Time is More than Money: 7 Time Management Tips for New Lawyers
Give your legal career a head start with these tips,tricks, techniques and new innovative software for lawyers.
The concept that “time is money” speaks volumes for professionals who are paid for billable time. The long-term career potential for new attorneys and the overall success of law firms is built on the cornerstones of billable hours.
However, countless hours can quickly seep through the cracks day after day unless it is managed efficiently and effectively. Work is constantly plagued by regular interruptions, general disorganization, using outdated types of legal software, and by sitting through meetings that could have been covered in an email. These are all costing us valuable time and money at the end of the day.
Today, there are so many different software solutions for lawyers, concepts, tricks to the trade, and principles that you are trying to grasp – especially with the administrative aspect of your job. Here are seven solid time management tips that can help you to save time, boost productivity and skillfully manage your billable hours along the way.
1. Understand the 80/20 Rule
What exactly is the 80/20 rule and how does it apply to time management for new lawyers? This efficiency principle, which is also referred to as the Pareto Principle, applies to all aspects of business – not just the legal industry. The concept of this rule is based on the idea that nearly 20% of actions are responsible for 80% of the results. According to Law Technology Today, the average lawyer only spends 28% (close to 2 hours & 15 minutes) of a workday on billable tasks and projects.
The key to mastering the 80/20 rule to improve time management is to pay close attention to time spent on billable tasks. Keep your billable work as a top priority each day and allow everything else to fall behind it. Since you have to account for each billable minute, this will also allow you to easily stay on top of how your time adds up.
2. Use an Assortment of Mobile Applications
There were over 149.3 billion mobile application downloads in 2016 alone, according to Statista. The same report shows that more than 2.8 million and 2.8 billion applications were available for download in the Google Play and Apple App stores, respectively. With those types of facts and figures, it is clear that there is a plethora of mobile apps that can help boost productivity while saving time consumption.
For instance, you can save a considerable amount of time conducting quality legal research with the assistance of such applications as Fastcase or even one of the many effective applications that specialize in paperless trial presentations. Even a contact extraction or business card reader can come in handy for the attorney who is always collecting leads and on the go.
Related article: There are several different types of legal software and tech on the market that can make your life as an attorney much easier. Read our 6 Essential Investments in Technology and Software for Lawyers.
3. Time Your Tasks and Modify Accordingly
You may not think highly of the idea of timing everything that you do throughout the day. However, since you are already on the clock, it might serve as a solid strategy for boosting your efficiency to the next level. Whether you are typing a standard legal document, sending a memo, recording contact information from a recent contact or conducting a client consultation, use a stopwatch and notebook to log the time spent on everything each day for an entire week. After the week is over, review the log thoroughly and analyze your results.
You will more than likely realize that you spend more time doing certain tasks each day than you think. This type of research can make it easy to identify areas of improvement that could immediately save a considerable amount of time without compromising your overall productivity.
4. Schedule Breaks with the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique proves that you can manage your entire day – including your break schedule – with a kitchen timer. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the technique requires you to set your timer in 25-minute increments for individual tasks. Once the timer starts to ring or buzz, take a 3-5 minute break before setting the timer again for another 25-minute increment. Once you have completed four rounds of these increments and breaks, you can take an extended break of up to 30 minutes.
The key to making this technique work for you is to spend your time working through a list of tasks and projects each day. Essentially, you are racing against the clock to see just how many of those tasks you can cross off of your list within those 25-minute increments. Before you realize it, your overall productivity levels will rise, even with such a high frequency of short breaks throughout the day.
5. Manage Your Email Inbox Cautiously
A major time trap for any attorney – especially new and inexperienced attorneys – is the email inbox. From inter-office messages and courtroom correspondence, to client communication and settlement offers, your inbox messages can pile up quickly and abundantly throughout the day. If you pay too much attention to your inbox by addressing each individual email as soon as it arrives, you will burn through a considerable amount of time on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Entrepreneur magazine recommends closing your email program whenever you are not using it or at least modifying your notification settings to avoid beeps and alerts for each incoming message. The most efficient approach to take when managing your email is to schedule specific time blocks each day for checking and responding to your emails. You could even go as far as scheduling appointments in your Microsoft Outlook calendar each day specifically for email management.
Another tip to consider is creating an automated email response identifying the specific time period in which you will check and respond to your emails. Doing so will educate those who send you messages frequently, encouraging them to adjust their own schedules accordingly.
Related article: According to the Huffington Post, American workers spend on average 13 hours a week checking their inbox. That could easily be double for most lawyers. Read How to Better Manage your Inbox for Time Savings.
6. Master the Art of Delegation
In addition to searching for ways to become efficient with your own workload, you can save even more time by helping other people to manage their own. The last thing that you want to do is bear the substantial burden of your workload all by yourself – especially if you have a team of fellow associates, paralegals and other staff members within your firm that are ready to chip in and help you carry it.
Take the necessary steps to master the art of delegation. Determine who is the most qualified at executing specific tasks and assignments – perhaps the tasks that take you a considerable amount of time to complete yourself. Getting their assistance in those areas will ensure that you get the necessary results and overall productivity while sharing and spreading the overall responsibility.
7. Always Research New Software for Lawyers Built to Increase Productivity
You could have the fastest computer on the market, but that could mean nothing if you don’t have the right types of legal software running on it. For every task you do on your computer, there is likely a new piece of software on the market that can shave valuable minutes off of your workday. That’s why it is always worthwhile to check out the different innovative types of software for lawyers that are constantly being introduced.
You can invest in plugins that allow you to see when clients have read your e-mails; apps that allow you to send and sign .pdf files over the phone; and legal document assembly software that helps you to create legal documents and other office correspondence in half the time.
Before investing in new software, you should do a self-assessment. When working with tech in your office, what do you spend the most time on? Let’s say you find that you spend an average of 4 hours per day writing legal forms and documents. By refining your process, investing in a word processor tailored to the legal profession, you could very well find that you would save an additional hour creating your legal documents. That would then give you an additional 5 hours a week that can be spent trying to beat rush hour traffic, with your family, or focused on other client work.
By following these examples, you can better optimize your workflow. With effective time management skills, work performance is increased as does your own quality of life. You owe it to yourself to get your career started on the right foot. Read more tips on new software for lawyers, legal writing tips and more in the Infoware blog.