There really aren’t enough hours in the day for most attorneys. They work long hours, spend more hours than they want on administrative work, and too much of their work spills over to the next day … and the next day and the next day.
As a busy attorney, what can you do to find more time in your workday? How can you get more done in a day without working longer? There are human-facing and tech-facing solutions to your time management frustrations, and you can easily integrate them into your practice. You will need to adjust how you work, though.
You can easily and immediately manage time and work by hiring a full-time, part-time, or as-needed paralegal or practice manager. Doing so frees you up to practice the law and serve your clients all the more.
But how do you know who to hire? Should they be full-time, part-time, or as-needed? And what should their skill set be? They’ll need a legal and/or office background, but what else?
This course of action opens up many questions, and therefore more work. So what's the best way to think about hiring additional support at your law firm in the shortest amount of time? We’ve created a brief guide to help you think this through:
First, determine the support your practice can afford. Given the work responsibilities an additional staff person will assume, how many billable hours per month do you expect to gain back? Would that new-found time and income make up enough of the difference spent on a new employee? Or if workflow and therefore income vary at different points during the year, is engaging an as-needed paralegal the most economical solution? To contextualize the costs of hiring an additional staff person, review the National Association of Legal Assistant’s Utilization and Compensation Report, which will give you an informed sense of the work of full-time paralegals and their average compensations.
Second, determine how much support your practice needs. Even if you can afford to hire a full-time staff person, do you need one? We bet it’s the office-related and administrative work that’s zapping your time away: creating invoices, following up on payments, managing your website and digital marketing efforts, interviewing new clients in some cases, etc. As such, the amount of work and time needed to complete it will inform the sort of worker you’ll need.
Lastly, factor in how office life, work routines, and tech usage will need to be updated to accommodate a new staff person. In normal times, this entails expenses if the new staff person won’t be working remotely. Office supplies usage will increase. Utility usage will increase. And they’ll need a computer, of course. Additionally, profiles on your firm’s technology platforms will need to be updated to give a new staff person access—and the cost of that will need to be factored in. Luckily, platforms like SimpleLaw provide one free paralegal or legal secretary profile, so hiring an additional staff member can be seamless tech-wise.
Each practice is unique in its needs. These considerations help you determine the best option with as few surprises as possible.
Creating Work Boundaries
Managing your time and work includes managing when you aren’t working. Productivity and energy are connected, and compartmentalizing when and where you work and don’t work are valuable for resting your mind to ready it for the next set of tasks.
This of course entails setting boundaries on the weekends. Having those two days off is enough to stave off the exhausted lull (the first sign of a quickly approaching burn-out) we’ve all felt when we’ve overworked ourselves. In this way, time away from your work prepares you to work with more energy in the coming days.
And this also entails setting boundaries on work hours and the amount of time you spend on individual tasks during the workday. This is especially true with so many of us working remotely and the work always being present. Setting a boundary on when you will leave "the office" is important for compartmentalizing when you work and do not work during your average day. And setting a boundary or time limit on tasks can help you refresh your mind for when you return to the task later on.
These boundaries are up to your discretion. Ultimately, though, they should help you manage your time to complete work more effectively.
Exploring Legal Tech Options
Case and practice management software makes it easier for lawyers to do more with their days. Its features increase productivity and communication. Let’s break down some of those features and how they can help you manage time and work.
Automatic Invoicing: Case and practice management software is often able to generate invoices for your clients and make them immediately visible to your clients. An invoice's details are taken from the software’s time tracking feature and recorded expenses, which are noted as billable. Platforms like SimpleLaw allow you to choose which time and cost entries are billable, giving you insight into how much of your time is not billable… and where you’re spending it.
Online Communication: Case and practice management software also makes it simple for you and your clients to exchange information and schedule meetings. Back-and-forth communication and communication delays (because of missed calls or emails) are a thing of the past.
Client Portals: Case and practice management software like SimpleLaw provides clients access to the status of their case, 24/7. Client portals like SimpleLaw’s lets the client log in at anytime to see the latest notes on their matter, review and submit documents, request appointments, review invoices, and pay them online. Talk about a time saver. The result? Happier clients and more efficiency for you.
You can review legal tech providers on websites like Lawyerist, Attorney at Work, and Capterra, and you can check out our Buyer’s Guide to Legal Tech as well. Finding the right provider can be a maze, but these resources are your maps.
Now, you’ve got work to do and time to manage with the help of these ideas. See how much more productive you can be!