It’s Time to Stop Preaching a Timekeeping “Best Practice” that Can’t be Implemented

Conventional wisdom. Only fools would contradict it, right? In the legal timekeeping world, conventional wisdom can be boiled down to this little nugget: Keep time as you do your work.

Forever, this has been the best practice. The wisdom everyone has adopted. Everyone—industry experts, consultants, and our competitors— say, “Everyone should keep time contemporaneously.”

And indeed, research—including our own—shows that in the absence of automated time capture technology, contemporaneous timekeeping is more accurate than reconstructing your timesheets.

When I had my first job at a law firm in 1979, 35 years ago, there was no automated time capture technology. People were using corded phones, electric typewriters, thick phone books and answering machines that used cassette tapes. Now, of course, we have tablets, smartphones, notebook computers, text messaging, voicemail, email, and the inconceivable network that is the Internet.

I know a lot can change in 35 years. But not human behavior. That never really changes. Our pediatrician used to say kids come factory wired. Ditto that for attorneys too.

So I’m here to tell you that while it would be peachy if everyone could follow the conventional wisdom and become a contemporaneous timekeeper, it ain’t gonna happen.

People Are People

No matter how hard the industry has tried to convince timekeepers to keep time contemporaneously, it has not achieved a high success rate. We have done extensive data mining and analysis of law firm timekeeping databases, and time and again we find a 40% contemporaneous to 60% reconstructionist split.

Human behavior, as we intuitively know, is a remarkably fixed thing, individual by individual. So it is the height of absurdity to assume that if you give everybody fabulous software built for contemporaneous timekeeping, everybody will become a contemporaneous timekeeper.

After 35 years, it’s time to stop preaching a “best practice” that can’t be implemented. (Or at least not without a magic wand.)

Believing in this notion set forth by our competitors —that a product can change a reconstructionist into a contemporaneous timekeeper—is a bit akin to believing in a fairy godmother.

Shift Your Objective

If you want to fix timekeeping, it’s flawed logic to work at the firm level. You have to get down to the individual user. Study what they actually do, not what you want them to do. Don’t allow someone to cram your needs into their product’s canned sets of rules and processes. Instead, provide tools that support multiple user behaviors that can make your timekeepers into better timekeepers, no matter their style.

What do I think is the best practice? Your focus must be on this objective alone: Timesheets that are complete and accurate, and prepared with the least amount of effort. Allow your timekeepers to maintain whatever style works for them: contemporaneous, reconstructionist or collaborative. Then, find software tools that support those different behaviors.

My last bit of advice: When you hire your vendors, make sure they know that it is 2014 and that technology is here to serve the needs of your timekeepers, rather than the other way around. Find the right vendor who can and will create the right solution to meet your specific needs.

Smart Time Launches Competitive Swap Out Program for Tikit Carpe Diem Customers

Campbell, CA – October 20, 2014 – Smart Time Apps, the leader in timekeeping software for law firms, today announced a competitive swap-out program for firms using Tikit Carpe Diem software. The swap-out program offers existing Tikit Carpe Diem customers a straightforward, cost effective upgrade path to Smart Time.

Smart Time is an all-in-one timekeeping platform for law, accounting and professional services firms. The Smart Time timekeeping platform includes time entry, time capture and mobile modules. Any one of the modules can be installed independently or together to create a complete timekeeping platform. Smart Time enables firms to effectively collect, track and recoup billable time, thereby increasing revenue and profitability.

“Improved timekeeping is a growing concern to law firms” said Todd Gerstein, CEO of Smart Time Apps. “We invite Carpe Diem customers looking for a better solution, personalized customer service, reasonable price and ongoing product innovation to check out Smart Time.”

About Us

Smart Time Apps 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. For more information visit our website at www.smartwebparts.com.

Carpe Diem is a registered trademark of BT Tikit, which is not affiliated with Smart Time Apps

The Nuances of Time Sheet Rounding

So…rounding. Everyone does it, but it’s the how and why they do it that matters. Of course not every activity falls into perfect tenths of an hour, so what are the most common timesheet rounding behaviors? Let’s take a closer look.

Block Billing vs. Line-Item Billing

Block billing groups several tasks under one billing entry. So, instead of each task getting its own entry, multiple tasks get grouped into one time entry. Because the actual time spent on each task is hidden, clients often view this as a way to pad the bill, or to conceal inefficient work. Generally speaking, block billing has become less and less acceptable in most firms, as it leads to clients challenging fees—disputes clients often win.

Transparency is important to clients, so we now see more and more clients demanding line-item billing, which they believe reveals what work was actually done and how long it took. They perceive line-item billing to be clearer and more accurate.

However, lawyers can also distort line-item billing. Some might always round up for each individual task, ultimately padding the bill in this way. Of course, some lawyers might try to balance out the rounding by sometimes rounding up and sometimes rounding down, but, when push comes to shove, the temptation to round up each task is very common.

