Android App Review: Kohorts Time Tracker

Hourly billing, it’s the foundation of the legal practice. Lawyers live and die by the billable hour, making sure to calculate and compact their days into .1 or .25 increments. Lawyers are always looking for ways to track and easily calculate their time, and the addition of mobile devices only complicates the issue.

Kohorts Time Tracker (free/$25 per month) promises to simplify the issue.

Mobile timekeeping simplified

Kohorts Time Tracker is another app in the long-line of apps seeking to simplify time keeping. Fortunately, Kohorts works better than some of the other apps.

You’ll be prompted for your email address when you start the app.

Kohorts Email Prompt

Kohorts requests your email address so you can receive billing reports. I think they’re monthly reports, but I could never get this feature to work in the 3 times I tried — I might have the wrong setting/information.

After the email prompt you’re ready to start tracking your time. This is where I was kind of confused, since all you see is a blank screen.

Kohorts Blank Tracking Screen

Don’t fret. The app is ready to go. Just click your home button and your phone will start tracking.

You’ll see each phone call in a list.

Kohorts Tracking Log

You’ll figure out the button options — Select category; Do NOT bill; NEVER bill this number; Enter Notes (left to right — by simply clicking on the icon.

When you click “Do NOT bill” or “NEVER bill this number”, you’ll see a blue line under the words.

Kohorts Blue Line

This is a timer function and will automatically perform the save function. For “Select category” or “Enter Notes”, you’ll have to manually start the save process. Note: I couldn’t ever select a category.

Kohorts Enter Notes

For instance, clicking “OK” will “save” the note and tell Kohorts to upload the information.

Kohorts Awaiting Upload

You’ll see a blank screen again once the records gets saved. Just remember, blank screen equals “all good.”

A few likes and dislike

Active versus passive tracking

Most attorneys will love the automatic save prompt that displays right after you make a phone call. There aren’t a lot of apps that feature this ability, which makes actually tracking time a lot easier.

This feature is also a burden, since you’re relegated to perform the save after each call. This is a preference issue more than anything — I prefer passive tracking — and not a reflection on the quality of the app.

Email and SMS tracking

Kohorts can track SMS and email messages. However, Kohorts didn’t track any of my SMS (sent through the native app or Hangouts) or messages from Gmail (I didn’t bother testing native mail app).

Of course, this might not be too big of deal for most people, especially if you have another way to saves email messages. For instance, my practice management software (PracticeMaster) allows me to save sent messages to files, but I have to manually perform the save. Also, since I don’t send confidential client messages via text, I usually don’t have too much to bill (plus, I wouldn’t bill for a “I’m on the 6th floor” message).

What about CallTrack?

This “single feature” app points out a huge flaw, especially considering the cost benefit analysis. Not being able to track SMS and email messages hardly justifies the $25 per month price tag. (Yes, I realize you receive a summary report.) But how does Kohorts differ from CallTrack (my favorite) in the ability to track and time phone calls?

CallTrack keeps a record of my incoming and outgoing phone calls, including the number and duration of the call. CallTrack also syncs with Google Calendar (and eventually Outlook/PracticeMaster), which means I have a calendar entry for the call.

CallTrack Record in Google Calendar

Back in the office I can choose to convert the call to a client billing record. This saves having to double enter the information. One quick click, some short edits, and I’m finished.

Best of all, CallTrack is free.

Now, some folks may point out that Kohorts allows me to seamlessly enter notes about the conversation immediately after the phone call. Granted, that’s an advantage, but Google Calendar (all cloud case management providers have Google integration) offers the same descriptive ability since CallTrack creates the record when you hang up.

Google Calendar Description after CallTrack Record

It’s certainly an extra step, but worth the savings of $25 for the same purpose.

Of course, if you’re in a firm that doesn’t use Gmail or Google Calendar, Kohorts is a great tracking alternative. Kohorts would, assuming the reports work correctly, certainly eliminate the redundancy of having to double-enter the information.

Where did my records go?

