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BigLaw 101: How to Keep Track of Billable Hours

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

As a law student you probably kept a rough tally in your head of the ridiculous amount of time you spent in the library (it's been over 15 years and I still remember), so you'd think keeping track of your time at work would be easier. Not so.

Keeping track of billable hours is a task in and of itself, and without a plan, you are headed for trouble. After all, without an accurate tally of the hours you're billing, how are you going to get that hefty bonus at the end of the year? Here are five easy steps to keeping track of your billable time.

1. Have a System

Decide at the outset are you a paper or digital kind of person? If you're old school and actually like the feel of pencil to paper, then keep a notebook on your desk -- in plain view -- that is dedicated solely to time-keeping. If you're more of a digital person, then you can use your smart phone, table or excel spreadsheet to keep track of your time. The one good thing about a notebook is that your hours will be safe from technical difficulties.

2. Be Diligent

There most certainly will be a few times that you forget at first, but make it a habit to write down the time when you start and complete a task, and notate any breaks in between. Generally, you should write down the time you start a task, and if you stop to take a break, or work on something else, write down the time you stop. When you start working again, right down the time, and so on. Having your time log notebook (or device) in plain view is a great reminder to do this.

3. Be Descriptive

Don't just write down the time, but also write down the client and what specifically you are working on. Is it document review? Research? Drafting a memo? Describe exactly what you are doing because you will need to do so when you input your hours and you think you'll remember, but you won't.

4. Use an App

If you've opted for keeping track of your time digitally, then you can use an app to help you. For more on apps, check out this nice list of time keeping apps Intuit put together.

5. Enter Your Hours

At the end of each day, input your hours into the billing system; just make it one of the last things you do before leaving the office. The billing partner will need to understand what you were working on -- especially if the client is diligent about examining bills (and they all are these days) -- and your descriptions and recollection will be much better if you write them down the day you actually did them.

Any great tips on keeping track of your billable hours? Let us know on LinkedIn.

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