It can be assumed that all lawyers, regardless of the size of their firm, strive for efficiency. Efficiency, broadly defined as the time it takes to complete a specific task, can mean the difference between a troubled law firm with a harassed owner and a thriving law firm run by a lawyer who spends most of his time doing it able to practice law.
It is important to remember that efficiency is not innate. one learns As with anything learned, improvement is possible. Here are six simple to strategic tips that lawyers can try to improve their efficiency.
- Track all of your time, not just billable hours – No attorney would say they like tracking billable time, but most would agree it’s a necessary evil. To understand where you’re wasting valuable hours (if not days), try tracking how you’re spending all of your time, even if you’re only doing it for a week. It’s a simple exercise that will show you exactly where you’re wasting your time.
- Prioritize Each Day: As soon as the phone rings and your inbox starts leaking, it’s not hard to lose sight of what you set out to do that day. Try this: Once you’re at your desk, take a few minutes to jot down your top priorities. It will help you subconsciously keep these tasks in the foreground.
- Upgrade to Expert: Clients come to you because you understand the law and they don’t. How much time a day or week do you spend doing things that you don’t really understand or care about? Marketing is the lifeblood of your law firm, but many attorneys have little enthusiasm for it. Consider hiring outside help. It can be daunting to sign up for emergency service, but think of the valuable hours you can get back.
- Compare Notes: If you have a trusted colleague, it can be helpful to compare your days. (This is especially helpful if you’ve tracked your total time for a specific week, as recommended above.) There are parts of the workday that can feel like sunk costs. However, you may only see them that way because you don’t see an alternative. Getting an idea of how someone in a similar position manages their time can be very revealing.
- Smooth out tangled paths: Paying customers don’t just walk through the door. It takes time and effort to get people to hire you. There are no shortcuts here, but there are ways to reduce the time and energy you spend on new business development and other multi-step processes. Whether you hire an answering service or leave your digital marketing to an expert, you can still reap the rewards without spending your personal capital.
- Experiment with monotasking: Multitasking has become the norm, not the exception. However, some successful entrepreneurs insist that they achieve more when they focus on one task at a time. Different styles work for different people, but since we all accept multitasking as the status quo, it might help to try something new. If it means doing more in less time, it’s certainly worth a try.
While they’re very different, these tips have one common thread: honesty. Being honest with yourself on these issues is often difficult, but it can pay off. A solid, factual assessment of your time management is a good first step towards efficiency.