Timekeeping is an essential aspect of a paralegal’s job and a paralegal must think in line with how an organization is structured to understand the ramifications of unmet billable hour quotas. Unmet billable hour quotas means the loss of potential profits for an organization. Working within an organization that requires time to be tracked can become extremely frustrating when the proper tools are not in place to track time. Even when you do have the necessary time tracking tools it can be confusing to determine how much time to allocate to all of the tasks that compete for your time over the course of a week, month, etc. Whether or not you are required to bill for your time does not matter in the big scheme of things. What does matter is how effectively you are working and how long it is taking you to complete various tasks that you are assigned to. If there is a lack of understanding on the part of the paralegal that they are mini-organizations within an organization then the understanding of why timekeeping is so important will be confusing.
Similar to an organization it is not only important to know what you are making but also how you are making it. An organization has a pulse on their earnings as well as how they are stacking up against the competition. Are their prices in line with that of competitors? Do their service offerings allow them to function as well or better than the competition? Can they offer more bang for the buck? These are all important questions for a paralegal to consider too. Is the amount of time you are billing for, which equates to real dollars and cents line up with other paralegals within your organization? Can you compete with your colleagues as far as the quality of your work product is concerned? Do you have a grasp on the proper allocation of time being spent on the various functions within the paralegal role?
The answer to these questions should not be an afterthought but considered and planned for throughout the course of working on various functions. How can you improve upon something and reach a goal that is invisible? If consideration is not taken at the onset of working on specific tasks, projects, and functions the elimination of timewasters will go unrevealed. The revelation is the key to why there is a need for a concise and proactive approach to timekeeping for paralegals. Often you will be told that the value you place on yourself is the value that others place on you. Placing value on your time is what is being done when it is tracked. Unmet billable hour quotas means that you do not place much worth on your time so rather than getting paid for performing a meaningful task you would rather waste it by spending it doing something other than what you are being paid for.
From the time your day starts to the time that it ends it is crucial to know where your time is being spent. If too much time is being spent on the phone with your boyfriend or conversing with friends and colleagues on social media sites billable hours will go unmet. Now if you are a specialist at creative timekeeping this may not seem to pose a dilemma, but eventually either billable hour quotas will not be met or work product will suffer. One of the two will eventually suffer due to the lack of effective time management and/or timekeeping practices. Improving your timekeeping is the first step to take on the route to maximizing paralegal efficiency, but there are other ways that will increase efficiency and determine how much time you are billing and for what. Start improving your efficiency today by utilizing the following methods:
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Llynette Bealer has 20 years experience including working as the Office Manager/Bookkeeper for Junior Achievement of San Diego and various Business Improvement Districts in San Diego, CA. She has worked in mortgage bankruptcy for Chase Home Finance and various law firms.