Getting to grips with what things really cost – are you a busy fool?

 In Practice Management

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Getting to grips with what things really cost

Slowly but surely, more and more clients are expecting to have greater certainty about what things will cost. This is not an unreasonable expectation and is what any of us want when we are buying a service. Once the price of the service becomes fixed, the only variable which now determines the profit or loss made on the piece of work is the cost of doing that work, which is in turn a function of the time taken to do that work.

The importance of full time records therefore remains as important as ever. It is only by understanding exactly where the day goes that you will ever be able to appreciate the inefficiencies of your working day and to see where efficiencies can be introduced. Firms need a clear time recording policy and some FAQs which provide detailed guidance on how grey areas should be recorded so that a uniform approach can be developed.

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Even with a clear policy and some good FAQS firms will still struggle to record all of their time if the fee earners are not disciplined about their time capture every day. Some of the following disciplines might help:-

  1. Make sure that everyone consolidates their time records at the start of each day before embarking on another busy day. This has the benefit of forcing people to think about the work that they may have done since leaving the office the previous evening.
  2. Use alarms on phones to go off periodically throughout the day to remind people of the need to stay on top of time capture.
  3. Invest in software that prompts fee earners to record time if they have not recorded any time for a while.
  4. Ask people to record from when they arrive in the morning to when they leave in the evening so that there is a defined amount of time that needs recording and which can be monitored.

I regularly train lawyers in time recording and I regularly hear stories which confirm that a lack of discipline is a common reason for all time not being recorded. I met an almost tearful supervisor recently who told me that she struggles to record her time as she never has a chance to do so as her 8 hour day is spent rushing from one crisis to another as she tries her best to support her team. She indicated that all of her time was on client matters but she might be working on 50-60 different matters in the day and at the end of the day she cannot remember which files she has worked on. I suggested that she just walks around all day with a pen and paper and every time she is dragged on to another crisis she should just make a note of the file name. If this is not done, then the client will get the service but the firm will not know what things cost and will struggle to provide the best and most efficient service to clients.

It is great to be busy and in demand but it is foolish to fail to record what you are doing.

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