Timesheet Lawyers and the Billion Dollar Swindle

To begin, let’s review how a lawyer will typically bill you or his/her advice. Consider a $500 per hour lawyer. At that charge rate, you’d expect the lawyer to deliver at least a 7 out 10 in terms of professionalism and of course the more you pay, the more your expectation that your deliverables and legal outcomes will tangibly be worth the money you’ve paid. But wait, lets tote up the costs of this lawyer and see if you math holds up to introspection.

At $500/per hour you’d expect an income for this legal beaver not too exceed 960,000 assuming a 48 hour year, a 5 day week and an 8 hour day. Not a bad income you may argue – and by the time you take off overheads, taxes and other expenses running a partnership, then perhaps this person nets $500k plus in a year. But you’d be wrong – how wrong will surprise you. In fact 960,000 is actually the base minimum this lawyer will make in a year; however we can go on to calculate the theoretical maximum this lawyer can earn, and blow a few cobwebs out of the window as we do so.

To illustrate the size of the problem, we must first factor in the costs of ’rounding’ that our legal beaver administer to their charge rate. Most (not all) legal professionals charge in what’s called whole minute intervals. Some practices may charge at 6 minute intervals, some at 15, others at 30, and the real hogs of the trade a whopping 60 minute units or more. So for example, if you call your lawyer to arrange a meeting, your one minute phone call will cost you 1 unit of time. This is how lawyers charge, and why their costs are so expensive. However, the problem is deeper than this as we shall now find out.

Let’s return to our competent lawyer who charges $500/hour with a fifteen minute rounded interval. In this instance, your one minute phone call will cost you $125. You may be surprised by this, and argue that the ‘itemized’ bill would should these costs. However, if you’ve ever received a hefty lawyers bill, rarely does it detail anything beyond a cursory summary, and your 1 minute $125 phone call simply gets lost in the noise of all the other zeros.

But we can go further. Now we’ve isolated our lawyer’s exact costs, we can go on to calculate the theoretical maximum this individual can earn in a single year. We do this by assuming that each second of the day can be used to do a piece of work, and as such each is billable as 1 whole 15 minute unit. Doing the math, the maximum earning potential for this individual is $864,000,000. Who else do you know can earn anything between a million and a billion dollars a year?

Clearly, when a lawyer bills you $125 for your one minute phone call, the remaining 14 minutes of time (which you have already paid for), can be used on a different client, meaning that your lawyer is charging you for time he/she is spending on other client work. This is commonly known as double dipping, and as you can imagine, there is considerable amount of grey when it comes the legality of this state of affairs.

Well, greed is the obvious answer as to the why whole units are used, but in addition, we must also remember that lawyers are timesheet driven, and were the first to realize that you couldn’t really use a timesheet to record a 1 minute telephone conversation, most especially if it took you 3 minutes to actually write the entry down in you pen and paper time ledger. Of course with the computer, timesheets (time sheets, depending on your location), became part of the digital era – with one thing missing. Developers simply ported the manual-entry timesheet into software, not because it was their only course of action, but because electronic timesheets were a big enough leap forward from the old pen and paper time logging process previously employed. Having it all centralized came next, and dumping the process onto the web an obvious part of this organically evolving process.

However, in the early part of this Century, with more powerful computers and a more beefy operating system, software developers started to look more closely at the whole time tracking process and realized that manual entry timesheets were now redundant, as new and innovative automated time tracking software (such as MetriQ, one of the first in the field) could be used to control the entire time management process. Other software companies have also started to take a look a closer at how to reduce the time errors, inaccuracies and other costly problems inherent with manual and electronic timesheets, a growing dissatisfaction with the time recording process, and the excessive costs of legal advice.

If you have a need for legal or accounting advice, and you don’t want to pay through the nose for time spent doing someone else’s work, then insist your practitioner uses a hands-free time tracking software solution, to track time efficiently, comprehensively and in a way that you can ask to see, down to the nearest second, how your lawyer worked, and how their time was exactly used for your benefit, and no one else. Timeshe technology has peaked, and with a change in technology that releases many of the inherent problems associated with this time attendance paradigm, meaning that we should hopefully realized a more open, a more transparent way for businesses to measure time, providing the opportunity for them to work in a fair and equitable way. Yes, I know I’m dreaming, now you too can start dreaming, and together, our thought will start to change the universe.