Time Capture – Do You Leak Time? Smart WebParts Sends in the Puppet to the Legal Industry Video Awards

videoawards

Sometimes, you just got to have fun. We created Mark W. Gray – our puppet spokesman – to explain time capture. When we heard about the Legal Industry Video awards competition – we knew it was time to “send in the puppet.”

The originator of the Awards, Charles Christian of Legal IT Insider, commented: “The legal industry is increasingly investing in creating videos that inform, educate and better market their services and products. We want to recognise and reward this effort and showcase the best of the best.”

And now, here’s our entry.  Everybody – Meet Mark.   To see the story on Charles’ Blog at Legal IT Insider click here.

Time Capture Software: What’s In It For Me? Selling and Deploying it to Your Attorneys

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Todd Gerstein
CEO & Founder
Smart WebParts

So you have a new time capture system, and you’re excited about all the benefits it offers to the firm. You’ve been talking it up, mentioning business efficiency, productivity, increased revenue and the like.

Snore, say your timekeepers. And even worse than their uninspired reaction is their reluctance to learn how to use it. What’s gone wrong in this scenario? And what can you do to gain (the absolutely essential) buy-in from your staff?

The simple answer is this: You must lead your “pitch” with WIIFM (What’s in it for me?), from the perspective of your timekeepers.

Feel Their Pain

Attorneys are busy people, and the only thing more painful than keeping their time is spending time learning something that has no perceived benefit. However, if you can begin by convincing your timekeepers that the time spent learning a new system will drastically cut hours of pain out of their daily lives, you can bet enthusiasm will shoot way up.

They need to know that time capture will:

  • Save time preparing timesheets
  • Find time that would have otherwise been forgotten
  • Minimize general timekeeping angst

With this information—the answers to WIIFM—reluctance disappears.

No Substitute for Experience

Once your timekeepers are sold on the idea of adopting time capture, the next question becomes how to begin.

Talk is cheap and usually unconvincing, so the surest route to real adoption is allowing your timekeepers to experience the benefits of time capture at literally no cost to them—no training, no learning curve, no effort, no disruption.

With a time capture system, you can begin by sending out daily journal reports via email. This way the information captured is simply made available—additive, not disruptive—and a user can use it or ignore it. Making use of the information becomes completely voluntary.

Management’s Role Still Important

Of course, management still has a responsibility to roll out a new system smoothly and efficiently, or risk losing attention and enthusiasm to problems unrelated to the product itself.

We recommend that to manage the deployment well, it should be broken down into small pieces. This way, you can achieve “early wins” to build project momentum.

Besides the project team, you will want to recruit early adopters and “change zealots” to help you with the deployment. Early adopters are users who embrace new technology before most other people do. Work with this group to vet that the time capture report is accurate.

Once you’ve got the time capture engine working, expand the pilot group to include change zealots who can be trusted to spread the news of time capture’s benefits. Keep in mind that some of these individuals don’t need to be tech savvy and may even be your most problematic timekeepers.

Once everything is locked down and working for your pilot groups, it’s time to expand the deployment to all your users. Start with automated reporting at first. Keep the lines of communication with your users open. Inform them about time capture and how you think it will benefit them. Allow them the freedom to opt-out from the reports, and be sure to answer any questions they bring up.

Once everybody is getting reports, offer voluntary lunch and learn sessions to demonstrate the online features of the system. Typically when such a plan is followed, we see a system adoption rate of somewhere around 75-80% within 4-6 weeks.

Enabling Change

Ultimately, change can happen in one of two ways. You can try to command it, forcing staff to see things your way, discussing benefits and adoption from a position of authority.

Or, you can let it emerge naturally, with timekeepers answering the WIIFM question on their own, interacting with the system voluntarily, and adopting it from a position of self-improvement and empowerment.

The choice is up to you. From our experience, however, it’s pretty obvious which one achieves real change and lasting success.

Whitepaper: The Power of Time Capture Automation

Imagine a world where every timekeeper in your firm:

  • had perfect recall when they prepared their timesheets;
  • booked all hours worked; and
  • prepared complete and accurate timesheets with the least amount of effort.

This is not a pipe dream. This is what time capture automation can do for your firm.

To learn more, we invite you to read our whitepaper – The Power of Time Capture Automation.

