Big Law Hours in a Nutshell: Requirements & Tracking Explained

Aleksandra Doknić, April 26, 2024

Big law hours in a nutshell

Being a corporate associate or partner with big law hours is… prestigious and rewarding.

I mean, you are the embodiment of Carpe diem.

  • You conduct legal research, draft documents, and review case files.
  • You meet with clients and attend court hearings, depositions, and other legal proceedings.
  • You attend bar association meetings or seminars to stay informed about legal developments and expand your network.

But you also:

  • Tend to work 12+ hours daily (and on the weekends).
  • You’re in a highly competitive and stressful lawyer job environment.
  • And you also handle multiple matters simultaneously and multitask like a pro.

Keeping up with your work schedule can be exhausting. But it’s also essential to track time to identify ways to boost efficiency and bill your clients accurately.

To help you stay on top of all your tasks, we’ll explain everything you need to know about billable hours in big law and how you can make tracking time as easy as reviewing a boilerplate.

How many hours do lawyers work in a week?

Billable hours in law sector

Let’s check the stats.

A Clio 2022 Legal Trends Report mentioned that lawyers work 9-10 hours more than people working a standard, full-time position. In fact, over 25% of lawyers work 50-59 hours per week, and another 25% work 60 hours or more.

Indeed also mentioned that the work schedule of a lawyer must be packed, as corporate lawyers spend 66 hours per week working.

That’s a lot of hours!

And the culprit for working late at night一and I am sure you know this well一is:

  1. Juggling multiple tasks besides handling clients’ cases, such as travel, research, communicating and corresponding with different parties, etc.
  2. Trying to meet demanding client deadlines.
  3. Working with multiple clients, handling dozens of tasks simultaneously, all to ensure the high quality of legal services.

Even though lawyers sometimes work behind their desks until early morning, they don’t necessarily count that time as billable.

This brings us to the next point: not all hours are billable.

Billable vs. non-billable big law hours

There’s an enormous difference between billable and non-billable hours.

Understanding the distinction between the two is essential to ensure that your most valuable resources一time and energy一are accurately reflected in your revenue. After all, no one wants to give away their time for free, especially if you work 60+ hours per week.

Types of work hours

Billable hours

Billable hours are hours spent working on business matters that will be charged to clients and sent in an invoice according to contractual rates. An invoice serves as a document that helps clients understand the work that has been done on their behalf and comes as a justification for the billed hours.

Billable hours must be carefully tracked and properly narrated or described, especially if you have diligent clients examining bills.

Examples of tasks that would be counted toward billable hours include corresponding with clients, creating contracts, building case strategies, attending (online) meetings and court hearings, etc.

Non-billable hours

Non-billable hours are activities that are not directly related to client matters. Here are a few examples:

  • Firm and board meetings.
  • Office management.
  • Commuting.
  • Meal/lunch breaks.
  • Lunches and dinners with clients.
  • Networking events.

How do big law attorneys track their time?

Apparently, not too efficiently.

If you check the statistics, the typical minimum billable hours for big law attorneys per year are around 2,200 hours, which is about 42.3 billable hours weekly. Knowing that corporate lawyers usually work 60+ hours per week, one can agree that their time tracking isn’t working in their favor.

Corporate lawyers commonly rely on an app/tool, a timer of sorts, that they can start and stop whenever they like. When they stop the timer, it automatically converts what’s recorded into logged time. Then, they manually add descriptions or narratives next to logged minutes or hours.

In addition to using timers, attorneys also tend to:

  • Use Excel sheets and enter all timelines they can retrieve from the email archives.
  • Choose Word to log all appointments, court dates, and (online) meetings.
  • Rely on phone call lengths to fill their billable hours journal.
  • Use the good ol’ bullet journaling with pen and paper.
Time tracking methods of lawyers

But what’s hindering their productivity and killing billable hours is that most lawyers log hours and/or complete timesheets at the end of their day or week. Now imagine having to recall everything you’ve done the past day or (God forbid!) every single minute of the past week. It’s impossible!

That being said, using the previously mentioned time tracking techniques leads to the following issues:

  1. Lack of accuracy. When working on multiple matters simultaneously with dozens of tasks, a mistake in billing hours will inevitably pop up.
  2. Pressure to meet billing quotas. Lawyers tend to inflate their billable hours一commonly known as the "padding" practice一where non-billable tasks are purposely billed to clients. Similarly, if you underreport billable hours, you are affecting the firm’s revenue and potentially damaging relationships with clients.
  3. Client expectations. If clients notice that the math isn’t just quite right, they’ll question you on the necessity of particular tasks, slowly losing trust and loyalty.
  4. Lack of focus. Time tracking is often viewed as an admin-heavy task that ruins focus on the actual billable legal work.


I think we can agree that having a time tracking tool to help you accurately bill all those big law hours is a necessity. Preferably one that works “in the background” and doesn’t require you to manually start and stop it. A tool that can significantly boost a firm’s billable hours.

If only there was a tool that didn’t require pressing START and STOP every time you wanted to track time.

Oh, wait, there is一our very own Memtime. 🙂

Memtime works in the background without you noticing it; it can track time as soon as you log into your computer. All you need to do is create an account and download it on your device.

If you are ready to focus on your complex legal matters and let Memtime handle all time tracking, schedule a call today!

