This post was originally published by Templafy – a document template management platform for enterprise productivity and brand consistency.  

All professionals are expected to produce quality work. But if you’re a lawyer, you know the pressure is twofold: you’re expected to both perform quality work and clock thousands of billable hours in order to earn your keep. The maths is simple: the more billable hours you do, the more valuable you are to your firm.

However, some of the most hard-working lawyers struggle to reach high targets due to wasted unbillable hours. This recent UK study found that many junior lawyers are routinely falling behind their billing targets. In such a competitive field, lawyers need every tool possible to spend their time actually helping clients and less time on often tedious administrative tasks. 

While it’s all too easy to blame lack of skill, talent or training, more often than not, it’s a lawyer productivity problem or perhaps even a wider law firm productivity problem.

Part of that is acknowledging the very important non-billable work that goes on behind the scenes to set you apart in your law career, and maximising your productivity in those areas so you can spend more time on billable work.  As this legal associate points out after reflecting on his high-target success, what set him apart from his hard-working colleagues was not quality of legal work, but rather his productivity and reliance on smart lawyer hacks to ensure he captured all his billable time.

There’s plenty both lawyers and law firms can do to ensure they maximise billable hours at the firm. For example, firms can provide time-saving boilerplate software, meaning lawyers are spared countless hours building contracts and other legal documents from scratch. Meanwhile, lawyers can hone their effectiveness in capturing the time they work and sharpening their delegations skills. Here are four lawyer productivity hacks to help maximise billable hours:  

Automating document templates saves you time 

Despite what dramatic TV courtroom shows would have audiences believe, we all know that most lawyers are really in the business of creating and updating documents – whether it’s legal contracts, drafting advice, or creating client presentations. 

But despite this being a core component of the job, document creation is often where law firm productivity roadblocks spring up – most lawyers don’t have optimal drafting methodology, losing hours creating documents from scratch or cobbling together templates from old documents.

The American Bar Association shared these document productivity tips from legal consultancy experts, who recommend investing time and resources creating several “gold standard templates” to boost lawyer productivity and “eliminate waste and maximize the talents of lawyers working in the same area.”

But as all lawyers know, legislation and regulation is ever-changing, and so are law firms. Everything from standard clauses to a firm’s branding will ultimately need to be updated, and your investment in best practice templates will be completely wasted if those templates grow obsolete and out of date.

That’s why a key lawyer productivity hack is harnessing document automation software which carries out the job of keeping your templates compliant and on-brand. For example, Templafy automates the process of creating compliant documents for lawyers. It integrates with office suites and across devices so lawyers can access best-practice templates and company data anywhere, applies the correct, up-to-date firm branding and visual and legal standards, and automatically alerts users when a document is not compliant. Want to see how it works in practice? Have a look at the Templafy free trial.

Record your time with time-tracking software 

For a lawyer to maximise billable hours, it’s crucial to accurately record those hours. Time-tracking software is an important tool for law firm productivity, ensuring lawyers capture all their billable time as they work. 

There are plenty of highly effective time-tracking apps available on the market. For example, Toggl is a simple, highly-rated time-tracker tool that can be used on both desktops and devices. Lawyers can also record time as a team when collaborating on matters, and toggl will issue combined time reports. Most importantly, it lets lawyers round off their time entries to fit within their firm’s billing model.

However even with a handy time-tracker tool installed, every lawyer will know the pain of forgetting their timer when disrupted by a phone call or someone walking into your office. It helps to leave little sticky-note reminders to stop or change the timer when an interruption happens – place them on your phone, desk and door to keep yourself in check.

Delegate delegate delegate

Another way to fully maximise your billable hours is to harness effective delegation techniques and make sure you’re not performing a task which could be carried out by a paralegal or a secretary.

Law firm productivity strongly depends on lawyers being able to analyze the situation at hand and assign the right tasks to the right employees. Some legal work will need to be carried out by a fellow lawyer, while simple legal functions such as routine contract management and routine filing can be carried out by non-lawyers. Meanwhile, draw the line at simple admin work such as making copies.

Don’t sell yourself short

Following these lawyer productivity hacks may mean you’re doing work faster and more efficiently – but sometimes when billable hours slip through the cracks, it’s about more than working smarter. It’s about owning the hard work you’ve done and accurately charging for all of it, rather than just dismissing “two-minute phone calls” as not worth recording.  

Of course, when you strive to maximise billable hours you have to be ethical – at the end of the day, you charge the client for the work that you do and fairly report that work. But it’s important to make sure you’re not selling yourself short, either. A study carried out by timekeeping software provider Chrometa asked over 500 billing service professionals about their billing habits. While you’d imagine all professionals working would ultimately want to maximise billable hours, these types of respondents claimed they captured just 67 percent of their legitimate billable time – meaning they worked three hours for every two they billed.

As this guide for law professionals put it, it’s critical to remember that “an hour’s an hour, no matter how small.” Even brief, few-minute phone calls add up, so record any time you spend on a matter – it all needs to get billed. Too many lawyers are guilty of waiting until the end of the day before writing everything up. When you’re about to clock off, do you remember every single thing you did before lunch? Chances are you don’t – so make sure you record it as you go so that you maximise billable hours.

Templafy brings custom company templates, brand assets and best practice content together directly inside any office application, streamlining how users create on-brand and compliant documents, presentations and emails. With Templafy, global firms safeguard their brand integrity and increase productivity through a centrally governed, secure and easy to use platform.