Finally, I’m a little disappointed that the Kohorts website isn’t more robust. Specifically, after I uploaded my billing records, I couldn’t figure out how to get my billing information. The website says I have my own secure website to log in to, but I couldn’t find that (I didn’t email for support, but I shouldn’t have to). Since I haven’t received a report, there’s no way for me to see what occurred. Thus, the app becomes absolutely worthless as a tool, not to mention all those “lost” records.

Moreover, if I’m only getting a monthly (comments say daily, so I’m expecting mine soon) summary, this changes my current workflow of daily checking and completing my time entries. Obviously, this report will can help prevent having to re-create billing, but also intensifies the amount of work required at the end of the month. It’s data entry plus the billing review. I prefer to only have to touch that information one time.

The ultimate impression

Overall, I think Kohorts fits perfectly for firms who aren’t using Gmail and want to collect the information. The app is spot on valuable for lawyers and firms wanting to keep track of their time. Despite my hesitations and the noted “flaws,” Kohorts does its job simply. I’d like to see the report and have access to the tracking website.

However, if you’re using Gmail and you’ve switched to Hangouts (or maybe if you haven’t, since Kohorts didn’t work with Android 4.4’s native messenger app), you’ll want to skip this app and continue using CallTrack. In these cases, Kohorts simply doesn’t provide that much more to justify the added expense.

I’m giving this app 3.5 stars.

Get this app on Google Play

Update: I finally received my report. It’s much as I expected, a PDF file for review. However, there is an option for a CSV data download.

Robert Kamal, Kohort’s CEO, also filled me in with some more information, which helped with one of my issues:

On the issue of our service (it’s really a service and not just an app), we deliver your reports daily in a PDF that goes to your email.  We can also deliver the data in an email as a CSV file for clients that want to analyze or create charts.  

If however, clients do want to access data online instead of keeping it themselves we can do this for them.  All our services are very secure with HTTPS encryption.

If you have loaded the newest version on Google Play, and entered the correct email and phone number, you should get your report in the afternoon every day.  You won’t get a report if you have not had any billable call activity. Also check to see if the report went in your junk mail box. [Ed. — this was issue number 1; I rarely check my junk mail in Gmail]

If you open the new app and click on our icon in the top left corner you can edit your “never bill list” (people you don’t want the app to pop up for) and you can change your current email address if you need to. [Ed. — this was issue number 2]

Robert’s clarifications helped resolve some of my biggest problems. Unfortunately, these won’t change my assessments. I still believe Kohorts is a great app for firms that can’t use CallTrack. However, $25 per month, per user is quite costly for what amounts to a report generating service — this is still a good option if you follow the “not me” philosophy of management.

Update (01/30/13): Robert Kamal, President and CEO of Kohorts emailed me the following clarifications to some comments in this post. My original comments precede the clarifications.

This feature is also a burden, since you’re relegated to perform the save after each call. This is a preference issue more than anything — I prefer passive tracking — and not a reflection on the quality of the app.

This is actually not quite correct.  You can deal with categorizing the call as billable or not right away but you don’t have to.  If you choose not to you can continue on with what you were doing and the call will stay in the queue.  If you make or take another call that will be stacked up under the first call.  So the app sets up a queue of calls that were made (or received) and you can deal with them at the end of the day or whenever you wish.  The key is you can’t forget them.

Kohorts can track SMS and email messages. However, Kohorts didn’t track any of my SMS (sent through the native app or Hangouts) or messages from Gmail (I didn’t bother testing native mail app).

This is because you didn’t have the version of our application installed that supports the tracking of SMS.  This version is still in testing but should be available soon.  This feature will not be an extra charge either.

[Ed. — In my defense, the Kohorts website says I can “[t]rack all forms of billable communication” and “[t]he KoHorts Mobile Time Tracking solution allows you to track SMS texting and even email from your mobile device…“]

For “Select category” or “Enter Notes”, you’ll have to manually start the save process. Note: I couldn’t ever select a category.

You did in fact select a category when you categorized the call as billable.  Categories for Kohorts are; not billable, never billable, or billable.

One Response to Android App Review: Kohorts Time Tracker

  1. I work as a freelancer and I use free Time Tracking primaERP. I use it mostly for its main function, which is time tracking according to clients/projects/tasks/activities, but the billing feature has been very helpful too.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.