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    This blog is sponsored by Smart Time Apps. Our flagship product, Smart Time, is an all-in-one time management platform for attorneys, accountants and consultants. The Smart Time on-demand time capture and time entry application enables firms to effectively collect, track and recoup billable time, thereby increasing revenue and profitability. Our mobile apps enable you to do timekeeping anywhere, anytime.

    In this blog we will share our thoughts on timekeeping, industry best practices and how technology can help improve the process.

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Five Predictions for Attorney Timekeeping in 2012

Todd Gerstein
Founder & CEO, Smart WebParts

Once again, we’ve come to the time of year where we all start looking forward. We’re going to harness our curiosity about the year ahead and make some predictions relevant to timekeeping. Keep reading to find out why we think 2012 will be the Year of Time Capture.

Prediction #1:  Mobility Will Change Timekeeping

 It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that the working world will become increasingly mobile in 2012. But what I think we’ll start to see is a greater reliance on these devices to the point that attorneys will expect their mobile platform to do everything they can do in the office. Any attorney adept at technology will have a smartphone and/or a tablet with them at all times. In 2012, timekeepers will yearn for mobile timekeeping solutions.

 Prediction #2:  Time Capture Will Become a “Must-Have” for Every Firm

 Partly because of timekeepers’ increased mobility, time continues to get sliced into ever-smaller increments. This time is highly susceptible to being forgotten or being underreported, as timekeepers’ bodies move from one location to another and their minds jump from one matter to another. Interruptions to the workday are just a fact now.

The only way to prevent the loss of this time is to have a “back-up” memory that is taking down the day’s activities (email, phone calls, document work, appointments, research, etc.) and recording them. A time capture system that is seamless and integrated into the routines and tools of timekeepers makes “finding” this time frictionless and painless. When timekeepers get a perfect record of the day’s activities at the moment they enter time, the loss of small increments of time worked is far less likely.

Prediction #3:  Time Capture & Entry Data Will Support Legal Project Management

As more and more firms adopt AFAs, legal project management will grow in importance.

To help firms better manage the client engagement, portals and matter-centric workspaces will be married to project management software. Time capture systems will create event feeds to the portals, which will show work being completed on the matter in real time for viewing in a reader.

Time capture data will also become a depository for research. Without the knowledge of how long tasks take to accomplish, firms can’t plan or estimate for engagements, potentially leaving them holding the bag at the end. Timekeeping data will also become an essential planning tool instead of something that is just passed on to the client as a bill.

Prediction #4:  Firms Will Finally Get Serious About Due Date Compliance

Firms are going to work hard to push tardy timekeepers to be more timely and accurate, in an effort to stop time leakage (and therefore revenue leakage) before it starts. (And since we know “reconstructionist” timekeepers leak more time than contemporaneous ones — who enter time as they do the work – this approach has merit.) Time capture will support compliance, since it reduces the pain of timekeeping for everyone, no matter their timekeeping style.

Firms will study compliance success stories, and based on that, create a culture of compliance within their own walls. We’ve found that successful firms make their expectations non-negotiable, consistent and clear, and include incentives and/or penalties for enforcement purposes. Fun incentives work best. The “punishment” that works best are penalties that impact an attorney’s year-end review. Compliance has been so long neglected that it is about time for law firms to clean up this business process mess.

 Prediction #5:  Firms Will Focus on Risk Management and Timekeeping

It’s an understatement to say that law firms are risk-averse, but many have not yet built ethical walls or factored their timekeeping systems into their risk management strategies. That will change.  Thanks to costly and highly public breaches, firms are looking for ways to improve security and wall off their timekeeping systems to prevent fishing expeditions within them. Now aware of the potential for mischief and worse, firms are going to implement ethical wall systems and demand that their timekeeping systems integrate with them.

Conclusion

One prediction that we’re certain will come true: Wherever timekeeping heads, Smart WebParts will be there.

Happy New Year to you all.