Why it’s so important to record your hours and expenses as you accrue them

November 8, 2013

Man using digital tablet

As an attorney, you need to keep track of your own hours and expenses in order to get paid.  And the more accurate your records, the easier your life will be.

I’ve spoken about Thomson Reuters Firm Central in great detail in the past two posts in this series, and how it actually makes your job as an attorney easier.

In this final post, I’ll be talking about one specific way that Firm Central does this: keeping track of your billable hours and expenses as you accrue them.  Although Firm Central enables you to do this much more easily (easy to access, simple interface, minimal time requirements, mobile usage via a native app, etc), diligently tracking your hours and expenses is not something that requires Firm Central.

But it’s not only staying current on your hours and expenses that makes your job easier; it’s also having the ability to easily record your hours.

First, though, I’ll discuss why it’s so important to stay current on your hours and expenses to begin with.

The most immediate benefit to doing this is that you, as the attorney, will get paid faster.

If you record your time for writing that brief or making that court appearance as it happens (well, technically, right when the billable time ends), you don’t have to dig through records and spend a big chunk of your own time – unbillable time, mind you – when it’s time to send the invoice.

Of course, merely having to face the daunting task of digging through your calendars, phone records, and your Word documents’ revision history may dissuade you from even putting together an invoice in the first place. 

Worse still, you may not be able to compile the most accurate invoice because the records may be incomplete in some way.  And for ethical reasons, you have to err on the side of undercharging clients, rather than risk overcharging them.  Along these same lines, keeping up to date records ensures that you don’t forget about anything that you’ve done for a client – which would also be money out of your pocket.

So it clearly makes sense on paper to keep updated records; but in the real-world, there are obstacles that get in the way of successfully adhering to this practice.

The biggest of these obstacles is not having a simple method of recording your time and expenses.

Here’s an example: let’s say that you record your time and expenses in Microsoft Excel.  Unless you’re particularly well-versed in using the program, you likely just have a template that you use to make individual invoices for all of your clients.  This means that to record billable time for a particular client, you need to have an existing invoice for that client that you need to locate and open on your computer.

Clearly, it can get terribly burdensome to have to dig through invoices for multiple clients just to record a 15 minute phone call – which is why it often isn’t logged immediately after it occurred.

Firm Central’s billing function is attractive to me because it offers such ease in entering your billable hours and expenses.  But there are other options available as well for centralized billing.  The point is to have something easily accessible from anywhere that offers a simple interface for logging your hours and expenses.

Otherwise, you may find yourself hesitant to even put your invoices together.  And if invoices don’t get sent out, you don’t get paid.