Murchison & Cumming Deploys Smart Time Mobile to Modernize Attorney Timekeeping

Smart Time – Proven, Accessible Mobile Time Entry for Law Firms

Campbell, CA – August 11, 2014 – Smart Time Apps, the provider of Smart Time, today announced that Murchison & Cumming, an AV-Rated AmLaw 500 litigation law firm with more than 90 attorneys with five offices in California and Nevada, has deployed Smart Time Mobile to its attorneys to modernize client timekeeping.

Smart Time Mobile enables timekeepers to enter and submit time anywhere. It provides timekeepers real time access to their time entry information. Users can run reports, see calendars and view time statistics. Timers are available for the user who wants to keep track of their time contemporaneously. Native applications are available for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

“Earlier this year, we undertook the initiative to improve mobile timekeeping. Our legacy mobile time entry system had become outdated. It was not meeting the needs of our attorneys,” said Jean Lawler, Senior Partner of Murchison & Cumming. “We reviewed several systems and quickly picked Smart Time. We particularly liked the Smart Time iPad user interface and the tight integration the app has to our accounting system.”

Smart Time Mobile can be deployed as a standalone package for firms that want to add mobile time entry to their current timekeeping environment. Or, it can be combined with Smart Time’s browser time entry and time capture modules to create a complete timekeeping solution. Smart Time can be deployed on-premises or hosted in the Smart Time cloud.

According to Steve Bronstein, CTO and Founder of Smart Time Apps, “Smart Time is a best built application that directly integrates with different accounting systems. Smart Time integrations include: Aderant Expert, Rainmaker, Thomson Reuters Elite, Prolaw, LexisNexis, Juris, PCLaw, Microsoft Dynamics and other leading accounting systems. At Murchison & Cumming Smart Time is tightly integrated to the firm’s Aderant Rainmaker accounting system.”

“We are pleased to add Murchison & Cumming to our growing Smart Time customer base,” said Todd Gerstein, CEO and founder of Smart Time Apps. “We look forward to supporting the firm’s ongoing success with Smart Time.”

About Murchison & Cumming LLP

Murchison & Cumming is an AV-rated AmLaw 500 “Go To” law firm for litigation in California and Nevada. We represent domestic and international businesses, insurers, professionals and individuals in litigated, non-litigated and transactional matters. With more than 90 attorneys in our five offices, we are large enough to provide clients with the resources of a large firm while ensuring the level of personalized service one would expect to receive from a small firm, including being able to respond quickly to client emergencies, cutting edge legal issues and developments in the law. We are known and respected trial attorneys and have an appellate record that includes precedent-setting decisions. For more information visit www.murchisonlaw.com.

About Smart Time Apps

Smart Time Apps (formerly Smart WebParts) creates software solutions that maximize profits for law, accounting and professional services firms. Our flagship product, Smart Time, is an all-in-one time management platform. Our team of experts specializes in finance, accounting, marketing, process engineering and technology. We utilize best-of-breed technologies, as well as the most advanced tools and production processes. We have built a dedicated team who offer solutions that are unique in the industry. Smart Time Apps is privately held and is headquartered in Campbell, California. www.smartwebparts.com.

Fullbright & Jaworski’s New Time Entry Policy

We know, from our research and discussions with firms, that firms with the greatest success in timekeeping create a culture of compliance. They do so by keeping expectations about timekeeping non-negotiable, consistent and clear. They also include incentives and/or penalties for enforcement.

Fullbright & Jaworski, a member firm of Norton Rose Fullbright, just announced its new timekeeping policy to “minimize unnecessary loss of billable time due to delayed time entry” for US Non-Partner Timekeepers.

Apparently, the firm has determined that the stick is mightier than the carrot. Here is a copy of the memo:

TO:          US Non-Partner Timekeepers
FROM:    Management Committee
RE:          Time Entry Policy for Attorneys Manual
DATE:     July 17, 2014

Entering time daily has been demonstrated to yield a 10% to 15% increase in utilization immediately. A compelling example of this occurred recently as the St. Louis office, under Jim Wiehl’s leadership, implemented a mandatory daily time entry policy, which yielded a 10% increase in utilization in the month adopted. The St. Louis office now has the highest utilization in the firm.

Accordingly, the Management Committee and the Partnership Committee have approved the following changes to our time entry policy to minimize unnecessary loss of billable time due to delayed time entry. Each timekeeper’s adherence to this time entry policy will support the Firm’s ongoing efforts to increase our productivity and profitability.

1. Attorneys should record their time on a daily basis.

2. Time Diaries for Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays must be entered and released no later than 9 p.m. (Central Time) the following Thursday; and Time Diaries for Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays must be entered and released no later than 9 p.m. (Central Time) the following Monday.

