Lawyers usually have too much on their plate. You probably have to draw up a legal document, appear in court, mediate disputes, research, and gather evidence, all in one day. Tasks can add up quickly and become overwhelming.
We wouldn’t want to see you looking clumsy because of time constraints. This article provides 10 proven time management tips to help you prioritize tasks and keep clients happy.
There are over 1.3 million lawyers in the United States, serving a population of over 327 million. That means there is one attorney for every 240 people.
So, there is no shortage of lawyers in the US, and clients won’t hesitate to look for better services if unsatisfied. Therefore, you need to manage your time well to be at the top of your game.
Why is Time Management Important for Lawyers?
Good time management enables you to work efficiently, provide high-quality work and save time all at once.
Additionally, it can help you get some extra income. Consider this: a lawyer charges an hourly rate of around $200. They promise to finish preparing for a case in an hour, only to use an extra two hours because they probably got distracted or did not prioritize.
In a year, that lawyer loses upwards of $20,800. And not to mention, your hourly rate is probably even higher than $200. So, time-wasting, like in any other field translates to losing money. You truly understand the saying – “Time is money” when you understand how important time management really is.
10 Time Management Tips for Lawyers
Now that you know why time management for lawyers is essential, it’s time to get into the fine details of tips that will help you to do more in less time.
1. The Eisenhower Matrix Helps Lawyers to Prioritize
One of the most popular prioritization techniques created by Dwight D. Eisenhower, former US president – the time management matrix. This principle focuses on urgency and importance when prioritizing a task. The matrix has four quadrants that spread out as shown below:
The idea is simple. Organizing your clients or cases in those boxes helps you address the most pressing issues first. Imagine you have these four clients:
- A woman who wants to dissolve a business by the end of the week
- A company that needs to revise its legal documents
- A man who needs help with legal research
- A local school with multiple cases of workplace harassment
Which clients will go to which quadrants?
Note: the urgency and importance will differ from person to person and it strongly depends on the context as well. The way we organized this matrix is just used as an example.
In our opinion, the local school’s case is urgent and important. Therefore, you should handle it first because harassment is a sensitive matter that needs immediate attention. In addition, you’ll be directly benefiting the locals.
The woman seeking business dissolution comes second (urgent but not important). She had a deadline which gives the entire issue a sense of urgency.
After that, deal with the company that needs legal document revision (not urgent but important). Although the company’s agenda is important, they probably have an extensive window spanning a couple of weeks. The management doesn’t expect the job to end in a few hours. It is recommended to schedule all not urgent but important tasks, so you perhaps could schedule in your calendar when exactly you are going to do this task.
Finally, attend to the man who needs research assistance. Such task in our opinion is neither urgent nor important, so, doing it last or delegating someone else to do it for you is the best choice.
If the urgent and important task is unpleasant, remember to eat the frog. Simply put, do that unpleasant task first.
2. Set Deadlines
Setting deadlines even for the smallest tasks could be beneficial. Many lawyers we have talked to have these periods when there is just so much work it is almost impossible to handle. This usually happens because all the small tasks are constantly left behind and when a time comes, you have to do them all at once.
One of the biggest parts of time management that people miss is that it is not only about being the most efficient. It is also about prioritizing and making sure every task will be done at a specific time, so such clusters of multiple tasks don’t come at you at the same time.
3. Employ the Pomodoro Technique
According to Bryan Collins, a former Forbes writer, the Pomodoro technique helps avoid distractions while working on a project. Unfortunately, many lawyers are prone to distraction. You could be sitting at your office desk preparing a case, only for your phone to ring multiple times for inquiries.
The Pomodoro technique helps set up breaks and work for a significant period without interruption. For example, aim to bury your head into a task for 25 minutes and only lift it when the session ends. It is not as easy as it looks. Personally, when I first tried it, I looked at my phone every time there were 12 minutes left. 12 minutes! That is absurd. However, I got better and better, and now a full 25-minute Pomodoro is nothing for me. Learn to focus.
The Pomodoro technique suggests taking 5-minute breaks between each session.
4. Don’t Overcommit
Many lawyers find it difficult to say no, maybe because they think they can finish everything in good time. However, that doesn’t work out because adrenaline levels drop, and the brain becomes exhausted. As a result, you might fail to accomplish a particular task, which rubs clients the wrong way.
So, learn to say no. Don’t hesitate to inform prospective clients that you can’t handle assignments, say, for the next three weeks. That will help you work with less pressure. Once you’re free, you can reopen your doors and accept more tasks.
5. Create a Kanban Board
The Kanban helps you manage your work sessions well. Here is how it works:
You sort your task into one column, each representing a stage in the current activity.
Here is an example in action:
- Start by writing tasks on cards and sorting the cards into columns. Each card represents a work item, for example, ‘Researching on Mrs. X’s case’ or ‘Preparing the Defence for Mr. X.’
- The columns can have the following labels: ‘To Do,’ ‘In progress,’ ‘Needs revision,’ ‘Done.’
- So, if you haven’t started the tasks, they all go into the ‘To Do’ list. When you begin working on any, you move the card into the ‘In progress’ column, and once you finish it, you move it to the ‘Done’ column.
Note that you, as a lawyer, can use a different Kanban board for each client. Create multiple Kanban boards and list all the tasks you need to do for that specific client. This way you will be able to easily track the progress for each of your client.
Note that the Kanban method works great when tasks are a bit more specific, try to create specific tasks, and break down bigger ones.
6. Take Decompression Breaks
Breaks are essential for all professionals, lawyers included. Therefore, take considerable breaks to reenergize.
Ensure your breaks are constructive. For example, you can read your favorite book, or listen to a relaxing podcast or music. Exercising also works wonders. And yes, I’m talking about exercising in the office. Doing some stretches, lunges, and moving your joints a bit gets your blood flowing. Hopefully, while doing so you will not think about work, and afterward will be much more focused.
Having that in mind, don’t overuse it as well. Set a timer, so you don’t spend 30-minutes just listening to a Joe Rogan – Ben Shapiro podcast episode.
7. Learn to Delegate
Delegating is an excellent way to clear up your schedule and spend your time where it actually matters. Redirect some cases to your attorney friends or junior lawyers once the tasks start piling up.
8. Avoid Multitasking
For many lawyers, multitasking is a somewhat inherent attribute. Unfortunately, it doesn’t serve the purpose of killing two birds with one stone. Instead, it makes you inefficient because you won’t pay attention to the details of each task. In the end, you’ll have reduced the quality of your work and you will feel drained.
So, focus on one matter and let it rest before you jump into the next.
9. Distractions are the Worst
Distractions affect your productivity immensely. Getting back into focus mode can take up to 15 minutes, each distraction is detrimental. We’re talking about social media notifications that keep buzzing on your phone or colleagues who want to talk about the latest and hottest news event in town.
Identify the items that distract you and put them in one place where you can’t see them while working. Your phone, for example, could go into the cabinet or behind your laptop’s screen – works wonders. For distracting colleagues, you will have to put your foot down and communicate to them clearly when you are busy.
10. Take Full Advantage of Technology
Technology has revolutionized law and its practice, and many apps are designed to improve your professional life. Take advantage of those platforms to eliminate unnecessary work and speed up manual processes.
For example, you can use the Clio app, which helps you run your entire practice in one place. The app enables you to create a new matter, view client information, and track time. Apart from Clio, you can find other apps to improve your productivity.
There you have it, 10 management tips for lawyers. Now, apply the tips and see which ones work for you. Combining some should give you the best results.
After a few weeks, your focus and ability to prioritize efficiently and effectively should improve.