Archive for September, 2009

My Life in Six-Minute Increments

A long, long time ago a someone decided that it made sense to charge for legal services by the hour. Most of the firms I am familiar with bill their hours in six-minute increments. This is a topic that was not very well addressed at my law school and but it seems like a very simple topic. In practice, however, I find it quite a pain at times.

It is much too easy for me to get busy doing actual work and forget to keep track of how long I spend on tasks, especially when I am bombarded by multiple items for separate clients. I find it is easier to keep track of time when I am sitting at my desk with my billing software open but much more difficult to keep track of when I am out of the office in court and meetings. I am sure that there is an app for that, but I have not yet invested the time to locate it.

Some months I do a good job of tracking my minutes, painful as it may be, but other months I may have a few days here or there with little if any time recorded. I then have to resort to running queries to see what documents were created on my computer, what emails were received and sent and what appointments took place on that date. I usually am able to come up with most of the day but seldom the total hours that I spent. I have heard stories of attorneys who fill out their time sheets at the end of the day or week. I cannot imagine that this is very accurate or efficient.

I have recently taken an interest in alternative billing, e.g. flat fees and value billing that does not involve worrying about the clock. I know there is a great debate going on between hourly and alternative billing camps and I have many more questions than answers. As a consumer, I always want to know what something is going to cost. As an attorney, I routinely provide clients with a speech about my hourly rate and that each case is different and some take more time than others but generally this type of case will cost anywhere from x to x (and of course we will try to get the other side to pay for those fees). I may experiment with some of these alternative arrangements on a limited basis to see if they have a place in my practice.

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