This means that a firm with $1 million in gross billings could be losing as much as a half of a million dollars a year for work they performed but never billed the client for.

The effective use and capture of your time is the single most important factor in making your law office more profitable. By following the tips in this paper, you’ll be able to increase your billings significantly, without working one second more.

In addition, this will free you up for the most important of all long term activities–business development. As an entrepreneurial attorney, you probably appreciate the importance of this activity, yet likely struggle to make as much time for it as you’d like amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday fire drills.

Read on, and we’ll explore five things you can start doing today to make your practice more profitable...

Tip 1–Make Time for Business Development

Youʹre a hardworking attorney. You do excellent work and are in demand, but you arenʹt building your book of business as quickly as youʹd like. Even though bringing in new clients is crucial to your future success, you havenʹt been able to find time to focus on business development. Your daily schedule is endlessly clogged with time‐sensitive client demands, partner requirements, and committee meetings.

Cramming in ʺbiz devʺ seems impossible, even though it should be a high priority. Of course, when thereʹs too much work to fit into the day, no amount of ʺtime managementʺ will help‐‐no magic can turn five minutes into six. But using a system to organize your work and manage your commitments can ensure that you wonʹt lose sight of whatʹs really important to your career‐‐and it can enable you to dramatically increase the time you devote to developing new business.

Attorneys agree that business development is vital. Yet at their offices their biz dev files are invisible, completely buried beneath piles of client matter. New prospects lie dormant among existing client demands. Even when lawyers try to begin biz dev they lose focus, as the relevant information molders beneath mounds of other documents.

The solution? Create a filing architecture that separates ʺworkingʺ client and business development files from lower value, reference material. Note the 80/20 rule: Eighty percent of the work is done with 20 percent of the paper. Keep the important 20 percent‐‐the working files‐‐close at hand. Move the rest to a file cabinet or a drawer farther away. Clearing away junk and lower‐value documents makes working biz dev files more visible, improves your ability to focus on that activity, and eliminates time lost searching for needed information. (As a bonus, the discipline of personal organization will help you delegate work to others.)

You should explicitly define biz devʹs core actions‐‐internal networking, external networking, activities that raise your visibility‐‐and then put them on the calendar. Make lists of prospective clients and create recurring calendar appointments to stay in touch. Schedule time to write and edit articles for journals. Identify conferences to speak at, set specific times to contact the organizers with proposals, and connect with your associates to develop the presentations. The steady accretion of these activities will result in more biz dev activity‐‐and it will result in winning new clients.

Tip 2–Put Away the Firefighter’s Helmet

Too many attorneys begin the day reading through their email in‐box. No doubt, reputations depend on near‐ instantaneous client service. But let’s face it: if the only value you’re providing for your client is rapid response, you’ll eventually be replaced by someone in Mumbai, Shenzhen, or some other time zone who can respond even faster. Moreover, that level of service comes at a cost: Attorneys become reactive rather than proactive. No matter how quickly they respond, they are always fighting fires, always behind the curve.

You can focus instead on ʺliving in the calendar.ʺ Rather than vainly hoping for a free afternoon for business development, carve out time for it. Structure your schedule each day so you stay on top of ongoing commitments while still allocating appropriate time to forging relationships with prospective clients.

Additionally, set Outlook or Lotus Notes to open in the Calendar, rather than the Inbox. This one adjustment will keep you focused on daily and weekly plans. The first thing youʹll see each morning is your schedule, not the avalanche of emails that poured in overnight. Of course, you still must respond to those messages, but at least now youʹll be more cognizant of your daily priorities.

Living in your calendar also helps you delegate work more effectively. As you become better at tracking client commitments, you can hand off work to associates with clear check‐in dates and deadlines‐‐and that means more time for business development.

The final step is creating a clearly defined plan of action. When it comes to biz dev, most lawyers donʹt know precisely what theyʹll do or when theyʹll do it. Thatʹs because ʺbusiness developmentʺ is a squishy concept comprising many different activities. Itʹs hard to make progress when you donʹt have specific tasks to complete.

After just a few months of structured activity, you will begin to see results. I have personally seen junior partners at a large firm increase their average promotional time by almost 25 percent. Although there are no guarantees, creating clarity in your workspace‐‐both physically and mentally‐‐will make you more effective at developing business.

