Here's the lowdown on time-tracking software for lawyers
For many lawyers, capturing billable time is the bane of their existence. It’s a tedious endeavor for attorneys who bill by the hour, but it’s a necessary evil. After all, if you don’t accurately track your time, you won’t get paid for your work.
In the old days, billable time was tracked on paper time sheets, followed by a lengthy back-and-forth exchange with an administrative assistant. Weeks later, after multiple revisions, the billable time would be manually entered into the firm’s billing system. It wasn’t a very efficient process, but it was the only one available.
Even now as lawyers, we’re always told that in order to accurately track time, we should record billable activities as soon as they occur. Unfortunately, prior to the advent of mobile billing technologies, that wasn’t always a realistic option given that many billable activities occur outside of the office.
These days, however, using law practice management or legal billing software with built-in time tracking features or other stand-alone time-tracking software, you can enter time no matter where you are using a mobile device. These mobile time-tracking tools make it possible to track your time and enter it contemporaneously, ensuring that you capture—and charge for—all of your billable time.
In this article, cloud-based time-tracking tools will be covered; legal invoicing and payment processing tools will be covered in a later column.
If you’re in the market for time-tracking tools, one option is to take advantage of the time-tracking features built into law practice management software like Rocket Matter, MyCase or Clio (note that I am the legal technology evangelist with MyCase), or full-fledged legal billing software such as Timesolv Legal, Time59, or Bill4Time. Most products offer a mobile app that includes a timer and the ability to enter time from any internet-enabled device. Time can also typically be tracked and entered from a laptop or desktop computer.
One benefit to this approach is that the billable time that you enter is automatically associated with the correct matter, making it a simple task to create and edit an invoice and then send it off to your client with the click of a button. Additionally, the time-tracking function is often built into the price you already pay to use the software suite.
Of course if you go this route, one potential drawback is that it requires a commitment to a law practice management or billing system. Certainly not all lawyers are interested in this type of investment. For those lawyers, stand-alone time-tracking apps are a viable option.
Using these tools, you’re able to track and enter time from any mobile device, ensuring that you capture all of your billable time. But in most cases the time entered isn’t automatically associated with your law firm’s billing system. Nevertheless, it is still more efficient than tracking your time on a paper time sheet.
You have a number of options if you’re in the market for stand-alone time-tracking tool. What follows is a description of some of time-tracking software products that are often used by lawyers. This is not an all-inclusive list, but includes a number of different types of tools, one of which is sure to suit your needs.
First, there’s Tikit Carpe Diem. Time can be entered from any internet-enabled device, including mobile phones. This software integrates with many of the premise-based legal billing systems commonly used by firms, so that once the billable time is entered using Carpe Diem, it will sync with the billing program. The software also includes a “time finder” function that captures time from the user’s digital footprint that might otherwise be lost. The cost is $25 per timekeeper per month.
iTimekeep by Bellefield Systems is another option. This software facilitates mobile time-tracking via timers and time entry from any mobile device. iTimekeep provides a bridge to more than 30 of the most popular premise-based legal billing systems used by firms, allowing lawyers from those firms to enter billable time using their mobile devices. That billable time is then automatically synced into the firm’s billing system. It also offers an Apple Watch app, and time entries can be dictated via the user’s mobile phone or watch. The price ranges from $20 to $40 per month per user, depending on the type of account you sign up for.
On-Core Time Master is a mobile app for iOS devices that is popular with lawyers. Using it, you can enter and track billable time and expenses. Client information can be copied from your contact list, or you can import client information, projects, tasks and expenditure lists from CSV files. You can categorize clients by project and run multiple timers at once. The cost is $9.99 for the basic app and there are a number of upgrades available, including a Quickbooks Export for $5.99 or the ability to synchronize across devices for $5.99.
And last but not least, there’s Time Miner, a new entrant into the market. Time Miner is a mobile app that collects and tracks billable calls and text messages made on your mobile phone. It searches your device and generates a report that includes the client’s name, the type of communication, the length of time spent on the communication, and the dollar value of that time. The Android app subscription fee is $9.99 per month and the iOS app is $12.99 per month (the iOS app costs a bit more due to limitations with the iOS app that require an integration with Ring Central in order to obtain the relevant data).
So if you’re in the market for a stand-alone timekeeping app, you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. As I always advise, test-drive the software whenever possible before committing and see if it’s a good fit for your needs. And if a full-fledged billing platform that includes time-tracking, invoicing and payment tools is more up your alley, check back. I plan to write a column covering legal billing software in the near future.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, attorney, author, journalist and the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, legal practice management software for solo and small-firm lawyers. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, and she co-authored Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier. She also co-authored Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson West treatise. She writes regular columns for The Daily Record, Above the Law and Legal IT Pros, has authored hundreds of articles and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law, mobile and cloud computing, and internet-based technology. She can be contacted at [email protected].