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Law firm human resources departments, like corporations, have several different types of employees — attorneys, paralegals, administrators, secretaries and IT professionals — all with different pay structures, benefits, perquisites, vacation time, benefits and other position-based rules. Historically, most timekeeping software has focused solely on billing professionals. But new software can help your firm automate time and attendance data processing for all your staff and reduce costs for payroll and other HR data processing tasks. For example, HR software offers tools that can be used to: � Set up timesheet templates according to hiring parameters. � Electronically process timesheets. � Send automatic reminders to staff who haven’t submitted timesheets. � Let supervisors review, approve and submit staff timesheets electronically. � Let employees check their sick leave and vacation time accruals. � Automatically feed approved timesheets to HR and payroll systems. EVALUATING NEEDS Before automating your firm’s staff time and attendance process, it’s a good idea to map out your current HR and payroll policies and procedures as they pertain to non-billable staff, and establish a “needs” wish list. 1. Timesheets, Payroll & Billing � How are non-billable staff tracking and submitting their hours? � What is the process for supervisor approval? � Who tracks down missing timesheets? � How are timesheets totaled and prepared for payroll? � How are overtime hours accounted for and approved? � Are clients billed for administrative overtime? � What is the payroll error factor? � What is the process for correcting errors? � How much employee, supervisor, HR and payroll staff time is spent on these tasks? 2. Leave Policies � How do sick time and vacation leave policies vary across employee categories? � How is sick/vacation time currently accrued and tracked? � What about paid holidays? � Are the accrual rules and rates being applied accurately and fairly? How are time-off requests submitted and approved? � How many hours do supervisors and/or HR staff spend responding to employee requests regarding remaining leave balances? 3. Process Efficiency � Is your current process consistent among employees and departments? � Where do breakdowns and bottlenecks occur? � Does your current process require that information be re-keyed into more than one system (e.g. HR, payroll and billing)? � Overall, how many hours are spent each week that could be allocated to more productive business tasks? EVALUATING TECHNOLOGY Once you’ve mapped out your current process, you can evaluate technology options. Here are some criteria to consider: � Installation: Is the program easy to install? What model is best for your firm? Internal network? Portal? ASP? � Integration with other systems is critical. Does the vendor have experience integrating your firm’s particular systems? Does the system offer an open architecture that can be customized to your firm’s needs? (This is important if your firm decides to switch one or more systems, e.g. switch payroll from Paychex to ADP. An open architecture system makes it easy to switch vendors.) � Security: Because employee records, billing and payroll information is sensitive, look for proper measures to both secure the system as a whole, and assure individual employee privacy. Role-based access should be established for all employees, based on position within the organization. For example, an HR manager would have access to all employee records, whereas a supervisor would have access to his or her staff only; an employee would only be able to access his or her own personal information; payroll personnel could only access employee timesheets, etc. � Training: Staff adoption is the key to success. Choose an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Train all users on the system and policies. Look for simplicity: Stick with the needs you mapped out and steer clear of vendor offerings with unnecessary bells and whistles. Perception is important — a user-friendly system that employees like to use will lead to firm-wide acceptance. James Tharpe is president of Advanced Productivity Software and is based in Atlanta. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.aps-soft.com.

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