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Arguments for and against tracking internal time

The simplest time tracking system asks lawyers to estimate the percentage of time they worked on individual matters each time period, such as a week or month (See my post of Nov. 22, 2008: internal time tracking with 16 references.). General counsel adopt all manner of time keeping methods, but whatever the rules, advantages and disadvantages become apparent.

Proponents say that tracking time:

  1. Conveys a constant message that management and clients care about the efficient use of legal time;

  2. Captures one measure of productivity;

  3. Helps match oral reports from lawyers to quantitative data;

  4. Guides more informed allocations of time by types of matters and groups of clients;

  5. Provides data to enrich performance evaluations of individual lawyers;

  6. Gives a perspective on the relationship between internal time and external costs on matters;

  7. Permits more accurate charge-backs or allocations; and

  8. May help a general counsel answer questions more quantitatively about what the lawyers do.

Opponents say that tracking time:

  1. Lowers morale, since lawyers despise doing it;

  2. Foists on supervisors the unpleasantness of incessantly pushing lawyers to comply;

  3. Yields a mass of useless data since descriptions are so broad or sloppy as to be meaningless, and matters vary so much;

  4. Disgorges data that cannot be verified and at best are ballpark estimates or manipulated;

  5. Requires software and someone to gather, scrub, and analyze the data; and

  6. Adds another task to the administrative burden of lawyers.

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