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In the whitepaper you’ll learn:

  • What is leaked time?
  • Which common work situations do most people forget to bill?
  • How much revenue can be recovered?

Ready to learn more about time capture technology? Click here to download the whitepaper.

Time Capture: Timekeeping Q&A with Todd Gerstein: How Time Capture Increases Revenue

Todd Gerstein
CEO & Founder, Smart WebParts

If your firm relies on booked hours for billing, it’s virtually guaranteed that your firm is also losing revenue to “leaked time,” which is time worked but not booked.

The good news is that you can plug these leaks with a time capture system: a low-risk, low-investment and highly effective option. And, not only does time capture find these lost hours, but it also helps to improve management of the entire timekeeping process.

Q: How does leaked time happen?

A: In our experience, the biggest sources of leaked time are obvious, but without time capture, hard to fix:

  • Small units of time the timekeeper simply forgets about
  • Work that the timekeeper underreports

As we delve deeper, we see that these sources occur most often in these very common work situations:

  • Emails
  • Mobile phone calls
  • Internal phone calls from colleagues
  • Time in the office when particularly busy
  • On a smartphone, but out of the office
  • Out of the office all day
  • Work that takes place in very small increments

Q: Who leaks time?

A: You’d think that there would be “good” timekeepers and “bad” timekeepers, but it’s not quite that simple. Even the best timekeeper encounters situations that thwart timely and accurate entries.

Really, it’s more a question of timekeeping “style.” Timekeepers who keep time as they go—the “contemporaneous” approach—are less likely to leak time, but still do so despite their best efforts.

Timekeepers who enter time after work is done—the “reconstructionist” approach—leak more time, with the problem worsening the longer the delay between the entry and the time worked.

Q: What is the revenue impact of leaked time?

A: Take a look at the chart below to see the magnitude of the problem:

With a time capture system, it’s very reasonable to expect to find an additional 4 to 6 hours per timekeeper per month. So, 5 hours per month for a timekeeper with a $400/hour rate yields an additional $24,000.

For a 100-timekeeper firm, closing the leak represents $2.4 million in incremental billings. This represents about a 3% pickup in booked time over the course of a year.  (Thats a 60 hours picked up on 1800 hours.)

Revenue Up, Angst Down

Firms must actively manage their timekeeping process if they are to maximize profits. With the potential for significant revenue increases for most firms, and a simple implementation process and reasonable cost, the case for trying time capture is a compelling one.

Since the billable hour was invented, two things have existed: 1) leaked time, and 2) timekeeping headaches. Time capture helps to preserve the integrity of the billable hour, plugging leaks and making timekeeping as accurate and painless as possible.

Time Capture – How Do You Measure Leaked Time?

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Todd Gerstein
CEO & Founder, Smart WebParts

Around here, we talk a lot about the concept of leaked time. We believe it to be the most common way that firms lose revenue, and the easiest problem to fix. Let’s take a closer look at why we’re confident that leaked time is a huge issue for almost every firm.

Q: How do you know leaked time is real? How can you measure something that is missing?

A: Our contention is that leaked time manifests itself in small increments. It could be the timekeeper forgetting to book an email, phone call, mobile call, or a quick edit to a document.

We have three methods to measure what’s missing. The first is anecdotal, based on the stories we get about new experiences after Smart Time is implemented. For example, a CFO recently wrote to us to say, “I just heard back from the managing partner in our Florida office. He found $4100 of leaked time in August. I am speechless.”

The second method is a forensic look back at old timesheets. For example, we’ll have a user pull out some old timesheets that were done before adopting time capture. Then we’ll have them reconcile the daily Smart Time journal report against their actual timesheets to see if they can find time they forgot to book. Inevitably the user always finds leaked time.

The third method is an analytical look into a firm’s accounting database. This is part of something we call our Timekeeper Behavior Analysis.

Q: What is the Timekeeper Behavior Analysis?

A: We created the TBA to help law firms better understand their timekeeping process. At its core are a set of key performance indicators and metrics that measure timekeeper behavior, time entry velocity (how fast time gets logged into the system), the value of late time, and the value of leaked time (time worked but not booked). The TBA is available for firms with Aderant, Elite and the other major accounting systems used in the legal industry.

