Time Management for Attorneys

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following is an excerpt from Teresa Matich, Five Time Management Tips for Lawyers, Law Technology Today (Dec 5, 2016).

Better allotting their time is an area where many lawyers can improve. The recently released Legal Trends Report analyzed work habits of over 40,000 lawyers and found that they spend only 2.2 hours of their time on billable work—that’s…28% of a modest eight-hour workday, and even less if you’re working more.

Practice the Basics of Time Management
[T]here’s no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity. Ultimately, it comes down to finding the right techniques and toolsets that complement your personal approach to work.

Start by taking stock of how you spend your days. [N]ote where your time goes for a week or so, and jot down any patterns you see. Make to-do lists…get your calendar in order. Know how (and when) to say “no” to tasks that aren’t helpful for your career or your firm.

Use Apps
Android and Apple each have about 2 million apps on offer at the moment. Some of the more obvious options include Fastcase (for faster legal research) or TrialPad (for paperless trial presentations), but it’s worth going beyond apps designed specifically for lawyers.

Minimize Cost of Task-Switching
Much has been said about the dangers of multi-tasking, but when you’re a busy lawyer…it might still seem necessary. To combat this, try to focus on one thing at a time while taking care to minimize the cost of task-switching.

[T]ry focusing on one task for an extended period of time. If you absolutely cannot focus on just one thing at a time, try to group similar tasks together, as there will be a lower cost for switching between them.

Use a Timer
The Pomodoro method, created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, forces you to focus on one task for a set period of time…while taking frequent breaks to avoid mental fatigue.

  • Pick a task
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes
  • Focus on that task—and only that task—for the entire 25 minutes
  • Take a five minute break when the timer goes off
  • Repeat as needed (take a longer break if you’re doing three to four cycles in a row)

The 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule…suggests that roughly 20 percent of your actions will be responsible for 80 percent of value created. Try to give more attention to the time you spend on billable work. When you’re prioritizing tasks, make sure you’re actually putting billable work first.

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