The timesheet: A necessary evil for the seasoned lawyer and a daunting prospect for the future trainee. You may not have realised it yet but once you are a solicitor in private practice, you will most probably have to account for all of your time, in 6-minute units.
Yes, that’s right. That 18-minute phone call to the Land Registry – three units, 24 minutes drafting an email to your client – four units, an hour’s research on the Companies House website – 10 units. For anything in bet in between, you will probably be asked to round it up. In some firms, you may even be subject to targets as a trainee. For example, you may be required to record seven hours (70 units) of time in total per day, five hours (50 units) of which must be billable to a client.
Whilst the logic behind time-recording is simple – so that accurate bills can be produced for clients – there is no doubt that it can be a confusing concept to get your head around when you’re starting out in a law firm.
There will likely be one code for the client, another for the particular matter you’re working on and a whole host of other codes you could use for the specific task you have been doing, from drafting to travelling to court to attending a client meeting. There may also be non-billable codes for work such as research or internal marketing activities.
To complicate matters, it will take you longer than usual to do everything as a fresh-faced trainee. It might take you two hours to draft that long email reply, but can you realistically charge that much to the client when the email only ends up being a couple of paragraphs long? You will have to use your common sense here and decide what you think is a reasonable amount of time to record. Always discuss this with your supervisor in advance to avoid any confusion on billing day.
As a student, you can make the transition easier by being organised with your time now. This could mean planning that extended essay in advance or making a revision timetable for your summer exams. All of these things will help you start being more aware of how you manage your time. And when you do start your training contract, remember to record your time as you’re going along. Nobody wants to be stuck in the office on the Friday night before the billing deadline racking their brains to remember what they were doing at 3pm on a Tuesday three weeks ago.