A Question of Trust

Not that it’s quite so straightforward. Because of course, in what scenarios is the rounding up occurring? By each task, or by the total number of hours in a day? Do you round up a 3 minute email to 6 minutes, a 15 minute phone call to 18 minutes, etc., or do you round up a 5 hour and 10 minute block of work?

The difference might seem inconsequential, but multiply all the tasks done over the course of a day for multiple clients, and line item rounding can really add up.  As an extreme example, what if an attorney reviews 15 emails in an hour? Round each one up to a tenth of an hour and the attorney has the potential to book 90 minutes versus the actual 60 minutes that it took to complete the task.

What this boils down to is the relationship of trust between your firm and your clients. If your client insists on line-item billing, it’s likely because they think it seems harder for lawyers to pad the bill in one big chunk in block billing.

What clients really want is to be sure that their lawyers are being honest and efficient—not to oversee the work process. What firms really want is to be trusted to act in the client’s interests—whatever it takes to do the best job possible.

So how do you handle rounding issues in your practice, and what kind of billing do you prefer? What issues do you face around billing, rounding, fairness and client satisfaction?

Smart Time Mobile for Apple iOS 8 Available Today

Campbell, CA – October 12, 2014 – Smart Time Apps, provider of the Smart Time family of timekeeping applications, today announced that Smart Time Mobile—available for iPad and iPhone—is now iOS 8 compatible and ready for download in the iTunes store. Users may also test drive the app using a guest login. Given the robust changes to iOS 8, this latest update makes Smart Time an even more powerful ally for on-the-go timekeepers.

Click here to go to the ITunes store.

Smart Time is an all-in-one timekeeping platform for law, accounting and professional services firms. The Smart Time timekeeping platform includes time entry, time capture and mobile modules. Any one of the modules can be installed independently or together to create a complete timekeeping platform. Smart Time enables firms to effectively collect, track and recoup billable time, thereby increasing revenue and profitability.

Smart Time Mobile enables timekeepers to enter and submit time anywhere. It provides real-time access to time entry information, and users can run reports, see calendars and view time statistics. Timers are available for users who want to keep track of their time as they do the work, what we call “contemporaneous” timekeeping.

“We’re excited to have the most up-to-date version of Smart Time Mobile ready for our users as they upgrade to iOS 8 on their Apple devices,” said Steve Bronstein, CTO and founder of Smart Time Apps. “I’m always pleased by the agility our development team can give to our products.”

Smart Time Mobile can be deployed as a standalone package for firms that need to add mobile time entry to their current system. Or, it can be combined with Smart Time’s desktop time entry and time capture modules to create a complete timekeeping solution. Smart Time integrates with Thomson Reuters Elite, Aderant Expert, Juris, LexisNexis PCLaw, Microsoft Dynamics and other leading accounting systems.

Todd Gerstein, CEO and founder of Smart Time Apps, encourages firms of all sizes to try Smart Time. “Smart Time’s intuitive interface makes timekeeping painless, easy and accurate,” he said. “Combined with Apple’s iOS 8, it is a powerful and easily accessible timekeeping solution.”

About us

Smart Time Apps 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. For more information visit our website at www.smartwebparts.com.

Smart Time Apps Announces Case Study Featuring Meyers Nave

Campbell, CA – October 6, 2014 – Smart Time Apps, the provider of Smart Time, today announced the availability of its latest case study, which centers on California-based firm Meyers Nave and its experience implementing Smart Time.

Click here to download the case study.

Smart Time is an all-in-one timekeeping platform for law, accounting and professional services firms. The Smart Time timekeeping platform includes time entry, time capture and mobile modules. Any one of the modules can be installed independently or together to create a complete timekeeping platform. Smart Time enables firms to effectively collect, track and recoup billable time, thereby increasing revenue and profitability.

“Smart Time has a lot of intrinsic features I really like,” said Matt Reynolds, top technologist at Meyers Nave. “We recently completed the implementation, and we already can see a positive effect on the bottom line. Attorneys are spending less time building their time chit, and more time practicing law.”

“This is the second firm Matt has introduced to Smart Time, and we’re pleased to have another example of the ways in which Smart Time benefits firms almost immediately,” said Smart Time Apps co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Todd Gerstein. “This case study again demonstrates Smart Time’s ability to achieve greater revenue, less pain and total mobility for its users.”

About Smart Time Apps

Smart Time Apps 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. http://www.smartwebparts.com.

Top 5 Things to Look for When Selecting a Mobile Time Entry System

If we’ve learned one thing about the mobile revolution, it is that it is ever changing (and usually rapidly so). When you’re searching for the right mobile solution for time entry, be certain you’re investing in a system that is agile, easy and up-to-date.

Here we’ll offer our top tips for “must-haves” that will make your mobile time entry system a joy to use.