3. A Practice Leader may grant an exemption for any release period to a timekeeper who is not able to submit time in conformity with the policy of the Firm. Exemptions will be granted in exceptional circumstances. If two exemptions have already been granted during the calendar year, requests for additional exemptions must be submitted to the Group Head.

4. Only time that is timely entered in accord with the policies of this Firm will be counted for any bonus to be awarded to associates or senior associates based on hours charged during the year.

Although point #4 may sound draconian to connect time entry compliance to associate bonuses – we bet it works.

The Importance of Specificity

 

paigephotoDavid Paige
Managing Director, Legal Fee Advisors
Special Guest Post

A fee award in a recent case in the Eastern District of New York, Claudio v. Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District, provided examples of several common problems with attorney billing records.  Though the court found that the attorney’s hourly rate of $395 was reasonable, the court significantly reduced the number of hours billed because of “substantial problems” with the billing records.

The attorney billed half an hour for all but one of 68 phone calls between the attorney and his client.  The court found it “inconceivable” that each of these calls had taken half an hour.  In fact, based on its review of the attorney’s records, the court determined that attorney had billed half an hour for any task that took one-hour or less—including a pre-trial phone conference that lasted four minutes.

The attorney had also billed excessive amounts of time for other relatively simple tasks.  For instance, the attorney billed two hours for a two-sentence letter.  The court noted that it was possible that the attorney performed other tasks during the time billed.  If so, the attorney’s failure to specify these tasks on the billing records constituted block billing.  In any event, the court found the number of hours billed “unreasonable.”

Time spent on court appearances also appeared to be overbilled.  For example, the attorney billed 3.2 hours for an oral argument that lasted 47 minutes (not including preparation or consultation with the client, which were each billed separately).  The court conceded that the attorney’s billing entries could have included travel time, but noted that fees charged for travel time should be at half the attorney’s normal rate.  Because the court was unable to determine how much (if any) of the attorney’s billable hours were due to travel, the court found an across-the-board reduction was warranted.

Due to the problems discussed above and the “vagueness” (not further explained in the opinion) of some billing entries, the court reduced the attorney’s hours billed by 33%.

This case highlights the importance of specificity in billing entries.  For example, the court noted that the attorney might have performed other tasks during the apparently excessive blocks of time billed.  If so, and if the attorney had described those tasks, the court may have been less inclined to find the time billed excessive, even if the entries were block billed.  Similarly, the attorney could have been more specific in describing how much of the time billed for court appearances was actually spent on travel and perhaps added more detail to the other “vague” entries described in the opinion.  If the attorney had provided such detail, it is quite possible that he could have avoided the across the board reduction implemented here.

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David Paige is the Managing Director of Legal Fee Advisors, www.legalfeeadvisors.com.  David can be reached via email at dpaige@legalfeeadvisors.com.  David is among the nation’s foremost experts on the propriety of legal fees and billings. Over the course of his 25-plus-year career, David has guided Fortune 1000 companies on the some of the most complex and high-stakes billing issues and helped them develop the methodologies for achieving significant reductions in outside legal costs. In addition, he has served as a testifying expert in legal fee dispute cases.

 

Timekeeping is Broken in Most Law Firms

toddgersteinTodd Gerstein
CEO & Founder, Smart WebParts

Let’s get right to it. Everybody hates timekeeping – attorneys and admin staff alike. I can’t sugar coat it. It is a major cause of angst at most law firms. And, it has been out of control for a long time.  

And it shouldn’t surprise you that attorneys tell us it’s getting harder and harder. Why? Technology.  

Technology has changed the way we work. Most attorneys have turned in hyper multi-taskers jumping back and forth between emails, phone calls, meetings and documents all day long. Who can possibly keep it all straight in 6 minute increments?  Especially if you don’t do your timesheets every day.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Timekeeping is broken in most law firms.

We have a solution to the problem — Smart Time. Smart Time is an intuitive time entry and time capture software program that gives timekeepers perfect recall, enabling them to prepare complete and accurate timesheets. We have a desktop version that runs in a browser and native versions for iOS and Android devices. Smart Time is compatible with Aderant, Elite, LexisNexis, Microsoft and other leading accounting systems.

Please take a minute to watch our video to learn how Smart Time can maximize profitability by boosting billable hours.

Take a look and then contact us to discover how Smart Time can help you.

 

 

 

Pellerano & Herrera Live on Smart Time to Improve Attorney Time Capture and Recording

Firm Implements Time Entry, Time Capture and Mobile Modules

Campbell, CA — February 26, 2014 – Smart WebParts (www.smartwebparts.com), provider of the most advanced timekeeping software platform, today announced that Pellerano & Herrera, the leading law firm in the Dominican Republic, has gone live with Smart Time to improve attorney time recording.

