Bilzin Sumberg Adds Smart Time Mobile Timekeeping

Smart Time Mobile Completes Bilzin Sumberg’s Existing Smart Time Platform

Campbell, CA – September 29, 2014 – Smart Time Apps, provider of the Smart Time family of timekeeping applications, today announced that Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP, a leading commercial law firm based in Miami, Florida, has deployed Smart Time Mobile to its attorneys in order to modernize client timekeeping.

Smart Time Mobile enables timekeepers to enter and submit time anywhere, giving them fast and efficient time entry. Users can run reports, see calendars and view time statistics. Timers are available for users who want to keep track of their time with stopwatch precision. Native applications are available for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

Bilzin Sumberg uses leading technology to increase efficiency and control costs, applying industry best practices and implementing legal project management software and techniques.  Adopting the Smart Time app is just another example of how the firm stays on the cutting-edge of technology for the legal industry.

“We were early adopters of Smart Time. At first, we deployed their desktop browser-based time entry and time capture modules. Recently we began a testing cycle with Smart Time Mobile, and our test group of attorneys really liked the system,” said Juan Torres, Chief Information Officer at Bilzin Sumberg.  ” We have now begun our mobile deployment and we are thrilled to provide our timekeepers an easy to use and effective mobile time entry solution.”

Steve Bronstein, CTO and Founder of Smart Time Apps, stated that “Smart Time is a best-built application that directly integrates with different accounting systems including: Aderant Expert, Rainmaker, Thomson Reuters Elite, LexisNexis, Juris, PCLaw, Microsoft Dynamics and other leading accounting systems. At Bilzin Sumberg, Smart Time is tightly integrated into the firm’s Aderant Expert accounting system.”

“We are delighted that Bilzin Sumberg has implemented Smart Time Mobile,” said Todd Gerstein, CEO and Founder of Smart Time Apps. “We look forward to supporting the firm’s ongoing success with the Smart Time platform.”

About Bilzin Sumberg

Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP is a commercial law firm based in Florida. The firm’s core practices include Business Finance & Restructuring, Corporate, International, Land Development & Government Relations, Litigation, Real Estate and Tax. For more information, please visit www.bilzin.com.

About Smart Time Apps

Smart Time Apps provides the leading timekeeping platform for law, accounting and professional services firms. Our flagship product, Smart Time, is an all-in-one timekeeping platform. Our team of experts specializes in finance, accounting, marketing, process engineering and technology. Smart Time Apps is privately held and is headquartered in Campbell, California. For more information, visit www.smartwebparts.com.

The 7 New Rules for Effective Law Firm Timekeeping

Todd Gerstein
Founder & CEO, Smart WebParts

In this competitive world, it no longer works to have a disorganized approach to your firm’s timekeeping. Firms that don’t make effective timekeeping a priority – from both the business process and technology angles – are losing money, increasing attorney frustration and compromising timesheet quality.

Based upon our experience and research, I’ve come up with a list of “new rules” for our times. The rules boil down to achieving these objectives:

  • Improve the timekeeping experience
  • Enhance the accuracy of the entry
  • Ensure all hours are booked

With those objectives in mind, here are the new rules for effective law firm timekeeping.

1. Stop trying to change your timekeeper’s behavior

A timekeeper’s behavior is very hard to change. (It is easier to influence new associates, but what about everybody else?) Timekeepers are human, which means they have different personalities — and therefore different behaviors — that are intrinsic to who they are. Our pediatrician used to tell us our kids came factory wired. Ditto for lawyers.

For 25 years, the conventional wisdom has been to compel everyone to keep their time contemporaneously. That never happened. Our research proves over and over again that contemporaneous timekeeping hovers around 40% of the population. The new rule calls for fitting the tools to the timekeeper’s behavior, whether they be contemporaneous, reconstructionist or collaborative timekeepers. This enables every behavior type to find timekeeping success.

2. Offer different timekeeping tools for different types of behavior

Trying to force contemporaneous software tools on a reconstructionist just won’t work. It’s not just inconvenient or difficult for the reconstructionist – it’s impossible.

