We often receive questions about how lawyers should record their time. The narratives of your time tracking records should contain a precise description of the work performed, as if you were face to face explaining to a client what you did. By the way, that is exactly why your clients wants you to keep track of your time anyway, isn’t it?

Worst examples
So, what does work and what does not? Let’s start with a couple of examples that clearly miss the mark:

John P Doe Jr. | 0:20 | $300 | $100 | Several emails

John P Doe Jr. | 3:10 | $300 | $950 | Various activities

John P Doe Jr. | 1:00 | $300 | $300 | Miscellaneous

Best practices
So, what should it be? It is all about transparency and client communication, so treat your time tracking narratives as if it were emails to your clients.

  • Avoid abbreviations.
  • Do not make spelling mistakes.
  • Make sure your narratives clearly state what your time was spent on.
  • Mention the title of the document you have been working on, or mention the subject of your emails and phone calls.
  • If you are in meetings, explain what the meeting was about and with whom you had the meeting.

These are examples that are meaningful and would allow you to explain what you did later on.

John P Doe Jr. | 2:10 | $300 | $650 | Reviewed and amended the shareholder agreement

John P Doe Jr. | 3:00 | $300 | $900 | Drafting memo on mortgage default and foreclosure

John P Doe Jr. | 0:30 | $300 | $150 | Phonecall with Mrs. Jane D Oe on confidentiality clause in the share purchase agreement

Be clear about the document or task you were working on, so later on it is easy to identify what you actually did.

Grey area?
67e337cfaa86e1b05db41a0f_640_managementNow there are some narratives that are in a grey area. An example:

John P Doe Jr. | 2:10 | $300 | $650 | Drafting transaction documentation

There is a clear reason why this would not be the best way to account for your time spending. A client cannot determine which documents comprise the ‘transaction documentation’. As a result, the client cannot determine whether these documents fall within the agreed scope of work. For instance, transaction documents could include a confidentiality agreement, while the client wants to manage all confidentiality agreements in-house.

John P Doe Jr. | 1:20 | $300 | $400 | Int. meeting with JAD

While for you it may be perfectly clear what this means, it may leave a client in the dark as to who JAD is. Even if you define this in a legend, it would be way easier to understand if you would just use the full name of your meeting partner, wouldn’t it?

Have you come across funny, annoying or unbelievable time tracking narratives, please share with us in the comments!