A recent report found that lawyers spend 48% of their work day on administrative tasks. Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate all that nonbillable time, but better organization can make a significant impact on your productivity. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Organize your desk. Looking at a messy desk can cause stress even if you think you know where everything is located. Get rid of the clutter. Use a tiered file holder that can sit on your desk to keep only the most important active files on your desk. Limit personal items and office supplies. Designate a physical inbox for incoming papers to reside.
- Purge your paper. Paper is one of the hardest things to organize. Start by making individual piles for what you must act on right away, what needs to be readily accessible, and what can be filed, scanned, put into storage or shredded. Scan and retain digital copies to the greatest extent possible. Once it’s cleaned up and put away, resolve to do this at least weekly so it doesn’t pile up again.
- Reduce interruptions. The same report showed that 25% of legal professionals are interrupted more than 10 times per day, and 30% are interrupted between 6 and 10 times per day. Research shows that resuming work after being interrupted by an unrelated task takes an average of 23 minutes. That means you could easily be losing several hours of time every day just in interruptions. Establish guidelines about when you will take a client call or talk with staff. When it comes to email, designate certain time periods throughout the day to check and respond to email.
- Evaluate your systems and processes. You must have a way to keep track of your work, deadlines, client communications, expenses, billing and receivables. There are many software options available to help, but whatever you use, evaluate it periodically to make sure it is still working for you. As your firm grows, you may need to upgrade your systems.
- Delegate. Everyone in your office should be making the highest and best use of their time. That means learning to effectively delegate. You might be great at handling administrative tasks, but as a lawyer that is not the best use of your time. In the same way, you might be a great lawyer, but you shouldn’t necessarily handle every case yourself. Although you must supervise all work in your office, there may be others who have the skills and time to do the work, so you can focus on the tasks you can’t delegate.
The new year is a great time to commit to making changes that will save you time and help your law practice be more profitable – but really you can make this same commitment any time of year.
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