Having spent seven years in the state attorney’s office specializing in domestic violence cases, Linda Watson was recently inspired by her three-year-old son to switch to a solo practice. She simply wanted a more virtual, entrepreneurial career that allowed her to see him more often. Now she runs Watson Law, a solo family and criminal law practice in Peoria, Illinois. Like most working parents, Linda logs a lot of time in the car and on public transportation, as she shuttles from court appearances to her home office to her son’s school and activities. In the middle of all this, she says, a cloud-based billing system has saved her neck by capturing all the found minutes spent emailing and phoning from her Android.
It’s True, the Cloud Can Now Set You Free
It’s not an unusual story. More and more lawyers are discovering that cloud-based time and billing systems cut them loose from the vestiges of an in-place practice. I checked in with a handful of lawyers who recently moved from traditional timekeeping systems to cloud-based applications.
Record time anywhere. Linda uses Clio, a practice management system that includes time and billing and trust accounting among its features. “I can bill right from my Android phone,” she says. “It’s not uncommon for me to run from one court appearance to another, but my billing entries don’t have to suffer. While I’m waiting those few minutes for the judge or a client, I can enter all of my time for the day, away from my office, right on my phone.” She says another plus is the ability to customize clients’ bills so they know their trust account status, which helps them be prepared for upcoming expenses.
Easily track and measure how you spend your time. Florida solo Pamela Wynn uses a system called time59.com. A self-defined “cloudie,” she says using a cloud-based system has definitely increased her billings. “I used to lose some smaller time and expense items when I was away from the desktop program. It depended on me remembering to input the items when I got back to the office. With time59.com, the system is always available. I can track the smaller items that used to get lost as I’m doing them.” Also, Pamela sets up groups to track her nonbillable hours, so she can see where she’s leaking time during her workday. This helps her keep better records—which means more earnings for her practice.
Shorten the time spent preparing bills. Daniel Galligan of Milwaukee’s Mayer Galligan Law says he’s seen improved efficiency in his billing process with Bill4Time loaded on his phone. “We used to spend many hours each month formatting bills and getting them finalized,” he says. “Last month, I finalized, printed and sent an entire month’s bills in 20 minutes!”
All evidence points to the fact that the cloud is here to stay. More options are becoming available for lawyers as traditional software companies develop online-based interfaces to stay in the game. So maybe you should check out a few cloud applications and see if they help you capture more billable time, too.