Q: What kind of data does the TBA examine?

A: Let’s say the ABC Sample Law Firm is a U.S. law firm with 350 timekeepers. In this study, we extracted 12 months of data – equivalent to 780,000 time tickets — from the firm’s accounting system. That’s a little more than 8 time tickets per person per day. After we extracted the data, we loaded it into our system for analysis.

Next, we calculated velocity for every timekeeper (i.e., how fast does the timekeeper get their time into the system?) First, we calculate velocity for every time ticket and then we average the results. Velocity is equal to the post date minus the work date.

So a person with a velocity score of zero does their timesheets daily – what we call a “contemporaneous” timekeeper. Do your timesheets once a week and you have a score of 3.5, or once a month and your score is 15. These are examples of a “reconstructionist” timekeeper.

Q:  Do you look at any other data?

A: The next thing we do is to look at the mix of time increments across different entries. So, what percent of the time entries are .10, .20, and so forth?

If everyone had perfect memory, everyone should have the same mix of time increments in the actual time entries. That scenario would represent no leaked time.

Q: But what results do you see?

A: We contend that a timekeeper with a velocity score of zero will have more small time entries than someone who has a higher score. In other words, the longer you delay reporting time, the more apt you are to forget these small increments of work.

In this chart, we are cross-tabbing time entry velocity to time increments. For timekeepers with zero velocity, 60% of their entries are small increments. Notice the immediate drop-off when velocity goes from 0 to 1.

Waiting to record time by even one day shows a significant drop-off in small entries from 60% to 45%. To us, this is the marker that proves leaked time exists. Go out to a velocity score of 7 (timesheets done every two weeks), and you see small increments drop to 38%.

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Q:  Where do all these small increment time entries go?

A: Some of it might not be leaked, but instead included in bigger entries for attorneys who do block billing. But it’s more likely that the time is forgotten and never booked.

We believe this data, and the markers it creates, confirms our analysis.

Pathetic Time Tracking in the Legal Profession

Special from the Edge International Communiqué

Law firms are their own worst enemies in the effective use of billable hours.

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Gerry Riskin
Founding Partner, Edge International

Managing time in a law firm isn’t only about billable and non-billable hours – it is about creating a dashboard that allows lawyers to elegantly drive client expectations relating to time-frames and costing.

Sad State of Time Tracking in Law Firms

I asked Todd Gerstein of Smart WebParts (www.smartwebparts.com) what his latest data on this subject looked like… he said: “Less than 40% of all timekeepers keep their time contemporaneously; the silent majority (60%) reconstruct their time when they prepare their timesheets.”  He went on to say: “The compliance numbers are just terrible. Most of the time 80% of the partners are not in compliance. Associates are not  in compliance 35-45% of the time.”

Todd said this about Month End Cut-Off:  “We measure the amount of time that is put in after the month end cutoff… which is at risk for billing and collection realization problems.  It is not uncommon to find 5-7% of time (wip value) at risk to miss the billing cycle.  It also seems to be one of the issues that sets off managing partners.”

Ramifications

If the loss of inventory is not bad enough (cash in the door),  there is a much greater and more sinister ramification of the messy and inadequate timekeeping practices. In this modern era of Legal Project Management, it is imperative that lawyers who lead teams understand on a daily basis where their projects stand in the context of two vital metrics:

  • Time to completion as compared to the client’s timeline expectation, and
  • Cost to completion as compared to the client’s budgetary expectation.

Destroying the Client Relationship

The ability to communicate variances and projections with clients on an ongoing basis affords the law firm its greatest opportunity to maintain high levels of client satisfaction, and from time to time, to obtain variances with the client’s blessing. Most law firm lawyers do not have a dashboard.  They fly blind.  The failure to accurately track time distorts the picture and ultimately annoys the client.

Recommended Steps:

1.  Stop the theft now: Stop tolerating sloppy time recording practices by individuals.  It is not charmingly idiosyncratic: it is theft, theft from the individual timekeeper, theft from the firm, and yes, even theft from the client who deserves accurate information.

2.  Provide the best tools and technology: Todd Gerstein’s system puts your existing systems to work for you making the time tracking process easier and more accurate.  If you have a better way fine… but you need to compensate for the human foibles that make the current processes inadequate.

