Four Easy Timesheet Tricks
By Erik C. Johnson
Erik Johnson is an associate with McTurnan & Turner, a commercial litigation firm in Indianapolis. He can be reached at
Falling behind on timesheets will damage your practice. Valuable hours are lost, partners are frustrated, and the accuracy of your bills suffers. These simple strategies can keep you on track:
1. Keep electronic timesheets open during the day. If most of your day is spent in front of your computer, type in your activities and time as you go. Don’t close the file between entries. Even small, extra steps such as reopening the file each time will break the routine.
2. Modify your “to-do” lists. Task lists keep you focused. They can also double as billing records. At the start of every day, list the projects you plan to accomplish in a timesheet format. Input the work required as you finish each project, or fill it in at the end of the day. Unfinished tasks can be copied to the next day’s list.
3. Carry a sheet of paper in your back pocket. Jot notes as you handle projects, sit in meetings, or take calls. Client information can appear in the left margin, a brief description in the center, and increments of time (for example, “+.25,” “+.4”) on the right. At the end of each day, leave the paper for an assistant to type, add up your time, and provide a draft report. The simplest answer is sometimes the best.
4. Dictate. Many smart attorneys carry voice recorders throughout the day. As they leave a meeting or finish a project, they dictate the activity and time spent. Others dictate their timesheets during the drive home. Regardless of your system, get your time documented daily. By the next day, you’ll forget something.