Solving the Billable Hour Monster

Billing has always been the thorn on the side of most paralegals.  It doesn’t have to be as painful as some make it out to be, but it is annoying.  One of the big pluses, for me, about working in-house, is that I do not have to bill my time anymore.

Some of you have asked me to show you how I used to keep track of my time.  I’ve always been really bad at remembering things at the end of the day and I quickly figured out that I needed to keep track of what I was working on as I was working on it.  So I developed my own system.

The chart below is a chart I kept on my desk throughout the day.  Sometimes I would even take it with me into meetings so I could write notes to remind me what topics were discussed during the meeting.

If the law firm where you work does not give you a way to track your time manually and instead requests that you enter your time in whatever computer system is used to track time, I still suggest that you try to use a method similar to the one below in order to fully capture your day or at least come as close as possible to fully capturing your day.  There are always going to be a few minutes and sometimes hours missing.  Generally, those missing minutes or hours can be captured in what is usually known as non-billable number.  Your practice area manager or human resources should give you the non-billable number when you start your employment.

DATE: _________________


.2 Smith v. Smith 2010-999999 Prepare correspondence to adversary regarding outstanding answers to interrogatories.
1.3 Wilson v. Roger 2008-999999 Review medical records received from Hospital X to assist with preparation of answers to interrogatories.

Throughout the day I would keep little post notes with the time I started a particular project and the time I ended the project and then at the end of my day I would input the amount of time spent on each task in the first column.  The reason for the post-it notes was because inevitably I would have to stop what I was working on and do something else only to have to go back to the original task.  It was easier for me to keep all the start and stop times on a post-it note with the case number on it and then at the end of the day add everything up and just enter the time I actually worked on a matter.  There were days when my chart would look like a Christmas tree with post-it notes as ornaments.  You’d be surprised what a couple of .2’s can do for your billable hours.

I got into the habit, very early in my career, of tracking my time in this manner. I was never very good at relying on my memory at the end of the week or, worse, at the end of the month.  It just never worked out for me.

I hope this was of some help.  Please post a comment and let me know.

6 thoughts on “Solving the Billable Hour Monster

  1. This makes it seem so simple. I wrote down some of my time using this list and I have already found over 90 minutes that I had forgotten about.

  2. Great tips, Ana…and I like it that you’ve found a solution that works for you — that’s the key. When I wrote ‘Are you thinking ‘Hooray! or OH NO!’ I touched on the issue of paralegals capturing all their time…and I’ll take that several steps further when I present “The Big Billable Hour Breakthrough: Turn Your Time into a Billable Hour Gold Mine” on December 9th. More information is avalable at

  3. Hey excellent blog! Does running a blog such as this require
    a lot of work? I’ve no knowledge of computer programming however I had been hoping to start
    my own blog soon. Anyway, should you have any suggestions or
    tips for new blog owners please share. I understand
    this is off subject however I simply wanted to ask. Appreciate it!

    1. Hello and I’m so sorry I’m just now responding. My spam filter thought you were spam and I didn’t check it until today. Thank you for visiting the blog and taking the time to send me this note. Ohhh gosh…. I have no idea what to say about how to start a blog. I will be honest with you. I don’t know anything about computer code I am using wordpress and they do everything for me. I use but am thinking about (just a little afraid of it since I think I have to know more about computers). The only two tips I can give you is to write about something you know about and try to be consistent. Another important thing to remember is to be yourself. If you try to be like someone else it comes through and it sounds fake. Just have fun and keep me posted. I’d love to hear about it.


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