Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Are You Thinking 'Hooray!!' or 'OH NO!'???

It's that time of year -- time to sit down and take stock. Yes, it's time to talk about billable hours!

When you look at your total billable hours for 2010, will you be shouting "Hooray!" or "OH NO!"?

Many paralegals avoid thinking about their total billable hours, preferring instead to focus on getting their work done. Sometimes they're too busy to think about their billable hours, let alone enter them.

If you're a paralegal who's expected to meet billable hour goals, your value to the firm is most likely determined by the number of hours you bill in a year. This also determines your year-end bonus, raises,and perhaps whether or not you'll keep your your job. You must focus on your billable hours as they relate to the money and profits you generate for your employer. After all, law firms are businesses designed to, hopefully, be profitable.

When I ask paralegals I'm mentoring about the state of their billable hours, they're often unclear about how much they've billed and uncertain if they're a profit center for the firm. Some are even resistant to talking about billable hours at all.

These paralegals operate on what I call the "Hooray! or OH NO! Billable Hour Strategy". It looks like this:

If they've reached their billable hour goals at the end of the year, they shout "Hooray! I'm good and I'm safe...bring on the bonus and the raise!"

If they've fallen short of those goals, they cry "OH NO! What happened? What do I do now?"

This isn't an effective strategy if you plan to be a successful paralegal. It results in a rollercoaster of ups and downs -- with the downs including heavy doses of desperation, frustration and overwhelm, as well as burnout, low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence...and probably no bonus or raise.

It keeps you on a treadmill: working harder to make up the losses, just to find yourself falling further and further behind. After all, there are only so many hours in the day and only so many hours you can bill for.

I've noticed that many paralegals have a million excuses for falling short of their goals: they don't get enough work; they have too much administrative work to do; their work is non-billable; they have too many interruptions; they have no time to enter their time; the firm has an inefficient billing system; clients won't pay for the work they do, blah blah blah.

Another strategy is to just do their work and hope for the best at the end of the year. And still another is to act "as if" everything is OK, thank you very much.

Excuses, hope and acting "as if" won't cut it. You have to take action so you no longer have those "OH NO!" moments.

If you want more "Hooray!" moments, here are 5 billable hour strategies you can adopt to get past "hope" and get off the roller coaster so you're on the path to reaching your billable hour goals.
1. Break down your billable hour goals so you know what you have to do each month. It's essential that you know how many hours you'll be billing each day, each week and each month throughout the year. Then review the totals at the end of each month to be sure you are on track to reach your goals.

2. Learn to turn tiny time into big time. All of those small bits of time may seem unimportant but they can add up to big billable hours. You just have to learn when to do those "small tasks" and how to capture them each day.

3. Eliminate the things that hold you back from getting your work done. Do you have too many interruptions? Co-workers stopping by your office to chat? Telephone calls? E-mail? Clutter on your desk? Piles of paper and files all over your office? Do you spend hours every day searching for misplaced files and documents? There are ways to minimize, even eliminate, these interruptions and plug the holes that are sabotaging your billable hour goals.

3. Get over thinking your work is not valuable or the client shouldn't be billed. No, you're not an attorney...but the income you generate for the firm is very important. All of the work you do is essential to the bottom line of the firm's budget. As for the client, it's up to the billing attorney to determine what the client should be charged for services.

5. Draft time entries that demonstrate the value of your work. There are simple formulas you can use to (a) make entering your time a snap and (b) demonstrate to the client the importance of your contribution to his or her case. When you do this, you reduce the amount of time that's written down or, worse, written off.
If you're shouting "Hooray!" congratulations! Enjoy your raise and your big bonus.

If you're saying "OH NO" join me on December 9th for The Big Billable Hour Breakthrough: How to Turn Your Time into a Billable Hour Gold Mine where you'll learn all the things you need to do to get off the rollercoaster, reach your goals, and shout "Hooray!"

You won't regret this investment. Follow this link to take action now.

If you have questions or there's anything else I can do for you, please let me know. As always, I'm...

Dedicated to your success!

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