Knowing this, you realize that if you want accurate, compliant timesheets, you need to find a system that offers a spectrum of software tools to suit all behaviors. Time capture to help the reconstructionist. Timers for contemporaneous behavior. Desktop systems for the attorney while they are in the office. Mobile systems for timekeepers who are out of the office or on the go.

3. Make time capture essential

No matter the behavior, the timekeeping tool that helps most and must be a component of any timekeeping system is time capture. This is the only way to ensure that all hours worked are booked into the system.

Time capture increases revenue by capturing billable time that is missed or underreported. It does this by monitoring firm systems and the desktop for documents, phone calls, email, appointments, research and more. It then provides the timekeeper with a journal of the day’s activities.

While reconstructionists benefit most from time capture, other timekeepers can use it to improve accuracy, and find lost units when they’ve been particularly busy multi-tasking or out of the office. Think of it as a timekeeping safety net. Not to mention the benefit of making it feel easier to enter time.

4. Prioritize accuracy

The attorney-client relationship is changing, with clients wanting more transparency and value than ever before. That’s why it has never been more important that bills accurately portray the activity and value of the work completed. The information provided by time capture will help the attorney compose better time entry narratives.

5. Enable your timekeepers to keep time anywhere

Without a doubt, the world has gone mobile. Everywhere you go, people are working and communicating using mobile devices like Smartphones and tablets. Whether they’re in court, on the road or at a soccer game, attorneys are working many hours outside the office and need their timekeeping software to be available everywhere. That’s now possible, either through a remote connection into the firm (for desktop applications) or on a smartphone or tablet.

Attorneys are busy people with many demands on them outside the office. But billable hours should not go unbooked because of a timekeeping system that lacks the flexibility to keep time anywhere.

6. Focus on technology

The technology to handle such a long wish list of features is now available to law firms. (Disclosure and shameless plug: We offer a product called Smart Time that fills the bill.) And, more than ever, updated technology must be a part of addressing the inefficiencies and challenges of law firm timekeeping.

Simply, great software technology can improve the timekeeping experience. Since timekeeping is a major source of pain for timekeepers, whatever you can do to limit and reduce that pain will bring a huge and immediate return on investment for the firm and relief to your timekeepers.

7. Create a culture of compliance

To get timesheets in on time you’ve got to have a plan that is non-negotiable, consistent and has explicit expectations. Culturally, firms that have made timesheet compliance a priority are the most successful at achieving compliance.

Those who struggle have problems with inconsistent methodologies, unclear expectations and a culture that doesn’t value timesheet compliance.

A system can help a great deal, offering the right tools for a variety of behaviors. But without the culture, nothing will stick. We think the most effective strategy is that timesheets are due weekly, each Monday at noon for the prior week. At month’s end, they are due the next day by close of business.

Conclusion

With these rules in mind, any firm can substantially improve both the business process and the actual technology of timekeeping.

We are at one of those moments where technology can revolutionize something that has been inefficient and painfully for as long as the profession has existed; there are no more excuses for doing things “the way they’ve always been done.”

Apply these rules and find more billable hours, more accurate entries, fewer late timesheets and happier attorneys. A true renaissance in timekeeping.

Timekeeping Strategy Brief: Excuses, Excuses …

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Todd Gerstein
CEO & Founder
Smart WebParts

Before I lay out my five-point plan to fix compliance, let’s look at the most common excuses. Not surprisingly, timekeeping excuses cut right to the pain and angst of the problem.

Excuses, Excuses…

For attorneys, timekeeping is hard because:

  • Keeping time is unnatural. Who thinks of their day in six-minute increments? No one, that’s who. It can seem like pure absurdity to have to track and enter every task one does in a workday.
  • I want to practice law. Attorneys want to practice law, not justify their day to the client and/or the firm, even though they know their law firm is a business.
  • It breaks my rhythm. The process requires a kind of meta-attention that few people possess. It requires the awareness to know that you need to stop your primary task so that you can do the secondary timekeeping task. It interrupts the natural flow of work and creates a distraction that is hard to recover from. .

