You may be a wizard in the courtroom, but understanding how to master time as a lawyer is the key to a long and profitable career. So much of our days are spent mired in details that it can be hard to find the time you need to get everything done. Understanding good time management is how busy lawyers stay successful lawyers, even as their practice grows.
To help, we’ve created this handy time management guide for lawyers. We’ll show you how to manage important tasks, reduce less important tasks, and maximize your billable hours.
Even the most daunting tasks can be easily managed by determining their priority, and then breaking them into more manageable chunks. While this may seem rudimentary, it’s one of the most overlooked time management tactics for lawyers at every stage in their careers.
If you spend time each day briefly analyzing the tasks on your plate, you can generally determine which needs to be accomplished first. We recommend compiling your day into a to-do list, and then tackling your highest-priority tasks at the time of day when you are your most productive.
Every lawyer has a slightly different peak productivity schedule. You may have noticed in law school that you worked better in the afternoons than early morning, or vice versa. Syracuse University says that you should manage your time around that schedule: “Structure your most intellectually demanding tasks for when you’re feeling the most awake and energetic while leaving smaller managerial tasks for times when your brain is in an autopilot mode.”
We recommend breaking your tasks down into manageable chunks, and then arranging those chunks in a way that maximizes your productivity.
Most brains work best when they can focus on one task at a time. This can also be true for a specific TYPE of task. For many lawyers, segmenting their day around a specific type of task can be a very effective time management tactic.
Time blocking is a time management technique that involves dividing the day into specific blocks of time and assigning specific tasks to each block. For lawyers, time blocking can help
- prioritize tasks
- manage their workload
- increase productivity
by focusing on one task at a time.
For example, a lawyer might block off the morning for court appearances, the early afternoon for client meetings, and the late afternoon for document review and drafting. Perhaps Thursday afternoons are devoted to phone calls and Friday after lunch to billing.
By structuring their day in this way, the lawyer can ensure that they are making the most efficient use of their time and achieving their goals.
You wouldn’t walk into court without a plan. And you wouldn’t head into a client meeting without reviewing your case notes. One of the best ways to improve time management skills as a lawyer is to get in the habit of planning your day in advance.
Try to set aside time every day to plot out the following day. The to-do list we mentioned above can be completed before you shut out the lights on the previous day. While we can’t predict everything, and while the unexpected will definitely occur sometimes, you’ll have more room in your calendar for when it does.
Try to set aside time for long-range planning and goal setting, as well. You know how you’d like your career as a lawyer to go, so make sure you are working on your plan to get there. Time spent on planning will always pay off, whether short or long-term.
Automating Mundane Tasks
There are aspects of practice management that you don’t have to complete yourself. If you spend hours scheduling client meetings, for example, there are tools that can handle that for you. Automation and outsourcing are some of our favorite time management tips for lawyers.
Ernie the Attorney can show you how to optimize paperless workflows and utilize automation to allow you to manage your time better. There is a range of programs to choose from to help you master time as a lawyer, decreasing stress and maximizing your enjoyment of life.