“Earlier this year, we undertook the initiative to improve timekeeping. Our old system was functionally weak by today’s standards. It was not meeting the needs of our attorneys,” said Alejandro Flaviá, IT Director of Pellerano & Herrera. “We reviewed several timekeeping software products and quickly found out that Smart Time was the most functionally complete. We discovered many vendors can do timekeeping, but only Smart Time can prodigiously do time entry and time capture together — both on the desktop and on mobile devices.”

Smart Time is an all-in-one timekeeping platform for law, accounting and consulting firms. The Smart Time on-demand time capture and time entry application enables firms to effectively collect, track and recoup billable time, thereby increasing revenue and profitability. Smart Time runs in a browser on the desktop. Native applications are also available for iOS, Android and Windows devices.

Flaviá added: “We got the system live in just a few weeks. It is completely integrated with our Aderant accounting system. We are continually amazed by the richness and functionality of the Smart Time platform. In the next phase, we will distribute mobile time entry to our fleet of Android Samsung smartphones — that way our attorneys can enter time anywhere at their convenience.”

“We are very pleased to welcome Pellerano & Herrera to the Smart Time family of firms,” said Todd Gerstein, CEO and founder of Smart WebParts. “We look forward to supporting the firm’s ongoing success with Smart Time.”

About Pellerano & Herrera

Pellerano & Herrera has been the leading law firm in the Dominican Republic for over two decades. Established in 1952, the firm is typically involved as counsel in all major transactions in the country and provides advice for most major international players. The firm’s multidisciplinary team of lawyers is recognized as the most comprehensive and sophisticated in the market and seeks to provide legal solutions to clients in all areas of business. Pellerano & Herrera is especially well-recognized for its expertise in handling complex matters in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, project and structured financings, antitrust and unfair competition, among others. (www.phlaw.com)

Time-Writing Knowledge Management Activities

nickmilton.
Dr. Nick Milton
Director and Co-Founder, Knoco Ltd.
Special Guest Post

A common question from clients in professional services, legal or consulting  firms, which usually operate a strict time-writing regime, is “How do we  Timewrite KM”?

How do you timewrite, and therefore bill, time spent in  Knowledge  Management activities?

Is the time written and billed to the  relevant client? Or do you introduce Knowledge Management as a separate time  code, and therefore treat it as an overhead?

Approaches seem to vary,  with some companies allowing neither, therefore relegating KM to a “personal  time” activity.

Personally, I think KM should be billed to clients.  Knowledge Management should only be introduced if it is going to benefit  clients, and indeed the whole purpose of Knowledge Management within a  professional services firm is to “bring the whole knowledge of the firm to bear  on each client’s problems”. Therefore KM is part of providing a better service  (in fact you could see KM as a component of good business practice), and should  be paid for by the client. Therefore the time spent in Peer Assists, After Action reviews and even Retrospects should be billed to the client, by the logic of  “we provide a better service to you through KM, so KM is billed as part of that  better service”. (Of course, by the same logic, if KM is not delivering a better  service, then you should stop doing KM). Timewriting in this way keeps the focus  on KM as a means to support the clients.

Giving KM a separate  timewriting code implies that KM is an add-on, and an overhead, which is why I  don’t like this approach. KM should be seen as an investment, both for the  client and for the firm, and not as an overhead cost.

Not allowing  people to timewrite KM at all will kill KM, unless you can find a sneaky way  around the system. Last week I was discussing just such a sneaky way, with a  KMer from a company with no KM charge code, and where nobody would spend any  time on Retrospects or Lessons Learned. However one thing they do, on every  client project, is to assign a junior as part of the juniors’ Development  Activity.

Here they have the opportunity for KM by Stealth – to use the  Junior as the corporate learning resource. The junior can keep a “learning blog”  or “lessons blog” on which they can identify and publish all lessons and good  practices recognised on that project. This is analogous to the “commanders  blogs” used in the Army, which prove an excellent source of learning. The blog  allows the junior to reflect and learn, and through that public reflection  allows the firm to learn as well. The community of learners can take a role  similar to the “lessons learned integrators” but without the  supporting lessons learned system.

Of course KM by stealth is not a long term solution, and should only  be used to demonstrate the value of KM with sufficient clarity that it becomes  fully adopted, which means it then becomes a valid timewriting activity and a  cost/investment that can be passed to clients.

