If you’ve ever wondered what diabolical genius is responsible for the popularity of the time sheet, we’ve got your man. He was a lawyer who practiced in Boston for more than 50 years. But far from being the sinister, pencil-pushing tightwad you might imagine, he is best remembered for his commitment to the poor.
Reginald Heber Smith began working for the Boston Legal Aid Society in 1912 during his summer vacation from Harvard Law School. That summer profoundly altered Smith’s view of the fairness of the legal system, and after graduating from Harvard in 1914, he signed on as the society’s general counsel. Smith immediately began to institute sweeping changes. He enlisted the Harvard Business School to devise a detailed accounting system to manage the society’s finances. He also insisted that all of the society’s lawyers write monthly reports on the status of their files and attend weekly meetings to discuss their cases with Smith and other colleagues. By 1916, the society’s annual caseload had shot to 5,000 from 2,000, and the cost of handling each case was cut by more than half.
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