Regardless of how you track your time, make sure it is accurate. Around these parts, we use Freshbooks for tracking our time in cases, and it works great for the most part. But even when your time is accurate, are you cutting your own time?
Accurately track your time
The first step is methodically keeping accurate time. If you use Freshbooks, it has a built in stopwatch. If you can actually stay on task, make sure you note when you started something, and when you stopped.
Another way to bolster your timekeeping is to save new files everytime you work on something. Do not consistently write over a brief, save them all as individual files. For example, if you work on a memo everyday for two weeks, you should have ten different files. If your timekeeping is ever called into question, you can prove that you were, in fact, working on the case.
Managing partners are in charge of your hours
I will preface this by saying I do not work at a big firm. It is my understanding, however, that if you are a young associate, a partner is in charge of monitoring your hours. If they think you spent too much time on something, they will cut your hours. If you cut your own hours and then someone else cuts your hours, what is left?
I certainly understand not wanting to look like a slow poke, but there is reason why partners are partners, and associates are associates. I can remember clerking a firm and getting yelled at for chopping my hours for that very reason—it was not my job or responsibility to chop hours.
Why are you chopping your time?
If your stopwatch shows two hours and ten minutes, but you remember taking a phone call for ten minutes, then chopping your time makes sense. If you actually spent that whole time doing research, what are you ashamed of? If you are a young attorney, you are not expected to know everything. Bill for the time you actually spend on something.