9 Essential Tips To Better Manage Your Law Office
Let’s face it, a good deal of your day is probably spent putting out fires and taking care of client complications that are unplanned. In fact, you are likely to be spending up to 12 hours in the office because you are taking care of emergencies throughout the day.
These mistakes can be cleaning up an error you made when creating a legal document, sending an email to the wrong recipient, or discovering your legal assistants have been sending out legal documents on an outdated letterhead.
These fires are often preventable if you take the necessary steps. It is easy to get sidetracked, especially when something seems to be an emergency. Effective law firm management helps to prevent these fires and reduces the time spent putting them out.
1. Anticipate Problems
One of the best ways to reduce the time spent putting out fires is to anticipate and prepare for them in advance. Sometimes you are able to think about the possible things that could go awry and address them ahead of time. It’s better to plan alternative actions than to assume that everything will go as planned. More effective law firm management helps you consider the most common issues that occur in your office and then determine how to handle them in advance.
Related Article: Many problems stem from staff not being fully trained on protocols and different types of legal management software. While many see training as a chore, it is essential to have everyone on the same page. Read our article “Why training is a lot like Brussel Sprouts” to see the positive impact proper onboarding can have on your law office.
2. Redefine what makes an “Emergency”
It may be tempting to stop everything you are doing and switch gears when an emergency arises. However, not everything that presents itself requires immediate attention. Evaluate a problem and determine whether it really is an emergency. If it can wait, you don’t need to drop everything to take care of it immediately. Instead, commit to a time-frame for when you will have an answer or resolution. Then, make sure that you take care of the situation within the time you provided. Efficient law firm management techniques will allow you to provide guidelines for how people define and deal with emergencies.
3. Plan for setbacks
It is essential to plan your day by making a list of everything you need to accomplish. When you make your list, don’t pack too much in your day. Allow enough time to complete each item on your list along with some extra time between tasks. This gives you a margin of comfort in case you have to work on something that you didn’t have on your list. Try to limit your day to a reasonable number of hours. Working long hours doesn’t necessarily mean that you are performing efficiently. Law firm management systems help to prepare for how to properly handle setbacks when they occur.
4. Store Up Time
Procrastination can get the best of us, especially at work. Just a little procrastination on each task adds up to a lot of wasted time during the day. Then, you don’t have spare time to deal with an emergency situation when one arises. Working on administrative functions can also take up time that could be better spent working on more important things. Law firm management will help to find a way to automate some of the office functions and you will be able to have more time to adequately handle the workload that you have on your plate.
Related Article: We’ve highlighted 6 essential technologies every law firm should invest in, so they can save time, and focus more on the bottom line.
5. Be Flexible
You need to be flexible when you have a number of tasks to complete. Don’t be so single-minded that you are not able to change around your schedule if the need arises. Although you may have intended to work on a particular task later in the day or week you might be able to successfully complete it earlier to avoid problems.
For example, if a client calls for an update you might have to take steps to gather information and answer questions that will take time away from your current tasks. If you have already updated the information you can more effectively answer the questions without having to spend excess time. Law firm management can provide guidelines that help employees better manage their time.
Related Article: There are several methods and practices lawyers have adopted over the years that have boosted the overall productivity of their firm. Read how the 80/20 rule can elevate the efficiency of your law firm.
Review your list of things you need to accomplish and prioritize them. Then, work on the most important ones first. That way, you’ll have them completed should something come up to take you away from your scheduled tasks. Some items on your list can often be pushed to another day and some might be better handled by someone else altogether. Go through the tasks on your list and make sure that you have pared your list down to those that are the most essential.
Good communication is one of the keys to reducing emergencies. When you adequately communicate with both clients and others in you work with, you’ll find that you set realistic expectations. If your client expects a call on a particular day you need to make sure that the call occurs, even if you don’t have any new information to provide. This eliminates some of the problems that can occur due to lack of communication. In some instances a simple message will satisfy a client without causing any further crisis. As a company, law firm management guidelines can be put into place that provides direction for how to handle communications.
Related Article: Lawyer spend on average over 6 hours a day reading and responding to emails. In order to reduce that number, we need to become better at managing our email inbox. Read our article “How Attorneys Can Better Manage Their Email Inbox”.
8. Be Proactive
The way to truly fireproof your law firm is to be proactive. Take care of potential problems before they get out of hand. When you can anticipate possible negative outcomes you are able to plan for them more effectively. You should be able to eliminate many of the “fires” in your office by being more proactive. The more you function behind the eight ball, the worse the situation becomes. Everyone needs to be on board in order to accomplish proactive circumstances company wide. Proper law firm management should help employees by setting up ways to work more efficiently.
9. Work Smarter, Not Harder
Working with fewer interruptions and without having to switch tasks is one of the best ways to increase productivity in the workplace. Most lawyers work long hours, often as a result of putting out fires during the regular workday. A Stanford University study found that working more hours in a day can actually decrease productivity and effectiveness. The findings indicate that people who worked a 60 hour week accomplished only about two-thirds of what was done in a typical 40 hour week.
Make the Most of the Time You Have
Work tends to expand to take up the amount of time we have available. For example, if you have one hour of time it is likely that the task you undertake will completely fill that hour. With this in mind, you can more effectively manage your time if you allow the tasks to be completed in smaller, more manageable chunks. Time management functions can often be assisted with improved technology.