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In Search of Perfect Client Service Why lawyers don't seem to get it

Interesting Policies On Recording Time

Posted in Hourly Rates and Alternatives

I have spent more than a little time writing about high hourly rates and the hourly rate economic model.  I have spent very little time writing about timekeeping policies.  But I was fascinated to read the policies of several firms that were published at Above the Law, a blog that "provides news and gossip about the profession’s most colorful personalities and powerful institutions, as well as original commentary on breaking legal developments."  One post is about Fried Frank’s policy–here–and the other–here–is about Bingham.  Be sure and read the comments.

One of the most interesting comments is from Grasshopper (sorry, I’m having a flashback to Kung Fu, the old TV series): 

Daily time entry is a good thing. I defy anybody to maintain good accounting of what they did day to day and then record their time at the end of the week or month. Daily time entry is good business hygiene. You do right by the client and right by the firm.

Well, you certainly do right by the firm.  But Grasshopper makes a good point–people can’t remember what they did several days or weeks ago, or for how long.  They have to guess.  But the real irony is about yesterday–recording time in tenths of an hour (six minute segments) but doing so a day later.  Imagine the daily internal conversation: "Hmmmm, was it an hour and six minutes or twelve?  How much of that time was spent while I was looking at new YouTube videos?  Oh well, I’ll bill 1.2 hours."  At several hundred dollars an hour, pretty soon those rounding errors start to add up.  And lest people think that the errors rounding up are offset by the errors rounding down, my guess is that there are few errors on the downward side.  Be serious–given the pressure reflected in these memos, who really thinks people forget hours.  Obsession about recording hours is going to be reflected in rounding errors that give "the man" what he’s looking for.