The ABCs of Capturing Billable Hours

According to the firms surveyed in the 2012 LexisNexis Law Firm Billable Hours Survey Report, the average time lost per day to non-billable tasks was two hours—that’s 23% of the day! The biggest culprit for that non-billable time was Practice Management and Administrative Tasks according to 2012 LexisNexis Non-Billable Hours Survey Topline Report. How does your firm compare to those surveyed, and how much revenue are you losing to non-billable hours each year? If you don’t know, it’s time to find out and turn it around! Although AFAs (Alternative Fee Arrangements) have grown in popularity in recent years, the majority of the work done is still by the all mighty billable hour. I suggest getting back to the basics of timekeeping so often lost in the chaos of year-end closings, partner retreats and other priorities. So, here are my ABCs of capturing more billable hours:

A=Analyze Your Hours. Generate reports that show how non-billable hours are affecting your firm’s profitability. You need to know your starting point before you can set goals for improvement. Share these reports with the partners, and work with them to encourage targets or bonuses that tie into the number of billable hours. This is a great way to make sure it’s not just the accounting department attempting to enforce time entry policies in vain. Every few months, pull the same reports to see if you are successfully changing the firm’s non-billable culture.

B=Be Aware. Monitor time entries weekly. Don’t wait until just before your billing cycle to fix all issues on the busiest days of the month! This should be done by assistants or members of the accounting team. Because it’s a non-billable task, I don’t recommend assigning this duty to timekeepers, as that will rack up additional administrative hours. If you correct the same issues over and over during weekly reviews, consider setting up system alerts or creating policies regarding what’s acceptable and not acceptable for non-billable hours. For example, you may create a billing software email alert when an associate’s number of non-billable hours per day/week hits an unacceptable level.

C=Clean up Timekeeping. If you plan to put so much effort into analyzing and reviewing time, don’t forget to streamline the time entry process for timekeepers and assistants. Train your staff on how to use timers to encourage contemporaneous entry, set up short-cut text codes in your billing system that allow them to reduce time spent on typing phrases like “Teleconference with…” over and over, create task codes with auto-populated narratives, and sit down with each timekeeper or assistant to customize their view of time entries based on their preferences. This will not only make the timekeepers more comfortable and happy with the time entry process, it will also decrease non-billable hours spent entering time.

Juris and Juris Suite can be used to generate powerful profitability reports, streamline and customize the time entry process, monitor time entries and alert key members of the firm to unacceptable non-billable time. For additional information on how to maximize your firm’s use of the Juris Solution, contact your Juris Account Manager or visit For OnDemand training on the Juris Suite Time Entry module, click here to visit LexisNexis University.

Kelly McNamee