If your firm is lacking a compliance policy for timekeeping, it’s time to get cracking. It is essential to have a firm-wide policy that outlines clearly and concisely the rules that everyone must follow for time entry to be a clean and successful process.
We have worked with many law firms on this issue and have observed that timekeeping success arises from a strong culture of compliance. Expectations must be non-negotiable, consistent and clear.
Components of a Successful Policy
What should be in your policy? Read on to find out.
- Time must be tracked daily.
- Time is due weekly, by the close of business on the first day of the following week.
- At month end, time is due by the close of business on the second business day of the following month.
- An exemption policy should be in place, where the managing partner or a designee may grant an exemption to a timekeeper who is not able to submit time in conformity with the policy of the firm. Exemptions will be granted in exceptional circumstances. If two exemptions have already been granted during the calendar year, requests for additional exemptions must be submitted directly to the managing partner.
- Time entry compliance stats should be embedded into the annual compensation review process for associates and partners.
How to Enforce Your Policy
What’s the best way to make it happen? These are our recommendations.
Partners. Partners can’t play by different rules. Even if they have secretaries who help out with time entries, they must lead on this issue.
Problem attorneys. Don’t ignore the attorneys who feel that they can get away with flouting the policy. Have the partners take swift action to deal with these attorneys, so that everyone is aware that non-compliance won’t be tolerated.
Penalties. The punishment we’ve found that works best for firms are penalties that affect an attorney’s year-end review. Include timekeeping skills in the attorney’s assessment.
Now is the Time
Even if your current compliance policy is totally ineffective, you can act now to create a successful timekeeping policy to ease the burdens associated with lax compliance
The gold standard is a policy that establishes a firm-wide attitude that truly celebrates 100% compliance and refuses to tolerate time scofflaws. Offenders must know that non-compliance will be met with disapproval from their peers, with further measures coming from a managing partner who is comfortable reminding an attorney that continued flouting of the policy will be a factor in year-end compensation discussions.