The talent competition and timekeeping technology

November 19, 2018 RSS

Winning and keeping legal talent in the next few years will increasingly depend on providing technology that relieves lawyers of mundane administrative tasks. Firms that don’t create a modern, digital experience for their lawyers will watch their future walk out the door to a firm that does.

Can firms leverage machines to do some of the tedious tasks that annoy lawyers? Take time and billing, for example. Every lawyer has to record and report their time—it’s how the industry bills clients. Even in flat-fee arrangements, lawyers record their time so the firm can use that data for future pricing and metrics. Surprisingly, this fundamental of a legal business—time entry—remains a frustration point for most lawyers.  Firms that do something about this dreaded essential will make their lawyers happy.

Don’t interrupt the conductor for time punching

Asking lawyers to stop and enter time before shifting their focus is like asking a conductor to jot a note before moving from the violins to the horns. Piecing facts, strategies, and legal arguments together requires an uninterrupted flow and concentration. Truth be told, however, it’s difficult for lawyers to remember with specificity what they did a week or a month ago if they delay time entry. Lawyers would be much happier if their time was somehow automatically recorded, ready for their review and submission.

Their wait is over. Now there’s a way to automatically capture lawyers’ time using metadata from the systems they use in their daily work. Presto, time entries are ready for their approval.

Mobile time entry expected
Firms that don’t enable lawyers to enter time from anywhere, anytime are already behind in the talent war. Today virtually all lawyers are “mobile,” relying extensively on mobile devices. Many lawyers travel frequently to see clients or work from home. Train or bus commutes are good opportunities to knock off administrative tasks like time entry. Mobile timekeeping is simply a basic.

Time entry and billing for happiness
When entering time, lawyers must be aware of client billing requirements, typically contained in outside counsel guidelines (OCGs) or engagement letters. OCGs are 10s of pages long and have a host of very detailed terms such as bans on overly-broad time descriptions and pre-approval of non-routine research.

Hunting down OCG requirements for every matter before entering time is a hassle few lawyers relish. These client terms are typically not organized by matter or lawyer, or housed in an easily accessible centralized system.  Firms need mechanisms for communicating OCG terms to lawyers—ideally, during time entry.

A sore spot in firms today is the fact that it’s not uncommon for busy lawyers to accidently enter time without thinking about OCG requirements. Noncompliant time entries find their way into client bills, resulting in frustrated clients and prompting client bill rejection. This OCG bill-rejection pattern annoys partners who likely must write off these charges, and makes associates look bad for missing the OCG requirements. Firms must avoid these problems to help lawyers preserve excellent client revenues and relationships—a lawyer’s pride and joy. And of course, these are also compensation influencers.

 

AI can personalize client terms for lawyers
As sharp as lawyers are, no one can keep hundreds of OCG terms in their head. OCGs can be dozens of pages long, chock full of details governing a lawyer’s matters. Firms need a way to classify and sort client terms so lawyers can know what their clients expect. That’s where technology can help. For example, AI can personalize OCG alerts for lawyers, serving them up terms notices as they enter time.

How’s the millennial recruiting going?
Forbes reports that 33% of the American workforce will be millennials in 2020; 75% by 2025. Is your firm ready to give them a modern, digital experience? Growing up with Super Mario Brothers in their hands, millennials expect their firms to automate basic, daily tasks like timekeeping.

On another level, firm investments in technology to make lawyers’ lives easier show the firm cares about them, subtly building loyalty to the firm in a hot lateral market. Millennials value work-life balance. Technology that frees them to spend weekends with family and friends rather than focused on reconstructing and entering time is hugely attractive.

Technology that gives lawyers a modern, digital experience can be a recruitment differentiator for your firm. Learn more about the role of technology in the talent war in our ebook, “Law firms face a time and billing crossroads.

Written by: Carolyn Casey

Carolyn Casey, JD, is a lawyer and author who writes on trends in legal technology and operations, information governance, global regulations, data protection, and artificial intelligence.


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