1.   Start Small, Grow Big

The idea here is that you’ll be able to implement a system quickly, with little lag time between purchase and going live. Make sure the product can scale up for growing numbers of users and capabilities as your needs change.

Also, involve your users from the start. Product deployment only works when end users like the product and find it easy and intuitive to use. As you roll out a pilot program, include a sample of actual users from all departments, and take their feedback seriously. If you do, you’ll achieve wider and faster adoption.

2.   Implementation Options

Get it your way. Want the mobile system be installed on-premises behind your firewall? Or, do you prefer to have it in the cloud? Or maybe you’d like a hybrid solution that is partly on-premises and partly in the cloud?

Whichever way you want, make sure that security and safety of data is always the highest priority. Vendors accomplish this in a number of ways, including independent certification by industry-standards bodies, data protection schemas, firewalls, and encryption of in-transit data.

Finally, make sure the vendor’s product update delivery process is as agile as your business. As your business grows, your needs are bound to change. Ensure the product is designed to deliver new capabilities quickly and seamlessly, without affecting your budget.

3.  Highly Configurable

No matter the system, it must be flexible, highly configurable and powerful enough to meet the demands of any organization without having to undertake customization.

Ask if the application allows you to configure your time entry screen to match the requirements of your time and billing system? Besides date, client, matter, hours and narrative, can you configure other fields that you might need? For example, phase, task, action, activity, location and jurisdiction codes?

4.   Tight Integration to the Backend Accounting System

You’ll want any solution to tightly integrate with your time and billing system.

Also, ask: Can it look up clients and matters? Can it reach into the time and billing system to determine if a phase task is required and then only present valid phase task options? Can the mobile solution see all time entries in the accounting system of record and present them in a calendar so the user can see where they stand for the month? How easy is it to insert records from the mobile system to the accounting system?

All of these must be addressed to create a fluid, error-free environment for both users and the admin group supporting the app.

5.  An Intuitive Product Design and Experience

Ease of use is so necessary and obvious that it might be ignored—don’t let it be. The user experience is critical to the adoption and success of any new product. When evaluating user experience, look at every interaction you have with your vendor and product. How easy was it to try out and purchase the product? Was implementation fast and easy? Is the end user’s experience intuitive and even fun?

When you step into the marketplace for a mobile time entry system, make sure you have these top 5 “must-haves” on your radar when selecting a new system.

 

Bilzin Sumberg Adds Smart Time Mobile Timekeeping

Smart Time Mobile Completes Bilzin Sumberg’s Existing Smart Time Platform

Campbell, CA – September 29, 2014 – Smart Time Apps, provider of the Smart Time family of timekeeping applications, today announced that Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP, a leading commercial law firm based in Miami, Florida, has deployed Smart Time Mobile to its attorneys in order to modernize client timekeeping.

Smart Time Mobile enables timekeepers to enter and submit time anywhere, giving them fast and efficient time entry. Users can run reports, see calendars and view time statistics. Timers are available for users who want to keep track of their time with stopwatch precision. Native applications are available for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

Bilzin Sumberg uses leading technology to increase efficiency and control costs, applying industry best practices and implementing legal project management software and techniques.  Adopting the Smart Time app is just another example of how the firm stays on the cutting-edge of technology for the legal industry.

“We were early adopters of Smart Time. At first, we deployed their desktop browser-based time entry and time capture modules. Recently we began a testing cycle with Smart Time Mobile, and our test group of attorneys really liked the system,” said Juan Torres, Chief Information Officer at Bilzin Sumberg.  ” We have now begun our mobile deployment and we are thrilled to provide our timekeepers an easy to use and effective mobile time entry solution.”

Steve Bronstein, CTO and Founder of Smart Time Apps, stated that “Smart Time is a best-built application that directly integrates with different accounting systems including: Aderant Expert, Rainmaker, Thomson Reuters Elite, LexisNexis, Juris, PCLaw, Microsoft Dynamics and other leading accounting systems. At Bilzin Sumberg, Smart Time is tightly integrated into the firm’s Aderant Expert accounting system.”

“We are delighted that Bilzin Sumberg has implemented Smart Time Mobile,” said Todd Gerstein, CEO and Founder of Smart Time Apps. “We look forward to supporting the firm’s ongoing success with the Smart Time platform.”

About Bilzin Sumberg

Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP is a commercial law firm based in Florida. The firm’s core practices include Business Finance & Restructuring, Corporate, International, Land Development & Government Relations, Litigation, Real Estate and Tax. For more information, please visit www.bilzin.com.

About Smart Time Apps

Smart Time Apps provides the leading timekeeping platform for law, accounting and professional services firms. Our flagship product, Smart Time, is an all-in-one timekeeping platform. Our team of experts specializes in finance, accounting, marketing, process engineering and technology. Smart Time Apps is privately held and is headquartered in Campbell, California. For more information, visit www.smartwebparts.com.