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Fullbright & Jaworski’s New Time Entry Policy

We know, from our research and discussions with firms, that firms with the greatest success in timekeeping create a culture of compliance. They do so by keeping expectations about timekeeping non-negotiable, consistent and clear. They also include incentives and/or penalties for enforcement.

Fullbright & Jaworski, a member firm of Norton Rose Fullbright, just announced its new timekeeping policy to “minimize unnecessary loss of billable time due to delayed time entry” for US Non-Partner Timekeepers.

Apparently, the firm has determined that the stick is mightier than the carrot. Here is a copy of the memo:

TO:          US Non-Partner Timekeepers
FROM:    Management Committee
RE:          Time Entry Policy for Attorneys Manual
DATE:     July 17, 2014

Entering time daily has been demonstrated to yield a 10% to 15% increase in utilization immediately. A compelling example of this occurred recently as the St. Louis office, under Jim Wiehl’s leadership, implemented a mandatory daily time entry policy, which yielded a 10% increase in utilization in the month adopted. The St. Louis office now has the highest utilization in the firm.

Accordingly, the Management Committee and the Partnership Committee have approved the following changes to our time entry policy to minimize unnecessary loss of billable time due to delayed time entry. Each timekeeper’s adherence to this time entry policy will support the Firm’s ongoing efforts to increase our productivity and profitability.

1. Attorneys should record their time on a daily basis.

2. Time Diaries for Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays must be entered and released no later than 9 p.m. (Central Time) the following Thursday; and Time Diaries for Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays must be entered and released no later than 9 p.m. (Central Time) the following Monday.

3. A Practice Leader may grant an exemption for any release period to a timekeeper who is not able to submit time in conformity with the policy of the Firm. Exemptions will be granted in exceptional circumstances. If two exemptions have already been granted during the calendar year, requests for additional exemptions must be submitted to the Group Head.

4. Only time that is timely entered in accord with the policies of this Firm will be counted for any bonus to be awarded to associates or senior associates based on hours charged during the year.

Although point #4 may sound draconian to connect time entry compliance to associate bonuses – we bet it works.