3.  Train: Tracking time well is an essential skill… help your people acquire and improve that skill.

4.  Keep the client in the equation: Time tracking is not only for your internal management … it is also for the benefit of your clients who are happy to pay money for value but hate surprises.  Create systems that make it glaringly obvious when your lawyers are not tracking their time accurately.

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Gerry Riskin is a Canadian lawyer and Business School graduate with a global reputation as an author, management consultant and pioneer in the field of professional firm economics and marketing. After winning two Queen Elizabeth Scholarships, he practiced law from 1973, in 1979 becoming a partner with one hundred-year-old Emery Jamieson and then in 1984 becoming the Managing Partner of Snyder & Company with offices in Canada and Hong Kong. Gerry was consistently one of the top three rainmakers in his firm and quickly began to develop a reputation which led to a demand for his abilities to teach others to do the same.

In 1983, Gerry co-founded The Edge Group which in January 2001 evolved into Edge International. Over our history we have topped the list in a survey depicting the most popular marketing consultants by major U.S. firms and have been named one of the top three legal consultancies by U.S. Managing Partners.

Gerry has clients which include the most prominent professional service firms in the world, has led numerous workshops, retreats and seminars and has been engaged to assist firms requiring marketing, strategic planning, one-on-one coaching, merging, multi-office management, practice group and industry group management, client relations skills training and management training.

Gerry lives in the British West Indies. He can be contacted in the U.S. or Canada at +1 202-957-6717 or, from other countries, using the Edge toll free numbers. He may also be contacted by e-mail at riskin@edge-international.com

Visit Gerry’s Blog, Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices at www.gerryriskin.com

Whitepaper: Increase Your Revenue with Time Capture

Since the billable hour was invented, two things have existed: 1) leaked time, and 2) timekeeping headaches. These drain both profits and productivity.

As a means toward solving these problems, we offer this white paper, titled “Increase Your Revenue with Time Capture: How Leaked Time Affects Your Bottom Line, and How to Fix It.”

In it, you’ll find out which work situations are most likely to leak time, estimates of the actual amount you could be losing each year, and how you can give your timekeepers “perfect recall.”

We think the information presented in this white paper will show you a path toward improved profitability and improved business processes.

Click Here to Download the US Whitepaper

Click Here to Download the UK Whitepaper

Passive Aggressive: Background Timekeeping Tools


By Jared Correia
Attorney At Work

The species of attorney that enjoys tracking time has not yet been discovered, or created in the lab. Time capture has been the bane of a lawyer’s existence ever since there have been lawyers. The universal system is universally disliked. But a new category of time management tools offers a novel solution for an old problem.

Whether you’re tracking your time on paper or through an electronic system (be it associated with your law practice management software system or not), you probably dislike doing so very much.

The main reason lawyers find timekeeping so disagreeable is that it disrupts the flow of work—to capture the time spent on what they have worked on, attorneys are forced to stop working on whatever else they have to do. In a modern, busy law practice, with all manner of multitasking ongoing, it’s difficult to find a particularly effective stopping-place. The expedient is to ignore the requirement, at which point uncaptured time begins to pile up. Neither is all this avoidance conscious: Sometimes, through the course of a particularly busy day, lawyers can simply forget to start and stop the clock—even if it is otherwise ingrained in them to do so, on the regular.

In any event, the lost time becomes less and less likely to be billed (promptly, or ever), unless and until the protagonist settles on a late-night or weekend cram session just to catch way up. But despite best efforts, that lost time is sometimes lost forever, impossible to reconstruct after the fact.

Despite the obnoxious interruption of daily workflow, the bare fact is that time capture just has to be done; it’s something that attorneys must stay on top of, consistently and continuously, because it’s integral to getting paid. Attorneys billing hourly are obviously required to track their time. But even those who use alternative billing methods need to track their time, at least initially, to set their fees—and the most diligent such practitioners want to continue to track (at least loosely) to determine changes in case or project values over time.

Still, nobody wants to come to a halt to write something down, or to click and unclick a button to start and stop a timer, even if that timer exists within the most popular office program in use at the firm.

This all begs the question: Isn’t there a less-disruptive way?

