Improve workflow by creating a Lawyer task list
Every minute of a lawyer’s day is valuable. When an attorney is weighed down by several inefficiencies, the result can be fewer billable hours, and far more hours spent in the office. With the right approach and preparation, lawyers can start shaving valuable hours off of their work week.
In a recent poll of 220 legal professionals, 4 in 5 lawyers struggle to be productive during the day. Every lawyer needs to spend some time taking care of mundane tasks and administrative functions, but these should be kept to a minimum. One of the most important things that can improve productivity is set yourself up for success by working from a “lawyer to-do list”.
Every morning usually starts with a flurry of activity. There may not even be time to spend creating a lawyer task list. For this reason, it is better to get organized the night before. At the end of the day, take some time to review your schedule for the next day and make a to-do list.
Preparing for Tomorrow
There are a few things a lawyer can do to prepare for the next day of work. Don’t leave the office with a messy desk. Go through anything that has been left out, review it, and determine where it belongs.
Create a system that allows you to prioritize files. Files that require some type of work should be kept in one area so that you can easily find them. Place all other files back where they belong. You might also have an incoming and outgoing mail file. Check these on a daily basis and make sure they are properly reviewed before you leave for the night.
Review any phone messages that you didn’t yet return and add them to your lawyer to-do list. If you have any tasks that can be delegated, make a separate list of these items along with any necessary documents.
Related Article: Lawyers can spend around 60% of their workday checking emails. Read how you can better manage your inbox so you can become more productive.
Following a Lawyer To-Do List
An average to-do list doesn’t actually get you too far. Lawyers need better systems in place for making and following schedules. A lawyer to-do list is one way to accomplish important tasks. The best way to create the list is at the end of the previous day. That way you can review your schedule and make sure that you are ready for the day to begin.
A well-planned lawyer to-do list includes every task that you intend to complete. You can take a look at the list and consolidate anything that can be merged. For example, if you have to make copies of two contracts, visit the copy room only one time rather than twice. While it may seem insignificant, even small amounts of time can add up quickly.
Avoid wasting time whenever possible. Is there an administrative assistant available to handle copies? If so, take a few minutes to gather the items that need copying and provide them to the assistant in the morning. This allows plenty of time to get the copies back and you saved some time by not having to make the copies yourself.
This is just one example, but there are probably many such tasks in your office that could be handled more efficiently. If you have any tasks that you couldn’t finish from the day before you need to add those to the next day’s list.
Sometimes you may find that you’re putting off certain tasks and they keep getting pushed to the next day. If so, these may be jobs that can be eliminated or delegated to office personnel. If you procrastinate on some tasks it may be because you don’t like doing them or because you aren’t proficient at them. This can be true of some repetitive administrative jobs that you may not be equipped to handle. There may be a better way to handle these functions.
Being Organized Takes Planning
Better organization begins with improved planning. Avoid doing things at the last minute. Not only do they tend to take longer, but there is a greater risk of inaccuracy. If you review your lawyer to-do list one day in advance you will have a better idea of what to expect throughout the day. This allows you to be better prepared for everything that will happen.
If you have some tasks that can be consolidated you should try to do so. You’ll also want to better plan your daily schedule. An hourly plan is helpful because you can see immediately if you are getting behind. Then you can make the necessary adjustments to try to improve your performance.
Become more accountable for your time, not just on client billable items but also on routine functions. Act as though every hour of your time is important, because it is. The more efficient you are the better your time in the office will be spent.
Related Article: The best way to increase overall efficiency in your law firm is by having a good plan in place. Read our “Blueprint for Law Firm Efficiency” here.
Prepare for Your Meetings
Meetings can take up a lot of your day. They are often less productive than they should be. Review your meeting schedule on a weekly basis and plan accordingly. It is generally thought that people are most productive in the morning. If this is true for you, avoid scheduling meetings during this time. Instead, schedule them in the afternoon so you can keep your mornings free to complete other important tasks.
Prepare for meetings by creating agendas. An agenda ensures that the meeting covers everything necessary and at the same time keeps it on topic. You don’t need to spend extra time in the meeting due to a disorganized meeting or the lack of an agenda. You should create an agenda for online or phone meetings as well. Agendas can be made at least a day in advance and sent out to the meeting participants ahead of time. Then, follow the agenda during the meeting to keep it on track.
By making a lawyer to-do list the night before you will be ready to step into the office the next day with confidence. You won’t have to start your day spending time figuring out what has to be done because it will be all outlined for you.
Best of all, the list doesn’t take long to create or to prioritize and you can leave the office feeling as though you accomplished something. You won’t wake up in the middle of the night wondering whether you forgot to take care of an important issue. Every day can be started and completed like a well-oiled machine if you follow these simple tips.
There are so many ways the modern lawyer can optimize their workflow in order to make the most out of their billable hours. Read more tips and techniques to improve your work/life balance in the Infoware blog and read about how our suite of legal software is changing the way lawyers create their legal documents.