Teaching Attorneys to Work Smarter and Use Their Time Wisely
Attorneys are among the most overworked professionals in the world, and that trend will continue as a new generation are taught that working 80 weeks is standard. We disagree. Just because you own a law firm does not mean you should become a "beast of burden." That is why Great Legal Marketing teaches time management for attorneys.
We believe that business owners should have more, not less, free time. After all, isn't that why you started your own business?! The freedom of being your own boss is meaningless if you slave your days away, answering emails and attending free consultations where no one signs a fee agreement.
Browse our frequently asked questions about time management for attorneys to discover how you can greatly improve your life using our simple, yet revolutionary, time management principles.
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Since I Graduated Law School I Have Worked 80 Hour Weeks. Will This Ever Change?
Far too many attorneys believe that to be good at what you do, you need to be a workaholic. They certainly seem right, because working hard often equates to being successful and respected. Most old-school attorneys believe that if you are not willing to sacrifice your life, family, and friends for the practice of law, you are not a good attorney.
Of course, that idea is rubbish. There is nothing noble in sacrificing your happiness just to be a lawyer. New Great Legal Marketing members are shocked to hear us say that working 10 hour days (even on weekends) is bad for your law practice. Our message is that working in your law firm less is better for your business than over-working. The health and mental benefits of working less outweigh the benefits of working 20 more hours a week.
Not convinced? Here are four reasons you should work less.
- Focusing Your Time Helps You Make More Money
You have to trust your office staff to do their jobs. If you can't trust them, get rid of them and hire people you can trust. If they are trustworthy people, but you find it difficult to let go of some tasks, you need to put your practice in perspective. You are the business owner, and you are responsible for making the most money possible. To do this efficiently, you should focus your time and energy on money-making tasks.
- Time Away From Your Law Firm is Time Well-Spent
When was the last time you shut your office door and spent some time thinking about your law firm? For some, this activity can seem like a time waster, but you should be dedicating part of your day or week to meditating on your law firm. Meditating like this will help you clear your thoughts and focus your energy on what matters in your law practice.
- Office Systems Should do Most of the Work for You
The technology to automate many office systems used to be unattainable for small businesses. That is not the case anymore. Many of your office processes can be and should be automated. Even some legal work can be automated our outsourced so you can spend your time on the work that is profitable and enjoyable.
- You Are the Only Person Who Will Respect Your Time
If you want to spend less time working, you are the only person who can make that happen. Clients will still call and demand to speak to you right away. Office staff will walk into your office and interrupt you. Potential clients will schedule appointments and cancel at the last minute. These time wasters will continue unless you put your foot down.
Any item on that list should be enough for you to think about how you are spending your time. Something as simple as automating your office processes can save you many hours each week. Even if you implement one of these items, you will be in a better position to lead your law firm.
Won't Working Less Mean I am Less Productive?
If I were speaking to teenagers, I would probably talk about the value of hard work. However, I am not speaking to teenagers, I am speaking to the most over-worked group of professionals in the world. When I talk to attorneys, I have to remind them, sometimes more than once, that adding stress to your life is not good for your business or your health.
Still, many attorneys are worried about how they are perceived by their peers. They don't want to be the attorney in the room that works the least. My thought is "who cares!" You may not be the hardest working attorney in the room, but you can still be making the most money. It may seem like a paradox, but it is the truth.
I don't walk into my office until after 11 am. I rarely stay later than 5 pm, and I never work weekends. There are many who would say "there is no way Ben can be making money living like that," but my practice is more profitable than ever. Plus, I have kept my law firm small. I have limited my crew to one other attorney and four support staff, and we are one of the only law firms handling ERISA disability claims in Virginia. I am also a father of nine, a soccer referee, and I run Great Legal Marketing.
Most would look at all my responsibilities and assume it is impossible to do what I do, while "working" as little as I do. The secret is that I protect my time. I don't take unscheduled phone calls, I don't keep email on my phone, and I refuse to sacrifice time with my family for work.
These ideas can work for you also. Implement one, or all, of the ideas I have listed here and you will see your life improve right away. Ignore what your peers may say, attorneys don't need to work 80 hours a week to make money, and they shouldn't work that much if they want to be happy.
- Focusing Your Time Helps You Make More Money
How Do I Tell My Clients That My Time Is Limited and I Can't Take Many Phone Calls?
Well, a good first step would be not to pick up the phone in the first place, unless you're sure that it's an important call. That's why they invented caller ID: with only a little effort, you can identify “must-take” from “can ignore” phone calls.
You can also invest in an administrative assistant, or make it a practice not to hand out your cell phone number to clients—or at least to lower-level clients who don't require 24-hour attention.
What you should do, though—and which too many lawyers don't do, for fear of offending their clients—is to calmly and courteously explain to the offending caller that your time is valuable and that every minute you spend on the phone is one less minute you can spend preparing his case. A reasonable client will not be offended by this explanation; in fact, he will probably be impressed that you guard your time so zealously, with his interests uppermost in your mind.
Another good strategy is to agree to talk to your needy clients, but only during certain times of the day, and only when the call has been scheduled in advance. When you make the appointment, you can tell your client that you only have five or ten minutes to talk—and when that limit approaches, you can explain that you have another call scheduled and that it would be unfair to the next client to cheat him of his phone time.
This is a time management problem. It's a known fact that lawyers who successfully manage their time are more successful attorneys and esteemed more highly by clients than lawyers who are constantly playing catch-up and showing up late for appointments.