8:30 to 9 a.m.
- Client work, 9 to 11 a.m.
- Emails and calls, 11 a.m. to noon.
- Priority items, 1 to 2 p.m.
- Client work, 2 to 3:30 p.m.
- Email responses, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
- Calls on the way home, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
While it won’t eliminate all the distractions, keeping close to this regimen can help you maximize your productivity and the chances of capturing all the time as you go.
Speaking of productivity, Arauz has advice on tackling other nonlawyering tasks.
He says, “There is a finite amount of time and energy in a day that cannot be re-created. If you overcompensate in one area, then another area suffers. So how do you juggle it all while maintaining sanity? The key to growth is delegation, either to a person or to technology.
“When you start your practice, delegate to technology. As you grow and can swallow the payroll pill, integrate staff and attorneys until law firm nirvana happens when your employees utilize technology to get even more done faster.”
Infamous culprits of wasted time include scheduling and confirming appointments, Arauz says. When things really get busy, every moment counts. Waiting on a consultation to not show up or a lunch meeting that you forgot to mark on the calendar takes up valuable time that could be better spent.
Setmore is free, online appointment-scheduling software on steroids, especially if you upgrade to the $25-per-month premium package. Aside from potential clients or clients booking meeting times intuitively by web, Setmore can be configured to send text and/or email reminders the day before the appointment, which minimizes the no-call no-shows that can inevitably happen in any practice. And it’s very customizable.
(You can retain that possessive control of your calendar, so that your work and life don’t double-book.)
Mixmax is another quick trick that takes all the effort and emails out of trying to find a time to collaborate with others, be it by phone, video or in person. If you average 300 emails per day that require your attention, you certainly don’t have to add another 30 emailed dialogues of “Can you meet at 2 p.m.?” “No, I can’t. What about tomorrow at 10 a.m.?” And on. And on.
Send time slots that the emailed recipient can select once they have confirmed with their own calendar, and then it gets added to your calendar.
Add meeting agendas or previews to the scheduling team, use templates for scheduling automatic emails and branding, so that it looks like it’s coming right from your firm’s inbox.
It’s good to use the technology at the beginning. But keep it integrated in your processes as you grow with staff, so that they have the tools to help the firm succeed.
Remember, as I like to keep in mind: Time is money. So start accounting for it all.
Daliah Saper opened Saper Law Offices, an intellectual property, digital media, entertainment and business law firm in Chicago, in 2005. Saper is regularly interviewed for national TV, radio and publications, including Fox News, CNN, CNBC, ABC News, 20/20, the
Daliah Saper opened Saper Law Offices, an intellectual property, digital media, entertainment and business law firm in Chicago, in 2005. Saper is regularly interviewed for national TV, radio and publications, including Fox News, CNN, CNBC, ABC News, 20/20, theNew York Times and the Chicago Tribune. She is an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and can be reached at [email protected].
This article first appeared in the September 2017 ABA Journal with the headline “It’s About Time.”