The value of tracking non-billable time: many voices, one conclusion

In recent years, we have found that more and more law firms are taking a greater interest in how timekeepers spend their time when they are not billing. And we’re not talking those days when timekeepers are on vacation or feeling under the weather. What we’re referring to is those hours spent on business development, marketing, giving or taking a training course, or managing the firm, a team or department.

As every timekeeper knows, accurately recording billable time is a necessary evil, whether it’s done contemporaneously or by reconstructing the day. So, adding the burden of making a record of what timekeepers have done to further the well-being of the firm brings its own particular issues.

A large percentage of lawyers justify not recording non-billable time with a shrug of the shoulders and a throwaway comment: “It’s not billable so why does it matter?” Other issues with this type of activity is that it often happens outside of core hours. Timekeepers might review management reports on the journey to and from the office; firm or departmental review meetings are often after hours, and of course business development or discussions with members of the team happen over lunch, dinner or a beer. It’s a disciplined (bordering on obsessed!) person that fills out a time record there and then!

Nevertheless, we think non-billable time has real, but often hidden, value.

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