No time like Billable Time


Business SkillsWe’ve all been there – the desire to ensure that we’re clocking up enough billable hours.

I know that there are a few law firms out there with a strong desire to engage in alternative billing practices, but the reality of a young lawyer’s life is still, by and large, the need to record their billable time in an efficient and meaningful way.

Billable Time ALL the Time

Of course most of us know why our billable time matters.  It is, in most firms, the measure by which our salaries are determined (for a time, at least), how our productivity is measured, and how we compare ourselves to our peers (don’t try tell me that you don’t keep an eye on the rest of your team’s billables if you have that option).

There’s no doubt about it – billable time is important.

But not THAT important.

Non Billable Time

Firms are generally pretty bad at capturing this.  I mean, most firms have codes and ways of recording billable time, but does anyone really care?

How many meetings have you been to where the partners have said to the team “now team – you’re not recording enough non-billable time for your file management, and we really want you to work on that”.

Answer: NONE.

Non Billable time, however, is what is going to distinguish you in your career, and your investment in non-billable time is ultimately what is going to determine your future.

It’s About Investment

Billable time might be immediate, but non-billable time is an investment.

Non billable time is where you record your marketing activities.

It’s where you plan your productivity and strategize your career.

Non billable time is how you capture the time you spend on building client relationships, developing new relationships, trying out new procedures, training yourself and your staff, and all of the many other ways in which you build valuable, long term assets.

Are you Banking it, or Wasting it?

Let’s look at your day.  Chances are if you’re a lawyer you work around 10 to 12 hours a day.  Of that, probably six to seven hours a day are billable.

That means you have between 4 and 5 hours each day, every day, on non billable work.

That’s 25 hours a week, 100 hours a month, and more than 1200 hours a year.

Sounds like a lot, right?  That’s because it is.

And yet – look back over your last year and tell me what you spent your non-billable time on?  Can you remember?  Was it important?  Useful? Long-lasting?

Use ALL your time well

Non-billable time makes up a large proportion of our working week and day.

Don’t waste it.  Start recording your non-billable time, start planning it, managing it, and strategising it just like you do your billable hours.

Next year, when I write this article again – have answers to those question I asked in the last section.

Got any great tips to maximise the benefit of your non-billable time?  Let us know in the comments below.

Happy lawyering!

  • I spend some of my non-billable time networking, collaborating with colleagues on improving processes and reading succession law cases because they’re interesting (not necessarily because I’m looking for something!). Oh and reading Tips For Lawyers 😉

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