To run a successful law firm– whether it’s a solo practice or a large firm– you’ll need to not only excel in the areas of law you’re practicing in but also in all matters of running the practice itself. Running a legal practice comes with its own, unique set of challenges that even the most prepared lawyer setting out to start a new practice may find themselves overwhelmed with. I’m here to help make the job of running your law office just a little easier. Welcome back to Mike’s Office Management Tips.
— Mike Campbell
Effective time management is crucial for any successful business—including law firms. However, running a successful practice isn’t always easy, especially if time management isn’t something you thrive at. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve how you manage your time. This way, you won’t feel as overwhelmed or overworked. To start, let’s take a look at the basics of time management.
The Basics of Time Management
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to time management, productivity, and organization, there are techniques and tools that are widely available to help people find what works for them. As a trial lawyer, you may require tools outside what’s considered standard, but you’ll be able to manage your time better once you have the basics in place.
If you’re looking for technology to help you manage your time, there are a number of apps for Android and Apple devices that can help. There are hundreds of options to choose from. The right ones can improve your productivity and your legal practice. Some of the most common ones for attorneys include Fastcase for legal research and TrialPad for trial presentation creation. iLitigate is an up-and-coming app that lawyers should be on the lookout for, too.
You should also recognize the ineffectiveness of multitasking. If you’re constantly switching between tasks, you’re less likely to accomplish individual goals. When you consider what you need to do in a single day, make a priority list and follow it, one task at a time until you’ve finished your day.
Knowing the Difference Between Importance and Urgency
As a trial attorney, every task that comes across your desk is likely important. But, not every task is urgent. This can be a hard concept to wrap your brain around, but it will make your time much easier to manage once you do.
An important task is something that isn’t necessarily time-sensitive, but it will help you reach your long-term goals. This could be developing strong relationships with clients, writing legal articles, or networking. Developing detailed discovery plans and analyzing case files may also be important, but not urgent. Urgent tasks require immediate attention. They are seen as something that needs to get done right away, like returning an email, answering the phone, or attending a meeting or court hearing.
Once you have a solid grasp on the difference between important and urgent, you can start categorizing your tasks into one of four categories: important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and not urgent and not important. Anything important and urgent should be prioritized, while anything not urgent and not important can likely be removed from that given workday and completed another time.
The Importance of Setting Boundaries
You may not realize it, but one of the most crucial aspects of successful time management is to set boundaries. If you don’t, you’re more likely to procrastinate or never stop working. This can cause a serious work/life imbalance, which can affect your personal and professional relationships.
Setting boundaries is an individualized process, but some things to consider are limiting your workday, doing the difficult tasks first, and practicing self-care. In terms of limiting your workday, set a firm boundary for when you are done working each day. Unless an emergency arises that no one else can handle, follow your schedule.
In terms of doing the difficult tasks first, you’ll get more done if you tackle whatever is on your plate that you don’t want to touch. And, in terms of self-care, take care of your health. No matter how busy you are, your health will suffer if you lead an inactive life fueled by an unhealthy diet. Pay attention to your body’s signals and listen to them.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Even if time management isn’t at the top of your strengths list, there are still things you can do to make sure you are being productive and providing quality legal representation while setting boundaries and ensuring a healthy work/life balance.
Interview With Francis P. Karam