Time tracking can be a complicated and often pain-inducing topic for lawyers. For any law firm that charges by the hour, time is literally money.
Where time tracking goes wrong
It takes time to track time. In fact, so many lawyers opt to leave it to the end of the day, week, or even month (or even longer) to log their billable time. It’s painful for the lawyer, and it’s painful for any staff member that needs to hunt this information down when it comes time to bill clients each month.
The irony is that the longer you wait to track your time, the longer it takes to forensically track down how much time was spent on a case by reviewing emails and checking calendar entries. This is especially true in documenting the work you actually did for each entry.
If you’re tracking your time by hand, using pen and paper, not only is it stressful to think about whether that time was tracked accurately, it’s also stressful to worry about losing track of that time sheet before it actually makes it to a bill—not to mention the redundancy of having to rewrite those entries into your billing system each month.
Creating systems to track time better
Like all good habits, it’s important to find ways to make them part of your day-to-day life. Remove barriers and find ways to make your environment more supportive of the behaviors you want to reinforce, and you’ll spend less mental effort and energy trying to create and stick to your habits. This means making things like time tracking more visible and more convenient within your daily routines.
No matter how you track your time, every work entry gets put into a comprehensive time sheet (tracked on the Activities page in Clio Manage) that’s unique to every member of your firm. With all of your time tracking information in one place, you can review, edit, or delete a time entry at any time.
Of course, time tracking is just one part of the billing process. The most efficient and profitable law firms create systems that make billing easier from end-to-end, and tech can help with this too. Clio also offers a fully integrated billing and case management system, which means that when it comes time to bill clients each month, you can use Clio Manage to automatically generate all of your bills with a full record of time entries and work descriptions unique to every case and client in your system. You’ll get clear, accurate bills in a fraction of the time it takes to create them manually.
(Read more about how Clio Manage automates billing and collections to save your firm time and reduce outstanding invoices.)
At the end of the day, what matters most is that you’re building a time-tracking habit that sticks, ensuring you get paid for billable hours, or that your flat rates are profitable. Here are 10 of the options you have with Clio Manage:
10 ways to track your time in Clio Manage
1. Run a timer as you work
One of the best ways to ensure you’re capturing the most time possible for all your billable tasks is to run a timer while you work. This eliminates the possibility that any work will get lost or forgotten later on.
In Clio Manage, the timer button is available at the top of every screen, meaning no matter what you’re doing you can quickly start and stop your timer, and it will keep running as you open and close or navigate between different screens. You can also link your tracked time to a specific client and matter and add detailed notes to your time entries at any time—when you first start the timer, while it’s running, or after it’s stopped.
When it comes time to assemble a bill, Clio will pull all of your unbilled time entries, including all of your task descriptions, into unique bills for each individual matter, which you can review and edit before sending out to all your clients.
2. Log entries after the fact
If you don’t run a timer while you work, you can also log time entries after the fact—either individually once a task is completed, or in bulk at the end of the day or week.
This means that you can still record your time using pen and paper (old habits die hard), and then enter and review it all at once later on. Since Clio is a firm-wide application, you can also have another member of your staff log all of your time on your behalf—while still getting the benefit of all of Clio’s billing automation when it comes time to bill.
3. Track time via mobile app
Clio is a cloud-based software application, which means you can access it securely from any web browser, on any device. No matter where you are, or what device you use, all of your updates to Clio will always be in sync.
One of the ways you can access Clio Manage is through the dedicated mobile app, which allows you to run a timer, log time entries, or record expenses just like you would on your office computer. No matter where you are—at home, at the courthouse, or away from your desk—you can take a phone call or review an email communication and log the work then and there.
Even if you’re at your desk, using your mobile device gives you an easy way to track time while working offline or in another software program.
4. Log time from calendar entries
A common habit among lawyers involves trying to forensically recreate their time tracking by reviewing calendar and email communications at the end of the week or month. This gets difficult when trying to remember how much time went into a particular task, or exactly what was discussed during a call.
Clio’s built-in calendar syncs bi-directionally with all of your calendar events in Outlook 365 or Google Calendar. This means that no matter where you make an update, all of your calendar events will be mirrored between platforms.
And, you can use Clio’s calendar to quickly log time from individual events.