Alternatives to Disruptive Systems

Passive, background timekeeping programs may offer a solution to the disruption caused by traditional time capture systems. These programs work on the thesis that almost all of the work done in a modern office is accomplished through the use of electronic devices. Background timekeepers, then, track everything that you do on your primary device, or even across your devices. This means that all of your activity is being monitored, in the background and continuously, as you progress through your workday. There is no stopping your workflow; there is no starting a timer. As far as you’re concerned, the system is completely passive: You don’t have to do anything except your work.

These timekeepers also generate specific reports, based on fields that you select, from the stored log of your activity. Customized reports can then be used to create invoices, including through popular accounting applications, like QuickBooks. In the raw, these programs can be highly effective; but, users can, and should, train them to work in the ways that they want. Customization options include: automating repetitive processes; creating and utilizing client tags; and allowing tracking of a “work” browser. These three background timekeeping systems are particularly useful for attorneys:

  • Chrometa
  • Smart Time
  • Time Aid

Even if you never end up using one of these types of programs for passive time tracking on a full-time basis, testing one can be a downright enlightening experience. You may be surprised to find out just how much time you leave behind everyday.

Jared Correia is the law practice advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program. Prior to joining LOMAP, he was the Publications Attorney for the Massachusetts Bar Association. Before that, he worked as a private practice lawyer. Jared is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School and of Saint Anselm College, where he was a captain of the debate squad that finished as national runner-up in 2000.

Product Review: Smart Time V3.0 – Time Capture Done Right

By Doug Weiner,  Beacon Legal Software Services

We’ve heard all the excuses for why a timekeeper doesn’t have current, accurate time entries, from “The dog ate my diaries” to “My secretary trashed the legal pad with my notes.” Even though we’ve heard them all, there is no excuse for the lack of proper timekeeping, especially if your timekeepers have the latest time capture software from Smart WebParts — Smart Time Version 3.0.

I had an opportunity recently to take a look at the newly released version of Smart Time and give it a test drive. Because I had already seen earlier versions of the product, I was especially eager to see what the improvements to the user interface and the Silverlight platform would add to the application.

The software works by hooking into your phone switch, email system and document management package, and provides each timekeeper with a daily recap of potentially billable activities. Using pre-built connectors, Smart Time offers reminders of daily activity, which serve as a source for the creation of time cards.

All well and good – but remember that each timekeeper has a different set of preferences, which is why Smart Time allows users to configure the behavior of the system to meet their needs. With an interface developed in Microsoft’s latest Silverlight technology, the timekeeper flows seamlessly through setting up filters, rearranging columns, setting delegation rules or selecting between Excel and Word formats.

Another great feature is that Smart Time increases its benefit with use. Learned associations between phone numbers, email addresses and documents help it suggest appropriate client and/or matters (which the timekeeper can easily modify). Other controls available include blocking specific phone numbers (calls from your child’s principal), or setting minimum lengths for phone calls.

Smart Time is sensitive to your client’s confidential data. Email tracking only includes the subject line (never the text of the email), and the timekeeper can choose specific email folders to be excluded from the process. IT folks will be happy to know that Smart Time utilizes a light footprint on email servers with its Exchange data warehouse technology.

This is a well thought out product.   The back end is very smart and the Silverlight user interface is intuitive and engaging.  It’s time capture done right.

Legal IT Professionals: Show Them the Money!

From legalitprofessionals.com

By Christy Burke

Make Your IT Department a Revenue Generator

If you saw a hundred-dollar bill lying on the sidewalk with no one around, would you pick it up?  Maybe/maybe not, depending on how much of a Boy or Girl Scout you are.  Now what if you knew that money was actually yours and you had dropped it yourself without realizing it – would you pick it up then?  Of course you would! 

Think of this – you didn’t have to work any extra hours for that hundred dollars – it is quite literally found money, rightfully yours, which you weren’t ever going to see again unless you went back and picked it up.  What if you were given the same opportunity to find money for your law firm by leveraging certain kinds of technology – wouldn’t you seek those tools out?  Of course you would.

Legal IT departments are generally thought of as cost centers or part of the overhead.  This is particularly unfortunate, given our current economic landscape where belts are being tightened across the board and the cost centers are generally more vulnerable than revenue-producers.  However, your IT department can become a revenue generator, by employing a number of different technology solutions which have recently become available.  These include applications that aid in keeping track of lost and leaked time, and also modernized ability to recover costs, not only from copies and faxes, but also from prints and scans. 

