Okay. Possibly a stupid question BUT Imma ask anyway.

Can someone just explain how you plan out how much to bill so you can make sure it’s not a mad scramble at the end of year? I’m moving from a firm where I was lacking in any kind of mentorship. No one ever just sat down and explained the most efficient way to track/measure your hours to confirm that you are on track.

Is there just a secret excel spreadsheet that all lawyers have and I just missed the memo???

HELP.

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If you have a 2000 hour requirement make sure you hit 500 hours 3 months in, 1000 hours 6 months in, etc. Your timekeeping software should have totals.

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Yes to all of the above, AND I highly recommend talking with your new supervising partner about the new firm wants you to bill. For example, some firms always bill emails at a 0.x and calls at 0.y, some want you to add “admin” time so you’re always tracking (not necessarily billing) at least 8 hours per day. Don’t forget to track time spent doing business development, CLEs, and pro bono. These are super helpful metrics to show your firm if you’re low on billable hours in a given period (“yes I may be short, but look at the hours I spent contributing to the community in the firm’s name”). Billing is an art, and you won’t be good at it right out of the gate. Give yourself time to learn, and don’t stress too much until someone tells you to start stressing.

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The billing software of every firm I’ve worked at has tracked my time billed and let me see my daily/weekly/monthly/yearly time but I have colleagues that also have spreadsheets tracking all of their time so that they can better plan/present data to the partners at the end of the year for bonus and raise purposes. If you know what the bonus thresholds are then you just calculate how much you need to bill a week/month to achieve that. I want at least 1900 this year so I shoot to bill at least 40 hours per week/160 per month. I have a colleague that wants 2300 this year so she front loaded 200 hour months. It’s just basic math.

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If your firm is decent, you’ll get some kind of report on your hours billed on a semi-regular basis. Or your time management software should be able to print a report for you, at least.

It helps to know how much you need to bill each month, on average, to hit your hours. If your firm has a 2000 billable requirement, but 2100 for market bonus, then you know you need to average 167/month to be on track and 175/month to make bonus. Once you know that, you can calculate for yourself each month how off track you are.

I always seem to bite off more than I can chew, so I’ve only been behind hours once in my career (when two back-to-back trials were continued to the next year, and I’d been taken off other cases to focus on those trials with the expectation I’d be billing crazy hours for a couple months).

likesmart

I have a spreadsheet a midlevel passed to me when I started, so it has all her formulas and I basically update as I go. It means every year I go through the holiday calendar to actually count how many work days each month so I can work out how much to bill each day/week/month. Every month I update with my total so I can work out if I'm on pace for the firm's minimum and my target (1850 min but 2000 for bonus).

Part of the spreadsheet also accounts for roughly 48 billable weeks (say 2 weeks vacation and 2 weeks for sick days/emergency). I'm estimating I might take 7 more vacation days this year but I know my rough daily goal with and without taking those days off.

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I do the same thing, I made my own spreadsheet years ago and then passed it along to others. Maybe you have my spreadsheet? Haha.

The countdown right now to the end of the billable year and how many hours I need to work to hit my bonus target is looking goooood lemme tell ya.

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Divide yearly by month. Divide that by 20 since there are generally 20-23 weekdays a month. Low ball it so by the end of the month you can ease off the gas a bit. You know have your daily average you should be billing. If you need to hit monthly goals.

For me this is super helpful. If I hit it awesome I’m off of the office at 5 or earlier day depending. I check my overall time once a week to make sure I’m on track.

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Your firm time keeping software should tell you daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly totals. I am a big advocate on billing as you go throughout the day, even though it is a pain, otherwise I end up losing time...
You can roughly divide it out by month to check if your on track, but business days vary from 19 days-23 days each month. So at the beginning of the year I just take the number of business days in the upcoming year (already removeing firm holidays) then subtract any vacation days you want to budget for (lol...if any) and divide by your yearly req. That's what you should aim for every day.
Example: roughly 250 work days in the 2021 calendar year, subtract 5 days for vacation = 245 billable days. Yearly hourly requirement = 2000 hours.
2000/245=8.2 hours per day (rounding up).

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Take the number of business days in the year, estimate the number of sick/vacation days (I assume at least 10-15 business days) then divide your billable hours by that number to get X. In each month, take the number of working days in that month and multiply it by X. That’s your target for the month.

At the beginning of each month, recalculate based on how you are progressing in the month.

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