3 Quick Tips for Drafting Time Entries
Ask any paralegal working in a law firm, and they will likely tell you that drafting time entries is one of their least favorite things to do. I remember when I was new paralegal back in the early 90s and had to draft time entries for the first time. So, I asked my supervising attorney for advice. His response was “use active verbs.”
Wow…that really takes the mystery out of drafting time entries!
Fast forward many years and a couple of law firms later. Still no formal training. As a paralegal manager, I knew I had to change that for my team. I wondered how a business that survives solely on its billable hours could not focus ANY attention on teaching this very important skill. It’s almost like it was taboo to even talk about it. As if it was the elephant in the room, the skeleton in the closet, the boogeyman under the bed.
There are lots of topics we could discuss related to drafting time entries, but this article will focus on 3 quick tips you can implement right away.
1. Do not copy and paste another person’s time entries.
If you want to show the real value of the work you did, you cannot describe what you did by copying and pasting how someone else described what they did that sounds a little similar to what you did. That includes buying the “30-page E-book of Time Entries for only $29.95!”
The primary function of a time entry is to convey to the billing partner and the client why your work should be billed at all. Which brings us to our 2nd tip.
2. Answer 3 questions in all of your time entries.
WHAT did I do?
HOW did I do it?
WHY did I do it?
The “why” is the most important question to answer because the client is asking “Why should I pay for this?” The “why” is where you can show the value of the work you did. For example, let’s say that you talked to an expert witness about their upcoming deposition.
What did you do? Talked to J. Smith, expert witness.
How did you do it? Telephone call.
Why did you do it? To discuss documents that need to be produced prior to their deposition.
The time entry might look something like this: Telephone call with J. Smith to discuss documents subpoenaed by opposing counsel in preparation for expert witness deposition.
3. Ask yourself if you can physically show someone what it is that you’re trying to describe in the time entry.
Let’s take the previous time entry and change the word call to conference.
Telephone conference with…
Can you sit in a chair across from my desk and physically show me what it looks like to conference? We used to see that word used in time entries for everything from office conference, team conference, telephone conference and more. Instead of using vague words like that, whenever possible you should use words that show action.
Instead of looking at drafting time entries as a necessary evil associated with working as a paralegal at a law firm, try looking at it like it is your opportunity to convey to the billing partner and the client the value that you bring to the table. Your time entries are a form of communication to the client. Put the same time and attention into that communication as you would a memo or an email.
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