For example, if you have a meeting-heavy day, or if you just want to block out time for specific tasks, this gives you an easy way to quickly document billable work each day.
5. Log time from individual tasks
When working with a larger team, the ability to keep a record of tasks can help coordinate resources and provide a clearer sense of accountability.
Clio’s task management system allows you to quickly assign tasks for specific cases and clients to other members of your team. In fact, for firms that work a high volume of similar cases, you can predefine a list of tasks that you can quickly assign when opening a new matter in Clio. And if it’s just you at your firm, this can be an efficient way to keep track of all your to-dos across all your case work.
Whether it’s you or someone else at your firm, everyone has the ability to add time to each task—as they work on the task or upon completion. Every time entry associated with a task will then automatically update that firm member’s record of the work performed, which can be seen with a filtered view of the Activities page in Clio (like a time sheet).
6. Log time from your email inbox
So much information comes into a law firm through email, and as a result, it’s where many lawyers spend a lot of their time. Through powerful integrations with Microsoft Outlook 365 and Google’s Gmail, you can track time to Clio Manage directly from your inbox.
Simply install the appropriate plugin, and you’ll be able to run a timer or log time entries right from your inbox. And, just like any other means of tracking your time in Clio, all the time you track through the plugin will automatically log to the activities page in Clio (again, just like a time sheet), linked to a specific matter and contact.
7. Use a passive time tracker
Passive time tracking is a relatively new concept in time tracking software, and one that can save lawyers a ton of headaches when it comes to time entry.
Services like WiseTime, Chrometa, and MagicTime work in the background to keep a record of your daily work. At the end of the day, you’ll be able to review a list of your work based on how much time you spent working within specific documents or communicating with individual clients.
These services also integrate with Clio Manage, and once synced, they will identify when you are working on specific cases associated with your contacts in Clio. At the end of the day, all of your tasks will be pre-tagged with their respective cases, so that you can quickly log them in Clio with the click of a button.
8. Log time via voice
With the rise of smart speaker technologies, connected homes—and offices—are becoming more the norm. In fact, more than 25% of the US population now own a smart speaker. When you take into account that virtually every smartphone is also enabled with Siri or Google Assistant, the possibilities for voice-enabled workflows in the office are quickly becoming reality.
LawDroid Voice (currently in beta) is an application you can install on your mobile phone or tablet. When you integrate it with Clio, you can—among many things—log time entries or run a timer directly in Clio.
That said, be sure to take precautions to protect client confidentiality if you’re using a live-mic listening device to record time entries. Keep it in your office, but not in a meeting space or boardroom, for example.
If you already own a smart speaker, TimeSparrow is another service that allows you to track your time through any Alexa-enabled device, as well as other means such as text messaging—which brings us to number 9 on our list …
9. Log time via text message
Sometimes the easiest way to log time is to send a quick message to yourself—or someone at your firm. TimeSparrow through its integration with Clio, allows you to do just that and more.
With TimeSparrow, you can send a quick text message with information on what you worked on and how much time you spent on it, and it will get saved and tagged appropriately in Clio. In addition to the voice functionality mentioned above, TimeSparrow allows you to track time by sending emails to yourself as well.
10. Automate time capture from your mobile device
Time Miner is a service that you can install on your mobile device. You can run it at any time to do a quick check of any phone calls, email communications, or text messaging with any of your contacts in your Clio account.
You can specify a time period to mine, and Time Miner will give you a record of time spent communicating with a given contact, which you can then log in Clio.
There is no doubt that tracking time needs to get done at some point. The key to making it as efficient and painless as possible is to make sure you have the right tools in place to make it easy and convenient. This will also help ensure that you’re able to keep track of every minute of billable work, so that nothing ever gets lost.
Legal time tracking software gives you—and anyone else at your firm—several options for tracking and managing your time accurately and efficiently. Once all of that time is captured in a centralized time sheet (like Clio’s Activities page) for each user at the firm, you’ll be able to quickly generate all of your invoices, complete with unique contact information, task descriptions, and trust account summaries. And, in fact, keeping a record of your non-billable time can also help improve revenue and collections at your firm as well.
Learn more about how better time tracking helps streamline the entire collection process with this guide to better billing for law firms.