The Bottom Line

The Bottom LineLPMT is the only section exclusively devoted to the practical aspects of starting, growing, and prospering in your law practice. Each issue of The Bottom Line offers practical tips to further the knowledge of our members in law office administration, financial management, legal ethics, time management, marketing a law practice, office systems and procedures and law office technology.

Your membership in the LPMT section includes a free subscription to The Bottom Line, including the free MCLE offered in each issue. Tables of contents of past issues are posted on the public side of the site, and members can access full issues since June 2011 and request copies of articles older than that in the Members Only Area.

Message from the Chair

Nyanza Shaw, Esq.From the April 2015 issue.

Welcome to the April issue of The Bottom Line.

In this message from the chair, I am going to discuss an item that is vitally important to lawyers - billable hours. While time keeping can be a burdensome task it is the core of what we have to do because if you are not billing, you are not making money. However, in today's legal world there are a lot of lawyers, and even more clients, that despise billable hours. Associates live under the burden of billing minimums which really aren't minimums since most big firm expectations are for associates to bill far beyond those minimums. Clients are turned off by feeling nickel and dimed for a quick call or email. Then there are some lawyers who undermine the value of their own time by writing down bills either by the prodding of a client or merely because of bad time keeping. Whatever your feelings are about billable hours, the fact is that they are important. They are even important if you are not billing by the hour. So how do you address this, keep your sanity, and make sure that you are properly collecting fees for services rendered and time spent?

Here are a couple of tips to improve your time keeping:

  1. I know this may seem even more burdensome and time consuming, but keep all of your time. Yes, even non-billable time. This way you can assess how much time you are spending on different tasks, how much time you are spending on non-legal activities (like marketing, billing, even checking personal emails), and how much time you are actually billing for. These should all be tracked and assessed. There are studies that show that for every hour an attorney is working, 24 minutes are not billed. This can hurt the bottom line of a firm. Even if you spend just one week keeping all of your time and then assessing where you can improve your productivity, it will be worth it.
  2. Keep your time for flat fee or contingency billing. Again, this may seem more burdensome, however, if you charge someone a flat fee or contingency fee and then do not know how many hours you spent on the matter, you cannot determine if that payment arrangement was profitable based on the work you performed. It also can help ensure that the client understands the value of the service that they are paying for.
  3. Utilize technology!! This will help make it easier to keep your time, assess how you are spending it, and then adjust to better serve your practice and your clients. There are many timekeeping tools, apps, and software programs on the market (even mobile apps) that can help you keep time, track the length of your calls, etc.

I hope you enjoy the articles featured in this issue. Thank you to the editors, the contributing authors, and the e-TBL committee for your contributions. If you would like to contribute to the section, we are always looking for articles for our two publications, The Bottom Line and the E-News. Feel free to email me at Nyanza@shawesquire.com

We want to hear from you!!

To submit to eTBL, contact Mike Fenger at mike.fenger@ceb.ucla.edu

To submit to eNews, contact Patty Miller at PattyEM@aol.com

Special Thank You to our 2014-2015 Co-Chairs of the eTBL Sub-Committee Mike Fenger and Cynthia Mascio!! 

Nyanza Shaw, Esq., Chair, LPMT
Connect with me on Twitter @shawesquire


Click here for more information on joining the LPMT Section.The article above is from a recent issue of the Law Practice Management & Technology Section's bi-monthly newsletter The Bottom Line.

To receive more information on joining the Law Practice management Technology Section, e-mail Section Coordinator Kristina Robledo.