How much time do you spend every day on e-mail? As you read through your inbox and write and respond to messages, how much of that time are you tracking? My guess is that lawyers lose track of significant chunks of time spent on e-mail. A new plug-in for Outlook aims to capture that lost time by tracking and recording your activities in Outlook.

Called MonetaMail, it was unveiled at the recent ABA Techshow and is the first component of the broader MonetaSuite the company plans to roll out. The concept is simple: Install it in Outlook and it seamlessly tracks your time and allows you to allocate each activity to a particular client or billing code. For example, begin to compose a new e-mail, and the timer starts automatically. Switch to reply to an e-mail, and the timer stops on your draft message and starts on the reply message. (Of course, you can start and stop the timer manually.)

As the timer is running, a drop-down menu lets you select the client for billing. Once you select a client for a particular e-mail address, the client box will automatically use that client for all future correspondence with that e-mail address. (You can always override this.) The same occurs as you read and respond to e-mails. All of your time on each message is captured.

To view a report of this activity, simply click the Billing Report button it adds to the Outlook toolbar. The default view shows the current week’s activity, but you can customize this to show any of a variety of date ranges. The report can be printed or exported to an Excel spreadsheet.

The cost of MonetaMail is $99 per user. However, you can download a free version that is fully functional except that you cannot print or export the billing reports. The full MonetaSuite will track activity in all Microsoft Office applications and eventually in other programs and in mobile applications.

MonetaMail is not perfect. One shortcoming is the lack of a matter-description field. The company indicated it would work on adding this. Another is that it does not easily integrate with a time-and-billing program, although the geekier among us should be able to pull data from the billing reports in Excel. But I see a key strength of this as offering a productivity tool — a way of tracking and accounting time too often lost to e-mail.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.