Within the legal industry, keeping to deadlines is as important as ensuring the delivery of quality services to each client. The use of billable hours within the legal work drives home this point and, therefore, calls into action the need for time management skills for lawyers.
A lawyer’s time management of their billable hours depicts effectiveness and efficiency, especially in today’s global operating system, where multitasking across various tasks is impressive across industries. However, this may pose a problem for lawyers, even as such a lawyer seeks to manage both the internal work ethics of law and the external pressure of the modern pace of life. Here are some common time management mistakes so you can recognize and fix them.
The legal services industry is famous for its intense workload and strict time management. The existence of such things as billable hours in law is already quite substantive evidence supporting this view.
1. Being a Perfectionist at Everything
Being a legal professional means being trained to search for the tiniest imperfections and ensure everything is risk-free. This is a tremendous legal skill, but it creates a poor overall working (and living) strategy for lawyers, mainly when it concerns a lawyer’s time management. Some imperfections are unavoidable, and others are just not worth your time. You will have to accept these simple truths and manage your time according to priorities, size of the tasks, and urgency — because that’s how you can get more results.
2. Failing to Delegate
Another error in time management that lawyers make is the fear of delegating tasks. Legal professionals usually take everything on themselves and burn along with the deadlines. If you are working on a case you know from start to end, imagining someone else could be a match for this job is hard. However, they don’t have to be as good as you. They just need to be competent enough so that you can go on to something more urgent or in need of your expertise. Therefore, time management skills for lawyers are essential because finely tuned tasks that you can overview sound much better than pulling off dozens of clients simultaneously and wondering whether you will make it.
3. Not Using Technology to Boost Efficiency
The legal services industry is known for conservatism — both in life and at work. It’s mostly a stereotype, but one part is quite genuine — legal firms don’t trust modern technology, despite understanding that time management for lawyers is crucial. Many legal professionals are stuck with old-fashioned software that brings more pain than benefit, especially when ensuring a lawyer’s time management.
Time tracking for consultants still isn’t the most popular, and it can significantly improve efficiency. We’re not saying you should risk everything and rethink your working routine, but many small tools can be quickly adopted into your work routine and boost your productivity. For instance, we made Loio, our contract review add-in for Microsoft Word, just for that.
Using time management software for lawyers may just be the difference between effectively carrying out tasks and getting burnt out.
4. Always Getting Interrupted
Lawyers are born people-pleasers. They want to help and make sure every party is satisfied and good to go. This is a tremendous professional bias, but it might run amok if you let everybody distract you from work. How long has it been since you could sit for hours doing your research or paperwork without getting any calls, emails, or questions/requests from colleagues? Probably quite a long time ago. Only effective time management for lawyers can ensure their working time is used efficiently. Time management skill for lawyers ensures that they dedicate at least some time to working on their tasks with zero interruptions. Regularly save yourself from monotasking — and you’ll see how relaxed and focused you can be.
Only some people can afford to follow the advice, especially in these times of uncertainty. However, at least you can recognize whether you have these issues. Knowing is half the battle, even if it’s a battle for a lawyer’s time management.
5. Procrastinating Tedious Tasks
It is inherent in human nature to lay off seemingly complex tasks till much later while we tackle the less complicated ones. The strategy of handling official charges along the simple-hard continuum is defective and will ultimately scuttle lawyers’ time management practices. The legal profession is rigorous and thorough, requiring awareness and mindfulness in the daily discharge of duty. Hence, the best approach is to first handle the most complex tasks when the mind is at its most productive. By resolving complicated tasks earlier, lawyers can ease the burden off their shoulders, unclog their minds and position themselves for an effective and fulfilling day. Therefore, the timely resolution of complex tasks is a critical component of time management skills for lawyers in today’s society.
6. Underestimating the Time Required for a Task
The assumption that we will not run into complications in resolving a task is the bane of lawyers’ time mismanagement. We often assume that the time required to resolve similar functions in the past is the same time it would take today. Sometimes, we are even guilty of optimism bias when we feel that the lessons we will handle will take less time than the ones we have held in the past. Tintervening factors can mediate newer tasks and prolong the time required to resolve them. This is why you must give every job the priority it deserves and allocate ample time for it. Underestimation of time is antithetical to practical time management skills for lawyers, and such behavior could affect the reputation with new and existing clients.
Tips to Improve Time Management for Lawyers
Time mismanagement is an illusion that thrives on ignorance. With the proper knowledge and tips, you can quickly transition from time mismanagement to effective time management. Some proven time management tips can help overcome time management struggles.
a. Make your to-do list for the next day
As an attorney, you must be deliberate about your daily activities. You must plan your day, factoring in your scheduled meetings and other tasks earmarked for the day. Sincerely, a lawyer’s time management journey must begin by creating a to-do list for the next day. Having a list lets you assess your daily routines and clarify whether you are taking on too many tasks or faring just fine.
However, this does not end there; you must ensure that you act on the list religiously because time management for lawyers is a norm that must be upheld. The fulfillment of having completed a predetermined activity schedule motivates subsequent days’ plans. Admittedly, all days are not the same; there will be days when you will be saddled with much work, and ticking off every item on your list may be difficult.
b. Monitor time spent on each task
Sometimes, squandering much time on hitherto minute tasks is the root cause of time mismanagement. You can spend so much time doing so tiny that you eventually leave the more critical jobs undone. It is apt to say that this is one of the leading causes of lawyers’ time mismanagement.
Consequently, you must empirically scrutinize the time spent on each task to improve your efficiency. Influential lawyers are time conscious because time management for lawyers is a price that must be paid to sustain a good reputation. Essentially you will have to be ruthless with time. It is recommended that you spend more time on significant activities while reducing your time on minor activities.
c. Don’t rely solely on memory
Relying on your memory to keep track of your daily activities is an act of negligence on your part, and it betrays the professionalism expected of you as a lawyer. Your memory will eventually betray you because older information may gradually fade as you direct your memory to assimilate new information.
Keeping a journal of your daily activities is one of the time management tips lawyers must adopt. You can easily use a diary or a sticky note to jot down important details of your day. Since most smartphone devices come preinstalled with a note app, you can also pen down your daily activities. Writing is one of the time management skills for lawyers, and it should be used in keeping updated notes of activities.
Why Is Time Management Important?
Time management is intertwined with the ethics of diligence, which is expected of lawyers in most jurisdictions. The legal profession’s ethics mandates lawyers to represent clients’ interests effectively, and lack of time management may impede access to critical information, which could prove decisive in the litigation process. Deadlines must be met regarding court cases, and the inability to cope with the following deadlines could jeopardize lawyer-client relationships in both the tort and the long run.
Also, it is worthy of note that lawyers’ time management is directly connected to productivity and profitability. Hence time management can be financially rewarding for lawyers. Consequently, developing time management skills for lawyers contributes to attaining a long and fulfilling career.
Time management for lawyers is a career-saving skill that must be mastered right from the onset and cultivated throughout one’s legal career. Regardless of the experience level of an attorney, the benefit of time management skills for lawyers will ultimately make or mar your career. Time management is the key to optimizing your career trajectory and prospects, and it is also the solution to salvaging a plummeting reputation. The tips listed above will be your compass in navigating your way toward time mastery and success in the legal profession.