Non-billable Administrative Tasks Waste Time

Legal Edge Services

Majority of Attorneys Say Becoming More Efficient is Key to Success

There is no disputing the fact that lawyers do too many non-billable administrative tasks and not enough profitable work. The only dispute lies in which survey to believe. In terms of non-billable time, the numbers range from 28% to 48%, based on recent surveys of 4,000 lawyers by Thomson Reuters and 2,915 lawyers by Clio.

So, lawyers typically spend anywhere from one-quarter of their day, to one-half of their day, doing work they cannot bill for. They’re wasting billable time at an alarming rate. Whether that number is 28% or 48%, it’s just not acceptable. Non-unbillable hours are every attorney’s nemesis.

Lawyers tend to tackle a lot of office work themselves thinking it will save them time or money. It’s especially true of those in solo and small firms. This do-it-yourself trap is easy to fall into and hard to get out of. But get out of it you must, if you’re going to be productive and efficient, and run a successful practice.

The Alarming Numbers

This chart illustrates the five primary categories in which attorneys spend their time, including non-billable administrative tasks.

Make your law firm more efficient by outsourcing non-billable administrative tasks

The good news is that almost 60% of attorneys’ time is spent actually practicing law, an activity every good attorney lives for, and one that is imminently billable.

The bad news is that at least 28% of attorneys’ time is dedicated to non-billable administrative tasks, and marketing and managerial tasks. That’s nearly a third of all the time you spend at work.

Time spent meeting and speaking with clients is a gray area. Some portion of that 14% is billable, depending on the lawyer or the firm. Giving the benefit of the doubt, we’ve called it all billable—leading us to a solid non-billable time number of 28%.

Ignore the Alarm at Your Risk

It’s tempting to ignore these numbers and accept non-billable hours as 28% of your total time. But that’s a big mistake for several reasons. According to the Thomson Reuters survey report, “Law firm inefficiency can hurt client satisfaction and potentially lead to lost business. The more time an attorney spends on activities other than practicing law, the better the chances of making mistakes on client matters.”

And when mistakes happen, clients have problems. Dissatisfaction ensues. Word-of-mouth advertising becomes tainted. For lawyers and law firms—both of whom rely heavily on referrals—this can have a negative effect on future business. No one needs that.

No Need to Do It Yourself

Most attorneys agree they spend too much time doing work that doesn’t directly build their bottom line. Almost three-quarters (74%) said that administrative tasks represent a time challenge for them, according to the Reuters report. They’re caught in the do-it-yourself trap.

Surprisingly, only half (51%) said they had done something about the issue or planned to do something. (The other half occasionally mull over possible solutions without coming to any decisions, content to remain in the trap.)

Success Depends on Efficiency

When asked about changes that contributed to their success in the surveyed year, 43% of the 4,000 attorneys surveyed said that becoming more efficient was the most significant contributor to their success, while 29% cited the use of technology, as shown in this chart. 

Outsourcing non-billable administrative tasks can help attorneys become more efficient, and more successful

There are many ways to increase your efficiency, boost your productivity, and build your billable hours—without working harder or longer. Outsourcing is a popular and proven solution for handling administrative tasks as well as certain marketing and managerial tasks.

Among the tasks that can be successfully outsourced are legal billing, payables and receivables; trust accounting; live call answering, screening and routing; legal research; transcriptions and translations; and document preparation.

Legal Edge Services has been performing these services for attorneys for more than two decades, enhanced wherever possible with the use of suitable technologies. As a result, our clients’ cost-to-benefit ratios are robust and their return on investment far exceeds expectations in most cases.

Get Administrative Relief Today

To learn more about how you can become more efficient, email us at or call our main number at 305.728.5300.