Attorneys aren’t just making up excuses. There are legitimate reasons why it is hard to keep time. It’s not that these reasons don’t exist; it’s that they can’t matter.

Once you’ve given them the equivalent of a hug and a “there, there,” it’s time to remind them: Yes, your excuses are legitimate, but you are an attorney and this is a business and so…they can’t matter. Nothing can get in the way of timely, accurate timekeeping.

The Plan: Make Timekeeping Non-Negotiable

But how, you ask?

We know, from our research and discussions with firms, that the 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.

What steps can you take to emulate the firms with successful timekeeping cultures?

  1. Policy. You must have a firmwide policy that outlines the rules everyone must follow for time entry processes. Daily by 10 a.m. or every Monday for the preceding week, for example.
  2. Provide the best tools and technology. Make sure you have an up-to-date timekeeping system that includes time capture, time entry and mobility wrapped up into one software package.
  3. Partners. Partners can’t play by different rules. Even if they have secretaries who help out with time entries, they must lead on this issue.
  4. Problem attorneys. Don’t ignore the attorneys who feel that they can get away with flouting the policy. Have the partners take swift action to deal with these folks, so that everyone is aware that non-compliance won’t be tolerated.
  5. Penalties. The punishment we’ve uncovered that works best for firms seems to be penalties that affect an attorney’s year-end review. Include timekeeping skills in the attorney’s assessment.

An End to the Excuses…

Timesheet compliance can sometimes seem like a battle not worth fighting, especially when your best attorneys offer up such convincing reasons why it is difficult for them to keep time. But fixing your compliance issues is imperative, and, as you’ve seen, actually fairly straightforward. All it takes is a commitment from firm leadership to make the culture of compliance a reality.

And, if enthusiasm for establishing the culture wanes, remember: When attorneys make excuses about timekeeping, firms lose money. It’s that simple. While it’s not easy to get attorneys to comply, it is also very simple: Do it. No excuses. (You might also remind them that timekeeping is part and parcel of being an attorney!)

Support compliance using the plan outlined above, and you’ll have happier attorneys, less revenue leakage, and maybe best of all, an end to the excuses.

Whitepaper: The Power of Time Capture Automation

Imagine a world where every timekeeper in your firm:

  • had perfect recall when they prepared their timesheets;
  • booked all hours worked; and
  • prepared complete and accurate timesheets with the least amount of effort.

This is not a pipe dream. This is what time capture automation can do for your firm.

To learn more, we invite you to read our whitepaper – The Power of Time Capture Automation.

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In the whitepaper you’ll learn:

  • What is leaked time?
  • Which common work situations do most people forget to bill?
  • How much revenue can be recovered?

Ready to learn more about time capture technology? Click here to download the whitepaper.

Understanding Timekeeper Behavior


By Todd Gerstein

CEO & Founder of Smart WebParts

When it comes to keeping time accurately, there’s a right way and a wrong way, right?

Wrong.

Though the conventional wisdom is that timekeeping is best done as events happen (known as contemporaneous timekeeping), it turns out the pain of timekeeping is so intense that most attorneys can hardly bring themselves to face their timesheets each day.

In fact, 60% of attorneys do not use contemporaneous timekeeping. More on that in a bit. But for now, let’s look at how contemporaneous timekeeping became conventional wisdom.

Logical, If You’re a Computer

Back in the 1980s, when time entry software was introduced, it was thought that the only way to be accurate and thorough was to log time contemporaneously. Experts argued that if you didn’t keep your time this way, you would leak time, as it would be impossible to remember what you did in the past, with more lost the longer you waited.

This argument won the day, and that’s how contemporaneous timekeeping became the “best practice,” earning the managing partner’s seal of approval.

Contemporaneous timekeeping is so logical, such a no-brainer, that you would think everyone would keep time contemporaneously and even be happy to do so!

But I’m an Attorney, Not a Punch Clock!

Not the case, I’m afraid. For busy, over-scheduled attorneys, this method of timekeeping requires superhuman discipline that is unattainable for most.