Capturing Billed Time
Despite the recent rumblings about alternative and flat fee billing, most law firms still require their attorneys to keep track of their hours.  And this is a very unpopular and much-reviled requirement – why?  Because for most lawyers it is a nightmare and they frequently lose out because they cannot remember all the tasks they did throughout their work days.

Often, timekeepers don’t enter their time just after they’ve had a phone conversation, meeting or after they’ve created or read a document or e-mail.  They finally get around to submitting their time at the end of the day, the week or the month, at which point they can scarcely recall what they did.  So much time is worked that is not actually billed, it’s staggering.  The client gets a favorable deal because they are not billed for all of their lawyer’s time, but law firms suffer because they leave money behind, and don’t ever retrieve it.

New software tools have arisen to directly combat this problem.  One category is time capture and entry software, which combines traditional timesheet entry technology with a new component that builds activity logs from servers and switches that help to jog the lawyer’s memory about where time was spent.

Todd Gerstein is CEO of Smart WebParts which makes a product called Smart Time (www.smart-webparts.com).  Launched at ILTA in 2009, Smart Time is a web-based system that searches across Exchange, the DMS, wireless communications, VoIP and legacy phone switches and other applications to serve up a summary of activities that each timekeeper engaged in at the firm. 

Gerstein explains, “Lawyers can cycle through the Smart Time log to teach the system more about what’s billable and to whom.  They can assign e-mail addresses and phone numbers to specific clients and matters, or they can exclude ones that are personal in nature, such as phone calls from their spouse.  Smart Time is intelligent and learns along the way, so it eventually needs a lot less care and feeding.”  At LegalTech NY, Smart Time introduced new classic time entry functionality so it can rival and replace systems that have been entrenched in the industry for a long time.

Gerstein says, “If Smart Time recoups one hour of leaked or lost billable time per week per timekeeper, you can see that the software not only pays for itself in short order, but it also begins to create revenue very quickly. It is the simplest way to create accurate and complete timesheets.”

Offline Timers
Many lawyers do legal work when they’re on planes or trains, or when they’re at a client’s office or in a hotel room.  Sometimes, they don’t think to track their time spent “offline” which leads to lost booked time.  In response to this dilemma, Clio (www.goclio.com), a web-based software-as-a-service product for solos and small firms, has created a time-oriented application called Clio Express (http://tinyurl.com/ycrv7xt).  Clio Express is an offline time tracking mechanism – a computer-based stopwatch that allows you to track time spent while you’re working on your laptop unplugged from the internet.  Both PC and Mac users can benefit from this application, which is a quick free download for Clio subscribers.

Cost Recovery
Historically, cost recovery has applied to copies and faxes which law firms bill back to their clients.  However, the face of cost recovery is changing, especially now that firms need to recover as many costs as they possibly can. 

Rob Mattern is President of Mattern & Associates (www.matternassoc.com), an unbiased support services consulting firm that conducts a cost recovery survey of law firms every other year.  Through research about cost recovery, Mattern’s team has learned that there has been a paradigm shift in the workflow at law firms.  Copies and faxes are receding and are being quickly replaced by prints and scans.  Considering that most law firms’ cost recovery is limited to recouping copy and fax costs, this is a major disconnect.

According to Mattern, “Law firms that are not recovering costs for prints and scans are clearly leaving money on the table.  If you calculate the costs, prints actually cost more than copies do, so if their volume is increasing and the firm is not being reimbursed for them, the firm is losing money, period.” 

Mattern advises its clients, most of which are Am Law 200 firms, to seriously consider recovering costs for prints and scans if they feel they can do so without impacting client relationships.  “Firms that persist in recovering only copy/fax costs, or who ignore cost recovery altogether are clearly giving up revenue that they could be collecting from their clients.”

Companies like Equitrac (www.equitrac.com) provide the tools to help firms maximize revenue recovery during this rise of print/scan and the decline of copy/fax. According to Chris Wyszkowski, VP of Sales Operations, “Today’s legal professionals are still copying and faxing at times, but they are doing digital reproductions from their computer desktops much more frequently.  As a cost recovery and print management provider, we are finding growing opportunities to capture the print activity and also the scans of documents.”

