By Todd Gerstein
CEO & Founder of Smart WebParts
You may already know this, but the cost of unbooked time is big. Really big.
And besides, plugging leaked hours just might be the biggest lever you have in the current economic climate to improve profitability. (After all, at this point in the business cycle it is all about revenue.)
But wait, I hear some of you saying. My attorneys aren’t reconstructionists (attorneys who reconstruct their day by looking at their emails, phone logs, and appointments when they prepare their timesheets). They keep their time contemporaneously, just like they’re supposed to. Guess what? Even “good” behavior doesn’t guard against leaked time.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s dig in to the research.
A Closer Look at Leaks
We decided to see if the conventional wisdom that contemporaneous timekeepers leak less time than a reconstructionist was in fact the case. We also wanted to see how the two methodologies compared against each other. Plus we wanted to determine how big an issue leaked time really is for a typical firm.
In our 2010 Law Firm Timekeeper Survey we sponsored with Adam Smith Esq. we asked these two questions:
1. What is your timekeeping behavior?
2. How many hours per week do you leak?
We cross-tabulated these two questions to get inside the issue and this is what we discovered:
- 67% of contemporaneous timekeepers report they leak time in contrast to 91% for the reconstructionists. This confirms everybody’s instincts that contemporaneous timekeepers leak less time.
- Most contemporaneous timekeepers think they leak between less than 30 minutes to 3 hours. Still, a big amount.
- Most reconstructionists think they leak 1-3 hours of time per week. Wow!
The Financial Pain of Leaked Time
Digging deeper into the data, it looks like the contemporaneous timekeeper estimates they leak about 45 hours per year, while the reconstructionist estimate leaking around 97 hours per year.
Let’s look at the pain from two different perspectives. The first chart measures the Value of Leaked Time by Timekeeper Type. For a timekeeper with a $400 hourly rate, the contemporaneous timekeeper leaks $18,000 per year and the reconstructionist leaks $38,800.
In the next chart we see a law firm with 100 attorneys, with a $400 hourly rate, is leaving $3 million on the table every year. That’s not an ouch, that’s agony!
Value of Leaked Time for Every 100 Timekeepers
If “Good” Behavior is Still Bad, What’s the Answer?
It is obvious from the above tables, even contemporaneous timekeepers – doing their timekeeping the “right” way – are still leaking time. Contemporaneous timekeepers leak about 2.3% of their total bookings in contrast to the reconstructionists, who leak 4.8%.
It’s clear that good behavior doesn’t totally solve this costly problem.
Anecdotal Evidence Supports the Time Capture Approach
First, for those who don’t know us, we offer a product called Smart Time, which is a time capture program. It has a lot of functionality, but automated time capture is its most important component.
What is time capture software? It replaces the manual efforts reconstructionists go through to recreate the day by looking at their emails, appointments and phone logs. But, automated time capture does it with more detail than the user could ever do manually.
So, here’s some interesting data from one of our client firms. They asked their timekeepers how Smart Time impacts their timekeeping when they are in the office versus out on the road:
- They found that for a timekeeper in the office, the user is finding an average of 18 minutes per day (90 minutes per week and 78 hours per year) more to book.
- For the user on the road, they are finding an additional 30 minutes per day (150 minutes per week and 130 hours per year) more to book.
While it seems apparent, it’s interesting to see evidence for how complicated timekeeping gets for the timekeeper when they are out of the office. Of course, nobody is in the office or on the road exclusively, so the real annualized number in our story is probably somewhere between the two amounts.
Still, if you take the average, Smart Time is capturing somewhere around 104 hours per year (versus 97 from the survey results), which means our research and the anecdotal evidence co- confirm the size of the problem. And, the anecdotal evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of Smart Time to completely plug the leak and solve the problem.
Time to Get Real
It’s clear that preaching contemporaneous timekeeping has been a courageous effort. The industry has pushed it for 20+ years and only 39% of the population follows it. No amount of coaxing from the managing partner is going to move this statistic much at this point.
Instead, firms need to view the problem another way:
- What can you do to help the reconstructionist timekeeper?
- What type of safety net can you provide the contemporaneous timekeeper?
- How can I reduce some of the “pain” of timekeeping?
- How can I make my timekeepers better timekeepers?
Of course, we know the answer to these questions. It is time capture technology.
Filed under: Strategy Brief