It won’t shock anyone to learn that law firms have a distorted view of the day-to-day lives of their timekeepers. But it may shock you just how wildly off firm management is about the nuts and bolts of a work day.

On the final day of ILTACON, Zero unveiled the results of a new study of law firm billing practices and learned that firms continue to squander a lot of revenue by continuing to commit valuable time to repetitive, non-billable tasks that could easily be automated. Take a look at this!

Roughly 70 percent of timekeepers think they’re bleeding a fifth or more of their potential billable time, while only around 23 percent of management thinks the number is that high. That’s a massive schism.

Because firm leadership doesn’t think about 20 minutes here wasted by an attorney taking a third pass at writing a billing entry that meets some wasteful client guideline, or an hour there sunk into basic email inbox management. Steve Jobs is always credited with telling an engineer, “Say you can shave 10 seconds off of the boot time. Multiply that by five million users and that’s 50 million seconds, every single day. Over a year, that’s probably dozens of lifetimes. So if you make it boot 10 seconds faster, you’ve saved a dozen lives.” Law firms may not be saving a dozen lives, but all these little minutes add up to cold hard cash going out the door.

And it’s cash that could be recouped with a little investment in automation. Zero helps with the email side, but there are others out there automating different tasks in the legal workflow. But management doesn’t seem to notice:

It’s not just lost money either. Even if that’s what might motivate some of the biggest firms out there, solving the automation problem can be a quality of life issue. Take an hour of menial work off an associate’s plate and that’s a straight-up recruiting tool.

Zero CEO Alex Babin told me that he hopes to make this study a recurring event and welcomes other vendors lending their weight behind it to get an even bigger pool of respondents. “We want lawyers to Google this. We want the lawyers to start agitating for these tools.”

HeadshotJoe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.

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