Equitrac has built other efficiencies into its process, such as integrating with leading document management systems like Worldox (www.worldox.com) so that documents can be scanned in, catalogued and profiled into the DMS quickly and easily.  Time savings plus recovered costs puts more money in the firm’s pocket for sure.

Conclusion
Leaving money behind unnecessarily is never a good idea, especially when there are so many tools available to prevent that from happening.  One of the main reasons for leaked time is the fact that law firms simply don’t know of all the technology out there that can assist them in building revenue for the firm. 

So pick up that money off the ground – if you look closely, you’ll start to notice dollar bills all over the place and you can stop losing out and start winning big.  Maybe you’ll become the hero at your law firm, or maybe they’ll name you employee of the month.  Or maybe you’ll simply feel more confident and secure when your IT department is questioned about how the firm is benefitting financially and productivity-wise from your decisions and purchases.  Collecting money that your firm is rightfully entitled to is a winning proposition – so win, don’t lose!

LawBiz Blog: Lost time = Lost revenue

From LawBiz Blog

Ed Poll of LawBiz Blog interviews Todd Gerstein, President of SmartWeb Parts, about attorneys’ time “leaks.”  This is an interesting concept, one supported by a number of different surveys. These surveys all point to the fact that time is lost (and therefore not billed) when an attorney fails to make contemporaneous notations of work being done.

Todd suggests that only 20% of the profession records their time on a daily basis. Actually, I thought it would be much higher. But, perhaps our discussions over the years on this topic have sensitized a growing number of attorneys about the need to pay attention to their billing practices. He also suggests that almost 80% record their time days or even weeks later! This is just short of criminal negligence!

Attorneys defend their actions (or lack thereof) on a number of grounds:  Too busy doing the work for the client; not in the office to input time into the firm’s system; forgot to do it now, but will catch up later in the day or week. While these are all good reasons for not making a time entry, they are not good excuses.

The real question, then, becomes what is the impact of failing to record time contemporaneously with the work? What is lost, if anything, by failing to record one’s work effort? The simple answer: Revenue!

Todd mentioned a new survey that I found interesting.

If you fail to record your time while you’re in the office, the loss is 12 to 30 minutes per day. If you fail to record time while you’re out of the office, the loss is 30 to 60 minutes per day. Let’s use the latter number, 60 minutes per day, for ease of calculation, times $200 per hour billing rate. Using a 50 week year, you’re now looking at $50,000 revenue that is lost … that is, never billed!  Forget about the issue of realization rate and collection. You never can realize what you don’t bill. Your client will never pay what is not billed.

You’ve “cheated” yourself out of a very significant amount of revenue by not adhering to good operating procedures in accounting for the time you spend on clients’ matters.

Using Technology to Uncover Hidden Revenue in Law Firms

From Law.com and Legal Technology

By Todd Gerstein

Quarter 4 — it is budget season for law firms. For IT departments, 2009 was a bleak year. Headcount, operating budgets and capital budgets all got slashed. Now, most firms are running a decidedly tighter ship than they were last year. CFOs are reporting that everything that can be cut has been cut. So now what?

Clearly, if firms have already sliced expenses to the bone, then they need to focus on bringing more revenue into the firm any way they can. In boardrooms across the country, partners, practice leaders, managing partners and firm management are brainstorming ideas of how they can bring more revenue into their firms without expending massive additional resources in the process.

While business development and rainmaking has always been the mainstay of stimulating revenue, there are two huge areas that many firms often overlook when trying to increase their revenue: accurate and complete time capture, and cost recovery, specifically for prints and scans.

Most law firms are continuously leaking revenue and no one really notices or takes the initiative to stop it. They leak revenue in two major ways: by not billing clients for time actually spent on client work; and by failing to recover costs effectively. Fortunately, technology can provide a solution to both of these problems.

TIME-CAPTURE SOFTWARE

For decades, law firms have been plagued by the problem of not being able to book eight billable hours for eight hours of work. The classic systems that support time entry on your desktop, on the Web, or on a mobile device, work best for the highly diligent — and extremely rare — contemporaneous timekeeper. Contemporaneous timekeepers record their time constantly as the day progresses, so at the end of the day, they have a virtually full accounting of all their billable work. This meticulous group comprises approximately only 20 percent of the population. So what about the other 80 percent?