But, if they’re not keeping time contemporaneously, how do attorneys keep time? We set out to answer that question. In  a survey on Law Firm Timekeeping with Adam Smith Esq., the preeminent economic consulting house serving the legal profession in New York.  Here’s one data point from the survey:

It’s clear from this that a majority of attorneys–60 percent–are behaving far differently from what conventional wisdom would predict. (And what those who follow the conventional wisdom would prefer.)

No matter how hard experts have tried to convince timekeepers to keep their time contemporaneously, it just doesn’t happen. When asked why, the answers we got included “My day is too hectic,” “It breaks my rhythm,” “I prefer to do administrative tasks on off hours,” and “Lack of discipline.”

A Human Approach

Reconstruction–going back and looking at emails, appointments and phone logs–hardly seems like an ideal timekeeping method. Indeed, it’s the law firm equivalent of CSI–piecing together what happened by whatever clues are left behind. But, if that is what people are doing, that is what people are doing.

Till now, most timekeeping software was built for the contemporaneous timekeeper. The reconstructionist was totally ignored. It is time for that to change. Everybody needs to be supported. That’s our goal, because it’s almost impossible to change behavior–so you might as well support it.

Toward a More Inclusive–and Less Painful–Timekeeping System

As for the right way to do things, it should alleviate the intense pain of timekeeping that so many attorneys report.

The right way to keep time should:

  • Make timekeeping less time-consuming
  • Improve the accuracy of the entry
  • Ensure all hours are booked
  • Support multiple timekeeping behavior

Impossible? We don’t think so.

And finally, I invite you to watch the Smart Time Overview video.  Smart Time is our landmark product that reinvents timekeeping.  In two minutes we’ll show you how Smart Time can improve timekeeping and maximize your firm’s profitability by boosting billable hours.

Risk Management: How can you stop “fishing expeditions of curiosity” inside your timekeeping system?

 
T
odd Gerstein
CEO, Smart WebParts

Law firms today face huge amounts of risk, and the last thing you need is a mischief-maker inside the firm.  Law firm technology has made information easy to store, access and utilize, increasing the risk a bad seed in your firm is fishing for confidential data. While firms acknowledge their document management, records and enterprise search systems are vulnerable, enough don’t think about protecting their timekeeping system.

Most software applications intentionally make internal information easily accessible, which is usually a good thing for clients and attorneys, creating efficiency and a sizeable knowledge base. But open access to information has its own set of risks. Highly publicized breaches have appeared in the media, including breaches to data privacy rules like HIPAA/HITECH and insider trading non-compliance.  Not good.

So, what is the best way to wall off your timekeeping system? The simplest way is to make every timekeeper a silo, only able to see his or her own entries. That stops the snooping and fishing, but does not hide confidential client matter names from the user on client matter look-up lists.  Evidence suggests that prospecting for confidential names is where most mischief begins, so you want to protect your client matter list. So, the simple silo strategy has holes.

When we designed Smart Time, we designed it with ethical walls in mind. But first, you must have an ethical wall system in place or an accounting system capable of building and managing walls.  Ethical wall systems allow you to manage your walls in one central location. Once you set up a wall, these systems spawn security into other applications. I consider these systems a “must have” for firms sensitive to risk management.

We’ve concluded the best way to protect Smart Time is to build a custom client matter look up for each user and to only permit them to look at their own data.   We construct the list by reading the inclusionary and exclusionary walls in the ethical wall system. 

It works like this:

  • An inclusionary wall allows access to the client or matter. Only those timekeepers who have been granted access are permitted to interact with client matter data. For time entry that means only timekeepers who have been added to the inclusionary wall are able to see client/matter names and numbers on their look-up lists, and only they are able to post time to the matter.  Everybody else in the firm does not even know the client/matter exists.
  • An exclusionary wall prevents specified timekeepers from gaining access to particular client/matters. Timekeepers added to exclusionary walls do not know the matter exists in the timekeeping system and if they attempt to post time by accident, the system stops them,

It sounds simple enough, but not all time entry systems can accommodate wall security.  When you examine your risk management policies be sure to include timekeeping on the list of protected systems.