Tip 3–Stop Multi-Tasking, Start Batching

Picture your standard morning at the office: you’re checking a complicated formula in a spreadsheet. Ring! You turn away from the spreadsheet and take the phone call. When the call is over, you go back to the spreadsheet. Ding! MS Outlook just alerted you to a new email. You toggle over to your email, read it, and dash off a short response. Knock! Your partner ducks in for a quick question. You feel in control. You’re multi‐tasking, efficiently getting so much work done in so little time. You’re also wrong. Multi‐tasking doesn’t work.

As a knowledge worker, you simply cannot deploy all your mental acuity and creativity if you can’t focus on the task at hand. All the interruptions of modern office life–email, Blackberries, pagers, voice mail, good old‐ fashioned knocks on the office door–destroy your ability to concentrate and focus.

Today’s knowledge workers are interrupted on average every 11 minutes, and it takes them about 25 minutes to return to that task–if they return to it at all. And of course, even when they return to that task, it takes them a few minutes to get back into what they were doing. Add that up, and you’ve got a colossal waste of time. A recent study by Basex revealed that 55% of workers surveyed said they open e‐mail immediately or shortly after it arrives, no matter how busy they are. Similarly, the White Collar Productivity Index by IBT‐USA, a corporate efficiency training company, showed that workers lose 4.5 hours per week to interruptions.

So what can you do? The answer is simple: batching.

Batching your work means doing similar tasks at one time. For example, rather than reading each email as it comes in, schedule specific time during your day to check and answer emails. Do the same with your voice mail and your outgoing phone calls. You should also batch your interactions with people. Don’t interrupt coworkers whenever you get an idea, but instead meet at regularly scheduled times. Keep a folder for each key coworker where you can drop notes and reminders for your next meeting. By respecting othersʹ time and being mindful of their need to concentrate, they become more respectful of your time ‐‐ a virtuous circle that leads to improved efficiency.

By batching your work and reducing interruptions, you can more easily maintain your focus on the tasks that need your attention. You’ll not only do your work better, you’ll do it faster as well.

Tip 4–Track Time Concurrently

Dustin Cole, president of Attorneys Master Class, says: “Attorneys fail to bill from 10 to 25 percent of their legitimate billable hours due to bad recording habits, overwhelm and disorganization, and poor team management.”1

So by not maximizing your personal productivity and accurately tracking your time, you are under billing for actual work done by 10‐25%. If you are an attorney generating $400,000 in annual billings, this is costing you or your firm $100,000 in lost revenues.

Cole says that it’s virtually impossible to reconstruct work done more than a day ago–estimating that waiting a week to reconcile your time can cause you to lose as much as 15‐25% of it.

Attendees at a recent educational webinar about attorney time capture, which was sponsored by Chrometa, attendees cited constant interruptions and the need to multi‐task as the top two factors that cause them to lose the most billable time. For folks who agree, we hope tips 2 and 3 in this paper will help you out.

Close behind was “waiting too long to reconcile time.” Chrometa’s survey of new users in June 2009 revealed that many attorneys reconcile their time every few days or longer–with some only doing this torturous task monthly. As a result, significant time is being lost.

So as painful as it may be, the data shows clearly that the more frequently you can update your billable time, the less of it you’ll lose.

Chrometa time blocking
Chrometa time blocking

Tip 5–Use a Safety Net for Capturing Time

That said, inputting time throughout the days is very challenging for a busy person supporting multiple clients amidst a non‐stop barrage of interruptions. It is, indeed, much easier said than done.

Our aforementioned new user survey found that attorneys, on average, spent over 2.5 hours each week reconciling their billable time. Yikes!

And for their efforts, these attorneys estimated they were only able to track down a collective 67% of their billable time! So if their estimates are accurate, they are seriously under‐billing their clients!

If the pain of trying to remember what you worked on is all too familiar, you may really benefit from using Chrometa as your personal safety net. To watch a short demo video, or download a free 30‐day trial, please visit

How to Get Started Today

Increase Your Billables...And Spend Less Time Hunting Them Down

If you’d like to learn more about Chrometa, the personal safety net that captures your time for you, please visit Chrometa There is a 30‐day free trial available for you to download, along with a short product demo video.

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