Tracking your time rather than reconstructing it at the end of the month turns out to be really important. As in, not-overbilling-your-clients-by-23% important. Whether or not you share your time records with your clients in real time, you do need to keep a time log.

Hopefully that is a no-brainer for everyone who reads this post, but I doubt it. I have known plenty of lawyers who reconstruct time at the end of every month — or every couple of months — from their calendar, emails, and memory. Even if you only put together your bill at the end of the month, you need to track your time as you go. These are the major tools for doing that.

However you decide to track your time, pick a method and stick to it. When you sit down to assemble your invoices, the fewer places you have to go to get the raw data, the better. The more methods you use to track your time, the more mistakes you will make.

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13 responses to “How to Keep Track of Your Time”

  1. For our clients, we like to use a google docs spreadsheet. Punch in the work time, and hrs spent for each item of work. For payments, insert a separate line and make sure everything sums together at the top. Then share with your client, allowing them “view only” privileges.

  2. Eurotrash says:

    Timelog just works perfectly for me. Have experimented with various systems, but this one does it for me: Works on the PC, iPhone and iPad and is completely cloud based.

  3. Karin Ciano says:

    Thanks Sam for this great post. Paper timekeeping is fast, cheap, simple, portable and contemporaneous – I’m a fan.

  4. Some great ideas here. Although I now keep time using Open Practice (which has a stop watch if you need it) I am still a fan of using paper to keep time – especially something that shows a running account from the morning to the evening – it lets you see where the gaps are really well in a visual way.

  5. jimrodz says:

    I use a time tracking software to keep track of time, attendance and productivity.
    I’m a freelancer so I need everything to be software-based. However, there are times that I need to go down to manual procedures and use basic tracking methods like spreadsheets to record time and other notes – which is a hassle for me.

    So for time tracking, aside from those that were mentioned above, I use Time Doctor for this. I’ve been using it for almost 2 years now and I love its features.
    Time Doctor is such a tool that helps freelancers (like me) to get their time sorted out.

  6. Malby says:

    After suffering through Timeslips (way too buggy, and too complicated for a small firm) and Tabs3 (wayyyy too complicated for a small firm), I found Harvest, which is delightfully simple and serves all of our needs.

    • Malby says:

      I was one of those end-of-the-month billers in BigLaw back in the day. Daily notes but one big monthly timesheet completion session that I dreaded. In my own firm in the digital world, I find that programs like Harvest are inviting enough to use in real-time and inspire one to review and finish up the day promptly. I cannot imagine how end-of-the-month billing is anywhere near accurate or tolerated by firms or clients.

  7. Paul Spitz says:

    I’ve just switched from Freshbooks to Clio (for reasons beyond time-tracking). I preferred how Freshbooks handled timekeeping. That big timer popup was harder to forget about than Clio’s format. The other day I was interrupted by a phone call, and forgot to turn off the timer in Clio because it is so unobtrusive.

  8. Paul Elkins says:

    Great post. I’m an associate at a medium-sized firm that already has (and is stuck to) the accounting software already in place. So, because I don’t need accounting or invoicing options, Clio, Freshbooks, etc., are too powerful (and pricey) to use for simple timekeeping. I’ve tried tons of standalone apps and basic paper, but I just started using the app “Hours” (free for iPhone on the app store, called Hours Time Tracking), which allows you to keep time by client, matter, and task (I just use the first two). Not only does it have a timer feature (which is manually adjustable), it also keeps your time relative to the hours of the day, so you can look back at the end of the day to see what you did, for how long, and when. You enter the description for items you worked on using a notes feature. All of it is exportable as a pdf (or csv) via email. The best part is that the app has a widget that be used right from the notifications view (i.e., you don’t have to actually enter the app to start and stop a timer). It’s a great app, and is the best I’ve found for my situation, where someone else actually invoices my time but I need to keep a personal backup.

  9. Erica Birstler says:

    Great point about entering your time in the moment. It is so easy to forget items to bill as time or expense, and that digs right into your profits!Today It is essential to have a mobile tool to make your entries, whether it is a notebook or a mobile app, it must be with you at all times and easily accessible. It is important to make a habit of entering on the spot. Many practice management programs can also link your calendaring/tasks with your billing so that as long as an event is scheduled, it won’t get lost in the mix.

  10. William Anderson says:

    So Sam you didn’t really say what you use.

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