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Dr. Nick Milton is director and co-founder of Knoco Ltd. Working with Knoco Ltd, Nick has been instrumental in developing and delivering KM strategies, implementation plans and services in a wide range of different organizations, many of them Oil-sector Majors. He has a particular interest in Lessons Learned programs, and has managed major lessons capture programs, particularly in the area of mergers and acquisitions, and high technology engineering. He is the author of “The Lessons Learned handbook” (Woodhead publishing, 2010) and “Knowledge Management for Teams and Projects (Chandos Publishing, 2005), and co-author of “Knowledge Management for Sales and Marketing (Chandos Publishing, 2011) and “Performance through Learning – knowledge management in practice” (Elsevier, 2004). Prior to founding Knoco, Nick spent two years at the centre of the team that made BP the leading KM company in the world, acting as the team Knowledge Manager, developing and implementing BP’s knowledge of “how to manage knowledge”, and coordinating the BP KM Community of Practice.

Make the Timekeeping Honor Roll

Esposito_ALA_Headshot .
By Frederick J. Esposito,
Director of Administration, Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, PC

Wise lawyers know that contemporaneous timekeeping is essential to the success of any fee arrangement—and to the overall financial success of your law firm. Lawyers who reconstruct their time weekly tend to lose 25 to 30 percent of their time, and those who enter time on a monthly basis can lose as much as 55 to 70 percent.

To illustrate, assume an attorney is billing at $150 per hour and doesn’t capture 15 minutes a day. When you do the math over the course of a year, that one attorney could lose as much as $9,000 a year in billable time—and a firm with 25 attorneys could lose as much as $225,000 in billable time and potential fees. That is a significant number to any law firm.

You Know the Type

Despite statistics that illustrate the impact lost time has on a firm’s bottom line, law firms continue to have chronic offenders. To paint the proper landscape, there are four types of timekeepers:

  • “A” students. These timekeepers are always ahead of the curve by entering their time daily and are low maintenance.
  • Need a kick. These timekeepers generally have 90 percent or better of their time entered each week, but require more frequent prompting and some maintenance.
  • Special friends. These timekeepers are usually missing several days of time at any given point and require constant follow-up.
  • Own worst enemy. These timekeepers are clearly working the hours, but—for whatever reason—do not always record all of their time. Since they have concerns that supervising attorneys will think the time entered is excessive, they often record less billable time just to stay off the radar.

Everyone Can Be an “A” Student

Getting to the honor roll for contemporaneous timekeeping can be a slow and methodical process. Here are five tips to ease the way.

  1. Start slow. Make a commitment to enter your time in small increments throughout the day. From the moment you arrive in the office, use a clipboard with a timesheet or go the system-savvy route and use a timer. Most time-and-billing software packages and apps have timers to facilitate time entry. Commit to recording your time every 15 minutes or every time you switch tasks. Incremental steps will help get you into the habit. Whether handwritten and entered in the system by your support staff, or by direct entry (the preferred method), this is a step in the right direction.
  2. Try, try again. If you forget to record some of your time on a particular day, don’t give up because you “blew it.” Just start recording time again as soon as you realize you fell short. Timekeeping will be more accurate if you have to re-create just a few hours, rather than a few hours plus the rest of the day.
  3. Set up reminders. As ridiculous as this may sound, place a sticky note on the inside of your office door, on your computer screen, on your phone, or even on the steering wheel of your car as a reminder to keep recording your time. I know of one firm that went to the extreme of placing time entry reminders in each of its restrooms to make the point. You will find things go much more smoothly if you set up your own reminders, rather than wait for the “time cops” to knock on your door.
  4. Inspire to aspire. When you don’t track your time and have to reconstruct it, take note of how long that takes you. Remember, reconstructing your time is not only likely to be inaccurate (capture rate significantly decreases with time), but it will take more time to reconstruct than to actually enter it in steps. Some lawyers try to re-create their time by reviewing emails. As methodical as that may seem, you are not capturing all of your time this way. Also, whenever you must reconstruct your time, it means you are either shortchanging yourself or overcharging your client, and consequently dealing with the issues surrounding both scenarios.
  5. Keep telling yourself there is a reason. Yes, many view time entry as “an administrative task that gets us paid.” Once in a while, remind yourself of the connection between the accuracy of your time and the firm’s ability to generate timely billing and receive timely collections. Firms that keep contemporaneous time tend to generate 25 to 40 percent higher revenues than firms that do not keep contemporaneous time. This is a real incentive to improve!

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Frederick J. Esposito, Jr, CLM, Director of Administration/Chief Financial Officer for the Garden City, NY law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, PC, has more than 20 years of law and accounting firm experience. He is a frequent speaker and author of articles on a wide-range of topics, including financial, strategic, Alternative Fee Arrangements, Legal Project Management and profitability models. Last Fall, Long Island Business News named him CFO of the Year. In addition, he has been a Certified Legal Manager (CLM)SM since 2006, the only CLM on Long Island, and is a member and Chair of ALA’s Certification Committee.