While enormous monetary settlements are a favorite topic of movies, we all know that for the most part, legal services come down to billable hours. And though the goal may be to allocate every quarter hour of every day to one client matter or another, the reality is that a lot of time simply falls through the cracks at most practices.
How much time? The answer turns out to be a lot of time. You can get a pretty good idea of how much time never gets billed when you “follow the money.” The average hourly rate for all lawyers nationwide is just over $250/hour. Multiply that by 40 hours per week (we know we all work much more), and that’s $10,000 per week – meaning the average gross should be $500,000 annually. But surveys report an average income for self-employed lawyers of less than $100,000.
That discrepancy means lawyers have either a lot of expenses we can’t even imagine, or lots and lots of lost hours.
A big reason billable hours get “lost” is that time-keeping records are often put off until the famous “when I can get to it.” And as lawyers, we know better than most that relying on memory for an accurate accounting of what we did and when we did it is – well, it’s asking for trouble to say the least.
With only so many hours in a day, every law firm eventually comes to the realization that improving productivity is largely about having an efficient, easy way to record, allocate and turn these fleeting hours into billable hours that land on an invoice.
With that in mind, here are four “productivity killers” that every lawyer needs to address:
- Mobility – So much legal work takes place outside the office, it makes no sense to be tied to old desktop software to update case information, calendar meetings, or log billable hours. These should be taken care of as they occur, from whatever location you happen to be in.
- Fragmentation – It is all too common for many practices to assemble their “productivity software” piece by piece over time. And what you end up with is a collection of incompatible programs: one for billing, one for docket control, yet another for trust accounting and others. Much time gets wasted in entering the same information over and over again into multiple programs. Even more time is spent trying to get them all synchronized with each other.
- Docket Control/Task Tracking – Perhaps nothing is so important in legal work as making sure that all the filing dates and other deadlines are met. While you may be able to keep the final due date in mind, keeping track of all the critical steps & dependencies that lead up to it requires something more than a calendar or note pad. And even a single task that falls through the cracks can lead to many hours of catch-up later.
- Conflict Checking – Law firms must maintain their professional & regulatory standards. That means making a thorough effort to identify conflicts. Sorting through case files or contact records is not just time consuming, it can put your firm’s integrity at risk.
How the New Generation of Specialized Legal Practice Management Software Helps You Solve Common Productivity Killers
A new breed of practice management applications particularly designed for small law firms are now available. These are not just generic project management packages. Quite the opposite. They offer “lawyer-friendly” features such as matter-based record architecture – which can greatly simplifies reporting & billing. Integrated billing and trust accounting functions (including 3-way bank reconciliations) help firms stay 100% compliant and audit-ready. You can also get docket control that works alongside your calendar & task tracking (you can see the full list of at the website).
With desktop computers fading into a past era, it’s not surprising that this new generation of software lives on “cloud” technology. They leverage the power of cloud-based access to keep you on top of all the details of your practice — from wherever you are, at any time, on any device (including your tablet or smartphone).
Everyone on your team can log on to a cloud application – making it easier to spot inconsistencies or problems with billing, client funds management, task management or any of the details that must be coordinated among multiple stakeholders to keep everything running smoothly. And with all functions in one place, integrated instead of fragmented, you always have a current, up-to-date, and comprehensive view of every matter for every client
CosmoLex is one of the new legal practice management systems that is attracting a lot of attention. It’s easy to see what a difference CosmoLex can make at your practice. Just visit the website at www.CosmoLex.com and take a look at what state-of-the-art practice management now offers. You can sign up for a demo or even a free, 30-day trial that includes full access, training, and unlimited support. CosmoLex can help you spend less time managing your practice — and more time practicing law.