TIME RECORDING IS THE REAL CANCER IN OUR PROFESSION

 

Unsurprisingly, I also strongly believe that no law firm should slavishly record time. Recording time, especially in six-minute units, serves no valid purpose whatsoever in any professional firm. Time-based billing is but a symptom of the time recording ‘illness’ that many in our profession have become addicted to, and it is time recording that is the real cancer in our profession.

I know I sound like a reformed smoker, but ever since I began advocating our profession move away from time-based billing it has been constantly asserted to me that you need to record your time both to properly manage your lawyers (i.e. to know what they do all day) and to know your ‘cost of production’. I used to believe that too.

With all due respect, even leaving aside the fact that no human being can possibly accurately record the time they spend on a client’s matter, both these assertions for retaining the mind-numbing and expensive time-recording systems in place in most firms are manifestly wrong and unjustified.

People in organisations all over the world are creative, well-managed and highly productive without management needing to see their timesheets.

If you really want to know what your lawyer did all day why not just ask them? If we truly believed we needed timesheets to properly manage our people and to see how effective and efficient they are at doing things, why don’t we have our finance and administration teams, our receptionists, our assistants, our managing partners and CEOs and other "non-fee-earners" fill out timesheets?

Why? Because they do not charge their services by time and to make them fill out timesheets would make them less effective and much less motivated.

 

As far as timesheets being necessary to record a firm’s cost of production, there is absolutely no economic or accounting justification whatsoever to support this. Time is not an actual cost in the same sense as rent, wages, printing etc. Every lawyer in every firm, indeed every living person, has more or less the same time available to them every day. Time is merely a constant a restraint. It is what someone does with their time that makes them valuable. Nearly all of the costs in a firm are fixed and can be predicted. Costs do not vary depending on the amount of time you or your employed lawyer spends on a client.

All you are simply doing is making a record of time and then arbitrarily allocating a dollar value to each six-minute unit.

PricingJohn Chisholm