Big law billable hours一requirements and tracking

From all the previously mentioned, it’s clear that you need a tool that does five basic things when it comes to time tracking:

  1. Automatically capture all your activities, e.g. emails, research, etc.
  2. Allow you to transform the activities into time records.
  3. Give you an overview of your day in detail.
  4. Allow you to log times based on captured activities, matters and clients.
  5. Help you quickly assign logged hours to the right clients and matters.
  6. Be smoothly integrated with any other legal software your big law firm is using

All that, plus a tool that will guarantee your data’s privacy and security.

Sounds impossible?

Not with Memtime.

Here’s how Memtime can ensure all your requirements are met.

Time increments

Memtime offers automatic time tracking in default intervals of 5 or 6 minutes. The 6-minute interval, which you as a lawyer are probably more interested in, allows you to visualize your day in the following time increments:

  • 1 minute
  • 6 minutes
  • 12 minutes
  • 18 minutes
  • 30 minutes
  • 1 hour.

Why are these intervals so important?

Well, you already know that billable big law hours are organized in increments, either in 6-minute (1/10th of an hour) or 15-minute (1/4th of an hour) intervals. When you can automatically capture and visualize your day in your billable increments, it becomes much easier and faster to log billable hours and assign them to client matters.

And trust us; with Memtime you can truly capture the smallest activities. This includes your exact time in every email, browser tab, and even phone call (requires a VoIP integration). Memtime even connects with your calendar app to import your scheduled appointments.

What happens if you don’t charge by the hour? Should you use a time tracking app then?

From our perspective, even if you work on a retainer, charging your clients a flat fee, you should track time to see how long it takes you to complete every single project for each client.


Because you need to understand how profitable you are.

If you don't track time, a project may take more hours than anticipated, making you run out of budget and time. That’s how the issue of overservicing and undercharging is born.

Overservicing for time

Time entries

Once Memtime captures your activities, it’s up to you to create time entries for all your tasks, calls, meetings, etc.

When creating time entries, you'll review your work and decide what to log as billable time.

Assigning time entries to clients and matters

All those created time entries wouldn’t mean much if you couldn’t connect them to the clients and matters you work on.

We know this, and that’s why Memtime has over 50 project software integrations that allow time entry sync, like Clio and Lawcus. And we can set up a custom integration with any software that has an open API. Check out the law firm software Memtime can be integrated with.

Empowering the entire big law firm

If you’ve come this far in the article, we imagine you aren’t interested in streamlining just your own time tracking. You are probably looking to improve time tracking of your entire team or big law firm.

If you’d like to test Memtime as a team, give it a shot by booking a call with us and starting a trial for your law firm.

A team trial will get you:

  • Custom onboarding according to the specific needs of your law office. Every attorney on your team will understand how to make the most of Memtime.
  • First-hand insights into how much value automatic time tracking can bring to your daily legal service.
Insights for teams

Data access and privacy

When discussing your data’s privacy and security, it is essential to mention that most of the time tracking tools are cloud-based, meaning that your data will be placed on a server owned by a third party.

This means that you, as a user, will have to do a deep dive into the company’s policy on hosting and storing your data. You must understand how the provider will handle your data, where it will be stored, who will have access to it, how it will be backed up, etc.

Luckily for you, Memtime’s time tracking is NOT cloud-based; it’s self-hosted, meaning that all automatically captured activities are stored only on your device (computer). No one can access your activity timeline, as the data never leaves your computer.

What happens after your big law firm starts using Memtime?

The short answer: that’s when the magic begins. 🙂

Jokes aside, when you have a proper time tracking technique and system, your corporate lawyer work will be captured down to the minute, ultimately boosting your firm’s revenue through increased billable hours.

Whether your big law firm bills by the hour or works on retainers, it’s always a good idea to hold weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly meetings with lawyers to discuss billed time and the firm’s average utilization rate. Ensure that everyone understands that the goal of the meetings is not to undermine one's work but to make well-informed decisions on client work based on the time and data provided.

Boosting revenue per lawyer

Ready to drive revenue growth for your law office?

If you want to boost your revenue per lawyer and profit per equity partner (PEP), we highly suggest you introduce an automatic time tracking tool to your tech stack.

And you’ll see…

  • Your document reviews, depositions, and interrogatories will all be documented in one software and invoiced precisely and accordingly.
  • The hours you spend answering "quick questions" will be recovered as well as your time in emails and calls with clients.
  • You won't have to worry about explaining to clients what it means to strategize and prepare for complex legal matters and why it takes "so much time.”
  • Shortly put, you'll feel more energetic, efficient, and focused.

And the firm you work for?

  • Will generate more revenue.
  • The partners will know the actual utilization rates, allowing them to establish a reasonable caseload.
  • Attorneys will have a better work/life balance by taking control of their time and hectic schedules.

If operating more methodically and profitably is right up your alley, schedule a call so we can talk about your legal team trial. Before you start the trial, you won’t need to submit payment information and won't be auto-charged at the end of the trial period. It's that simple. 🙂

Happy time tracking!

Meet the author:

Aleksandra Doknić - post author

Aleksandra Doknić

Aleksandra Doknić is a copywriter and content writer with six years of experience in B2B SaaS and e-commerce marketing. She's a startup enthusiast specializing in topics ranging from technology and gaming to business and finance.

Outside of work, Aleksandra can be found walking barefoot in nature, baking muffins, or jotting down poems.