Law: Barcodes make light work: Sharon Wallach checks out how to cash in on supermarket technology

A Watford firm is using supermarket technology in a novel and efficient time-recording exercise.

Solicitors at Penman Johnson wield light pens over barcodes to note the time spent on each of their cases in preference to the age-old method of noting each action by hand.

A barcode is created for each client. The light pens, containing lasers, are electronically tagged to each fee earner. Each time a transaction is completed - a letter written, a telephone call answered - the pen is 'swiped' over time-unit, time-rate and work-type codes.

The information is then stored in the pen, which can carry up to 800 transactions before being transferred on to the computer.

The firm's acquisition of the system came about following a DTI initiative consultancy carried out in July 1992. 'Basically, they told us to update our management sytem, which meant we had to computerise,' says Ian Avent, one of the firm's three partners. 'Because we had delayed getting computerised, we ended up with very up-to-date kit.'

Mr Avent says the system has several advantages. It provides a time read-out, which clarifies any disputes over bills. Most important, it saves time and money. The manual method is inefficient as, in practice, time-recording is often left to the end of the day, and some actions are inevitably forgotten. The light pen system is so easy and fun to use that this rarely happens. 'If you forget to put down a letter, you've kissed goodbye to pounds 10 or pounds 12,' Mr Avent says. 'Multiplied over a year, that could come to several thousand pounds.'

The system cost around pounds 8,000 to install; the pens, of which the firm has 10, are pounds 500 each. Has the system paid for itself? Definitely, Mr Avent says. 'We've certainly seen an increase in billing and in the money coming into the firm. It allows us to have management information at our fingertips. This means that we don't have to employ someone to imput, and we are saving on a computer operative, so in effect the system paid for itself in the first year.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy