A Guide to Ethically Growing Your Family Law Firm

For family law firms who want to maximise their profits, time is a family lawyers most valuable commodity. Unlike businesses that have a physical product they can reproduce; family law firms are dependent on their time to turn a profit. That’s why tracking, managing, maximising and optimising how lawyers use their time is central to every successful family law firm’s business plan.

Time Tracking: The Most Effective Method

 Time-tracking systems for law firms continue to evolve to serve the ever-changing needs of the legal industry, lawyers, and the expectations of clients. Many still prefer paper logs, word documents or spreadsheets to track time, but there are limitations. These limitations become especially pronounced once a firm discovers that each of their staff members uses their own time-tracking system. When more than one lawyer is working on a matter, using multiple time-tracking systems can cause chaos, confusion, and potentially lost revenue. This is why automated time-tracking tools are becoming increasingly preferred by family law firms who are serious about valuing time and maximising profits.

One of the biggest benefits of automatic time tracking is that it doesn’t depend on behaviour to track time. Every time someone does something in their practice management software, Outlook, Word and more, that time is automatically recorded. Lawyers don’t have to remember to track their time, and they don’t have to pull out a paper log or open up a separate spreadsheet. All they have to do is the task at hand and every second is tracked, recorded and associated with the appropriate matter. No more “memory reconstruction” and no more time wasted trying to figure out exactly how much time was spent doing a task; the software does all the hard work.

But the benefits don’t end there: practice management software (like Smokeball) makes it easy to see who in your firm worked on a matter, what they did, and exactly how much time they spent doing it. Want to see how productive your team is? Get firm insights in a comprehensive view of productivity by matter, practice area and staff member. Automatic time tracking helps you understand just how productive your firm is, but it also provides accurate and detailed information to clients. Letting clients know specifically what a staff member did on a matter will help them understand their bill, and it has been proven to decrease billing disputes. Choosing time-tracking that is automated, accurate and comprehensive helps your firm get the most out of every second spent working on a matter.

How Time Tracking Improves Productivity

When it comes to productivity in family law firms it’s important to discern that productivity isn’t just about getting more things done; it’s about getting more of the right things done in less time.

Optimise Time

When time tracking is automated, that means that each lawyer is spending less time recording their time. Part of the resistance many lawyers have to manual time tracking is that they feel their time is better spent calling a client, creating a document, or strategising. In a sense they are correct. Time spent time tracking manually can add up to hundreds of hours a year to a lawyer’s workload. But when that time is automatically tracked, those hours are freed up to invest in other areas—those hours can become billable hours.

Time Analysis

When a lawyer is keeping sheets of paper filled with time logs, there is no easy way to analyse how they’ve spent their time. You won’t be able to easily see just how much time Lawyer ‘A’ spent on a matter versus Lawyer ‘B.’ But when firms leverage software, the automated time-tracking makes it easy to analyse each lawyers time so that you know where they’ve spent their time. Armed with this information, firms can give constructive feedback to colleagues to let them know where they can “cut the fat” out of their day and put more energy into profitable activities.

Easy Collaboration

When firms use automatic time tracking, all lawyers working on a matter can see at-a-glance what is being done on a matter. No more duplicate work or time wasted sending emails requesting an update. Each staff member can see that a document was already created or that a colleague already sent an email to a client. This can shave hours off the non-billable time spent on a matter by simply offering more information to each person working on a matter.

​This improvement in productivity is something that happens automatically, in the background while your staff get work done on a family law matter. Productivity improvements will show up not only in the bottom line of your business but in the morale of your team. Everyone is happier when their time is being valued and when they are getting more of the right things done on a matter. But valuing your time and growing your business ethically is also about being transparent with your employees and your clients. Automatic time tracking makes transparency a core value.

Time Tracking: The Road to Transparency

​Realistic Goal Setting

When there is transparency in how time is spent, your firm and individual lawyers have the information they need to set realistic goals. For example, if your lawyers are spending 3 hours each day on admin, this data lets you know that at least a few hours of tasks can be offloaded to administrative staff so that lawyers have more time to work on billable matters. You could realistically set a goal for lawyers to add more hours of billable time a day.

Identify Rainmakers

When you have several lawyers working on a matter, it can be difficult to identify who is doing the heavy lifting if you’re using a manual time log. The transparency of automatic time tracking gives you the information you need to see the real rainmakers in your firm and reward them with promotions and bonuses. Having the data to back up your promotion and bonus decisions prevents conflicts about your choices down the line.

Firm Stabilisation

Building a successful family law firm is difficult. It’s difficult to find quality staff and it can be difficult to keep them. As time passes, it can be a challenge to reduce turnover when there isn’t much transparency about the state of the firm. By being transparent about the financial state and future of the firm, you can stabilise your organisation. By leveraging software that delivers easy-to-use reports that let you know where the firm is thriving, and which practice areas are proving profitable. Sharing this information with staff can help them better understand how well the firm is doing and whether it is in their best interests to continue in their jobs.

Inform Clients

In the age of information, clients want more data on how their matters are being handled. When law firms are transparent about how their lawyers spent their time on a case, clients feel secure in knowing that their most important issues are in good hands. When family law firms send invoices with an emphasis on transparency clients are less likely to dispute their bills and they’re more likely to pay faster. They also see all that is done for them and for their best interest.

Transform Your Family Law Practice with Less Stress and More Success!

For family law firms that want to value their time and grow their businesses ethically, implementing the right practice management software is the best way to maximise profits, improve productivity, and provide billing transparency to clients.

Discover Smokeball’s commitment to user-friendly and feature-rich legal software by booking your free demo today or calling ​1300 33 55 53.

Hunter Steele

Hunter Steele

Hunter joined Smokeball in 2008, and five years ago was appointed to Chief Executive Officer, responsible for running both the Sydney and Chicago offices. With over 16 years’ experience in building legal software, Hunter has a proven track record for pushing the boundaries and delivering innovative software solutions. He holds a Law and Computer Science degree from Bond University.

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