Time Entries

Entering accurate and detailed time entries is an essential skill to cultivate as a lawyer.  In practice, your time entries will create a chronology of the work done on a particular file, and more importantly, will serve as the basis for generating income.  You have the unique opportunity of beginning to build this skill as a student attorney in the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.  While the time entries on your files in the Clinic will not be used as a basis for creating bills for our clients, they will allow the Clinic’s attorneys to ensure you meet your billable hour requirements.  In the event the case is not resolved during your tenure in the Clinic, your time entries will also provide the next student attorney will valuable information regarding every action, decision and conversation you had with the client while you were working with them.

Billable Hours

Billable hours are any time you spend working directly on a client’s file.  This includes the following items:

  • Corresponding with a client in person or by phone, email, or mail
  • Reviewing documents provided by the client
  • Drafting memorandums or completing IRS forms
  • Contacting the IRS (i.e. calling an IRS department)
  • Attending hearings with IRS personnel

Avoid block billing (i.e. met with supervising attorney, reviewed client mail, called IRS, drafted letter regarding what agent said). A time entry should be entered contemporaneously with each action done of the file.  The entry should include a detailed task description of what was done, and it should be sufficient to provide another member of the Clinic with adequate information in your absence.  Time entries that was too brief (i.e. called client) do not allow the Clinic attorneys to assess the work you have done, nor does it provide subsequent student attorneys the opportunity to make informed decisions about how to proceed with the file.

Examples

Inadequate Time Entry Adequate Time Entry
Called client and left message Called client to discuss additional income deposited into his bank statements; Left message on his voicemail
Reviewed documents sent in by client; Sent additional document request Reviewed the documents sent in by the client.  Client has submitted all bank statement and utility bills.  We are still missing a copy of the lease and his pay stub from last month.  Sent a new document request to the client asking for these items.
Discussed case with supervising attorney Met with Professor X to discuss possibility of course of action for client and we identified innocent spouse relief as a possibility.  She advised me to research the different types of innocent spouse relief, and talk review the questionnaire on our website with the client.
Email client Emailed client to follow-up with him on changing his W-4 information with his employer.  Reminded him of his 11/2 deadline to send me a confirmation that this has been done.

For additional reading, see:

Good Billing Practices Is an Ethical Duty

How Do I: Efficiently Track Billable Hours