Most everyone else accounts for billable time by hunting and gathering e-mails, documents, phone records and calendar entries. With this information, timekeepers attempt to reconstruct what they did all day, and whether it was billable. When they finally get to prepare their timesheets, they are often doing it after several days or weeks have gone by.

How can they possibly remember all the calls, e-mails and documents they handled? The answer is: they usually can’t. These timekeepers are forced to estimate and guess their way through building a timesheet, often under-recording billable time simply because they can’t recall the details of what they did. Since they don’t want to overcharge clients, they tend to low-ball the time they spent. They may have worked an eight-hour day, but their billings reflect less than that. Can you hear that drip, drip, drip? Your firm is leaking time!

Until now, no software has existed to help the hunter and gatherer to create time notes accurately and completely. An exciting new technology category has debuted recently — time-capture software. The software presents timekeepers with a journal of everything they did that day to “jog” their memory so they can accurately book all the work they actually completed for clients.

The best time capture software will capture time spent on e-mails, appointments, phone calls, mobile calls, documents, research and dictation. The vendors in this space have vastly different models, ranging from desktop-concentric monitoring to desktop-network hybrid models to enterprise systems that data mine the firm’s applications in real-time. Some of the products can be installed in one day or less (the Web-based ones) and others have more involved implementations because they load code on the desktop and have complex back-end appliances.

Whichever time capture software a firm chooses, however, it stands to close up the time entry leaks at the firm — which automatically leads to increased revenue. Even if the firm recovers one more hour per timekeeper per week, it’s astonishing how those numbers — and dollars — start to stack up.

Karen Chin, partner of B2B CFO, who specializes in financial management, says: “If you don’t record and bill time, you can’t collect it.  Many law firms shortchange themselves because they capture time long after it was worked, or not at all.  With time capture software, they can find time buried in e-mails, phone calls and meetings.  While all may not be actually billable, the timekeeping process is greatly simplified because they can affirm the entries rather than creating them from memory.  Time capture is an application that is long-awaited and greatly needed by professional services firms.”

COST RECOVERY FOR PRINT AND SCAN

Some law firms are now installing second and third-generation cost recovery systems. Other firms have yet to implement cost recovery at their firm at all. In either case, these firms may still be leaving significant revenue on the table by not recouping costs for printing and scanning.

Historically, cost recovery products were more focused on capturing expenses for copies and faxes, and it was widely accepted for those fees to be billed back to the client. Now, the volume of copying and faxing has drastically fallen, replaced by printing and scanning. Even though this shift has certainly occurred on the process side, it often is not reflected in the firm’s cost recovery plan and client engagement agreements.

Before the invention of multifunction devices, when people wanted a copy, they would walk up to a copier and enter a client/matter number or submit the job to office services. With the advent of the MFD, it is easier to print 10 copies of a document than to print one and walk to a copier. Print counts have gone up and copy counts have gone down.

If your firm only bills back copies and not prints, you are missing an opportunity to increase your revenue. Firms need to update their cost recovery policies — and software — to reflect the new reality of a MFD driven law office. Also be sure to include scanning recovery in your policy change — it is another function on the MFD and can be added rather effortlessly to your recovered costs.

According to Rob Mattern, president of Mattern & Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in advising law firms about support services and cost recovery, “Printing is replacing copying and scanning has largely replaced faxing at this point. For these reasons, law firms ought to strongly consider adding print and scan to their slate of recovered costs. This is a clear-cut client expense and recouping costs for it will no doubt increase incoming revenue for the firm.”

CONCLUSION

As the budget discussions rage on, realize that technology can be your key to unlocking additional sources of revenue for the firm. Time-capture software and cost recovery for print/scan are straightforward, immediate ways to increase revenue coming into the firm. Return on investment for purchasing these technologies is quick so you are truly solving a problem without creating a new one. Using time-capture and cost-recovery technology, you can add revenue to your collective pocket without adding a single new client or matter to your book of business. You can still run that tight ship, but now you can plug up the leaks in it so it can float more confidently and securely.