iPhone apps: time & billing

Hourly billing is the standard for the profession. Aside from contingency fees and project billing for basic matters like real estate closings, the monetary meter many lawyers rely on is the clock.

And if billables are the way you divide your day, you need to keep track of your time. One way to do that is on an iPhone, though don’t expect to find elaborate apps that will augment — or for that matter, supplement — software you have running on your PC or your firm’s computer network.

A search for “time and billing” in iTunes turns up a handful applications in the “Business” category. Among the 14 apps in the search results are two “lite” versions (and you thought “Lite” was reserved for beer). Four of the apps seem to be of little or no use for lawyers. So that leaves 10 offerings from seven developers.

The prices range from free to $59.99. One of the two free apps, however, is meant to complement a billing service that costs either $19.99 or $39.99 per month. A free subscription is available, but it caps the number of clients at three.

The developers take two basic approaches to tracking time: the stopwatch method for measurements down to the second and the user-defined block method for  entering tasks after the fact. Some apps allow you to opt for either method.

Bill4Time Mobile This free application is tied to a Web-based service run by Broadway Billing Systems, which also offers versions for Blackberry, Palm and Windows Mobile devices. According to user reviews posted in the iTunes store,  the app makes perfect sense for current Bill4Time customers and those considering the service. A free trial subscription is available, and there’s no cost for the service that caps the number of clients at three. Average rating, on a scale of 1-5 in the iTunes store, ** (based on 13 reviews).

ClockedInThis $2.99 app works on the stopwatch model  and is billed as a personal timekeeper. Tasks and associated time spent on them can be edited later should you need to add detail or adjust the total, say, if you forgot start the meter. ClockedIn generates daily reports and project reports that you can e-mail. The app may be fine for the occasional trip out of the office, but veteran road warriors and mobile device devotees will want data that can be imported to Excel or QuickBooks, not basic e-mail reports that would have to be retyped into an accounting program. Also missing is the ability to set billing rates. Average rating *** (9 reviews).

iPunchclockOne feature of the iPhone that opens numerous possibilities for iPhone applicationsis is the GPS function. The advantages for mapping utilities are obvious. Time and billing is another story, at least as far as lawyers are concerned. The $4.99 app incorporates GPS data in logging time for various tasks and projects. The developers tout it as a way to log your four-dimensional coordinates. Unlike the simpler apps, this one allows exporting timesheets in the CSV format, which paves the way to importing the records into a spreadsheet. Still, though, some user reviews on iTunes  cautioned that the file is improperly formatted, which could spoil the import process. Average rating **½ (26 reviews).

Next week: Time and billing apps from five other developers.


~ by CDLB on February 27, 2009.

One Response to “iPhone apps: time & billing”

  1. In response to your review of our app, iPunchclock, I’d
    like to mention that the GPS data, and many other recorded elements
    are optional, and can be excluded from output reports. Also, the issue
    with international date formatting vs. spreadsheet import formats that
    some international users complained about has also been resolved, as a
    user preference. Finally, the export formats include relatively
    pretty ‘reports’ in HTML format as well as boring CSV spreadsheets. (An example of the WIFI-export webpage you would see from your iPhone is at http://www.chrysalisinitiative.com/ecg/iPunchclockSample/ ).

    Using the free Google Docs service, one can upload the reports or spreadsheets from
    the phone, then manipulate or export the data on a desktop browser,
    taking advantage of all the formats Google supports, or sharing document with colleagues.
    You honed in on a critical fact about the time tracker apps being
    either stopwatch-mode, or block time organizers. iPunchclock
    supports both modes of working, since it is inevitable that you will need to adjust times once in a while.



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