As lawyers, we eat what we kill in terms of billable hours and work performed. We can bring in as many clients as we like, but if we can’t get the job done then nobody gets paid.
For years, I’d find myself scrambling around during the day for time to get work done. My bankruptcy clients would come in for a consultation and petition signing appointments. Court calendars were never in my control. Emails and voicemail messages piled up, demanding immediate attention.
I’d come into the office absurdly early or remain until long after the building’s cleaning staff had passed through to empty the trash cans.
I finally realized it couldn’t go on forever. So I set up this fairly simple routine to help keep me out of the weeds.
Calendar Rules. Each day contained discrete times when I would check email, get work done, and return phone calls. Those times could be moved only by a court calendar, and my staff knew that they weren’t allowed to toy with those blocks – ever.
Client Lock-Down. I made sure that I would see clients for only a specific reason on particular days of the week. Bankruptcy signings, for example, took place on Mondays. Consultations were on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesday was reserved for appointments with existing clients. This allows me to keep my head in one mental space for a longer period of time, which helps with mental clarity.
Use The Phone. I hate the phone. It’s a vile creature, sapping time and energy when it rings to interrupt my day. But as an outgoing mechanism, it’s perfect. You can spend hours going back-and-forth with a client by email, or 10 minutes by phone. Bonus points for getting clients to set up appointments for these phone chats so you can group them together.
Close Your Door. When the door’s closed, people know better than the walk in (I might throw my stapler at them). Fewer interruptions means getting more done.
Time Chunk. If I’ve got bankruptcy petitions to review, I do them all at once. As with my client lock-down, it keeps me on track.
Scan Everything. The paperless office is a wonderful thing, particularly because having everything on my computer means I don’t need to spend time scrambling for stray bits of information. A few minutes saved here and there makes for big time savings over the long-run.
Your productivity gains may vary, but these are good ones to use as a starting point. Remember, you’ve got to move your mindset and habits little by little in order to make a change that will help your productivity in the long-run.
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