10 tips for time-recording and legal timesheets
The legal world loves a timesheet. Whether it’s recording your time on a law firm’s legal time recording software, or logging your hours with Flex Legal when you’re on a paralegal placement, accurately measuring the time you have worked is important!
However, there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to record your time and fill out your timesheet. Fortunately, we’ve tallied our 10 top-tier timesheet tips to take your timesheeting into tip-top territory!
1) Find out what your target is and work towards it.Most law firms have billable and non-billable hours targets for their fee-earners. If you don’t know what your targets are, make sure to ask! Once you know, try to stick to them and avoid going under or over.
2) Check how to record non-billable time.In an ideal world, all of your time spent working for a client should be billable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t often work out like that. For example, if you have to spend working time fixing an IT issue or doing other non-billable work, you should check how to record this and make sure it gets logged on your timesheet.
3) Make sure your timesheets match.Timesheets are an incredibly important aspect of any legal work. They are the central reference point for law firms and clients, and ensure all parties get billed and paid correctly. If you are working for a law firm through Flex Legal, make sure your Flex timesheet matches the law firm’s timesheet. Huge problems arise if we invoice the firm for an amount of hours you have logged with us, and their version of the timesheet says something different. Both timesheets have to match! Also - don’t forget to record your lunch break if you have the option to.
4) Make sure you fill out your timesheet ‘narratives’.A Flex Legal timesheet only requires you to fill out the hours you have worked, but client timesheets and time tracking software are different. Alongside your logged time, you will have to submit a ‘narrative’, which is a short 2 - 3 sentence summary of what you were working on in that time. These are really important for clients, so make sure to fill these out!
5) Make sure your narratives are ‘client appropriate’.At the end of each week, a supervising associate will submit all paralegal and associate timesheets and narratives to the client. Clients scrutinise these very heavily, so your narratives should be as professional as possible. A poorly written narrative, filled with punctuation and grammatical errors, reflects very badly on you, and will result in an associate having to spend a lot of (non-chargeable!) time correcting your narratives.
6) Submit your timesheets on time!If you have spent a week working hard and putting in the hours, you deserve to be paid! However, we cannot pay you on time if you don’t submit your timesheets on time. We want to keep you up to date in our payroll / finance cycles, so make sure you submit your timesheets to Flex by our Sunday deadline.
7) Check the time allowance for each task.Managers usually have a clear idea of how long a task should take. If you take 5 hours to complete a task they think should only take 1, then you’re going to encounter problems. Try to keep to the suggested times where possible. Also, if you think a task will take longer to complete than the time allowance, raise this with your manager or supervisor as early as possible and explain your thinking.
8) Never add hours for tasks that are not requested.Law firm tasks generally operate within a very clearly defined scope. Very few paralegal tasks have time allowances for extra research or unexpected additional work. For example, if you bill extra time for research you conducted for a task, and this wasn’t requested in advance, you can cause major issues for the budgets of the firm and client.
9) Double check your timesheets for inaccuracies.Before you submit your timesheet for the week or for the day, give them a final check through. Timesheets and recording are absolutely crucial to the way that legal work is conducted and measured, so it’s really important you have a final check over to make sure yours are accurate. Remember to check that your hours are correct, your narratives are written properly, and that both your timesheets match.
10) Got a question? Ask for help!Our final tip is a seemingly obvious, but important one. If you are unsure about any aspect of your timekeeping or task-recording, or task logging, then please just ask your manager or supervisor. It’s always worth getting clarification in the first instance, and submitting everything correctly, than taking a guess and causing problems down the line. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so please don’t be afraid to ask for clarity.
- Watch Flex CEO Mary Bonsor discuss working through Flex - want to know more about working through Flex Legal? This super secret video will give you some practical tips and advice.
- The SQE Journal - if you’re getting legal work experience, don’t waste it! Your legal work can also be recorded as valuable QWE under the SRA’s new guidelines, and help you qualify as a solicitor.