by Vivian Wang, Litigation Associate at Berliner Cohen
Lawyers may not be known for their tech-savvy, but in this day and age, using the right apps and other software can save you a lot of time and hassle. Through this blog, we hope to highlight some technology tools that you may find useful to your practice.
Up first: timekeeping programs. If you’re in private practice, you are probably all too familiar with the daily drudge of billing your time. But using software can make the process faster and more accurate. Here are two options to consider.
1. Slimtimer (www.slimtimer.com): Slimtimer is great if you just need a mechanism for calculating the total amount of time you spend on each client-matter each day.
It is free and easy to use. You create an account using your email address, and the timer is a small pop-up window on which you can list various “tasks,” i.e. client-matters. Click on a task to start the clock running on it, and click it again to stop the clock, or click on another task to switch the clock to the other task. Return to the main website to see how much time you spent each day, week, or month, or other customizable time period, on each of your tasks. The main website also reports when you worked on each task by time of day, which I have found helpful as I try to remember all the different things I did throughout the day.
If you accidentally forgot to stop your clock when you took a break or switched to another task, you can manually change your records on the website to accurately reflect your work.
There are also useful options for rounding your time, either by each entry or by the total amount of time per day, to the nearest second, minute, six minutes, or various other increments. Slimtimer also enables you to export your time records into Microsoft Excel as .csv files.
Slimtimer also allows you to invite an apparently unlimited number of other people to log time and/or view reports on your tasks.
Slimtimer offers the option to pay for a premium version, which, somewhat unusually, allows you to name your own price as long as it is greater than $3 per month. However, the additional features available with the premium version appear limited to the following: you can download all of your entries at once, receive a weekly .csv file of all of the previous week’s entries, receive email support, and avoid seeing advertisements (which I have never seen with the free version to begin with!).
2. Toggl (www.toggl.com): Toggl is also a timekeeping program, available in a free version and in a “Pro” version that costs $5.00 per user per workspace (more on workspaces shortly) per month.
The free version does everything that Slimtimer can do, except that the rounding functions are available only with a Pro subscription, and except that Toggl allows you to invite only up to four other people to join your workspace. On the flip side, the free version of Toggl offers a lot of bells and whistles that Slimtimer does not: for example, you can export your time entries not only as .csv files but also as Adobe PDF files; the program displays a color-coded bar at the bottom of the webpage to visualize how much time each task has taken as a proportion of all your tracked time during the week; you can also use it through apps for Android and iOS and even offline; and you can integrate it with several other software programs that provide invoicing and related functions, such as Freshbooks.
Toggl also allows you to group your different matters (called “projects” in Toggl) into different workspaces, but there is not much advantage to doing so unless you subscribe to the Pro version. The Pro version allows you to assign different billing rates to different workspaces, create sub-projects in a workspace, and receive alerts when you are reaching a certain percentage of a project estimate.
Many lawyers will probably find the additional features that Toggl, whether free or Pro, offers over Slimtimer, unnecessary. Indeed, they may prefer the simplicity of Slimtimer if all they want is a way to tally a day’s time. However, for instances in which an attorney needs to work collaboratively and keep a close eye on the time being spent by others on the team, or in which an attorney is utilizing different billing rates and wants those rates integrated into time tracking software, Toggl may make life a lot easier.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, its members, its employees, or its governing board. The SCCBA does not endorse any products or vendors discussed in the post.