Legal professionals have a lot of information, tasks, and responsibilities to manage day-to-day, hour-by-hour, and minute-by-minute. Most successful professionals will say that legal time tracking software is paramount to staying productive and on top of things, but this is just one of many time management methods legal professionals can employ.
Why Is Time Management for Lawyers Important?
Time management for lawyers is important because of the benefits it brings to law firms. Properly managing time allows attorneys to stay productive, delegate tasks when necessary, create effective workflows, and — the most lucrative part — get paid accordingly.
10 Time Management for Lawyers Best Practices
Classic time management techniques and eliminating distractions are essential for legal professionals. Practicing law is like having multiple jobs with different bosses (the clients), priorities, and schedules. It makes time management a bit more difficult since every day — albeit, every minute — can change from the next. Getting into a consistent work rhythm may be hard, but it’s not impossible.
Below are time management tips that legal professionals can leverage to create a rhythm and be more productive:
1. Set Goals
Goals provide focus, a destination. Goals help provide clarity on where the firm is headed and how to best manage time and resources to get there. By setting goals, law firms are able to identify what is worth spending time on and what is best saved for a later time.
It can be difficult to determine which tasks to conquer first, especially when a flood of tasks all seem equally urgent. Ask these questions to help determine priority:
- Why is this task being done?
- How long will this task take to complete?
- When does this task need to be completed?
- How does this task help achieve the set goals?
Answering these questions should help prioritize tasks so the most important tasks are done first.
With prioritizing comes the possibility of procrastination. Don’t put off tasks. Remember that the best time to do something is usually now, not later.
3. Create Task Lists
Time management for lawyers is, at the most basic level, organization. A to-do or task list is an easy way to break down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Trying to remember everything mentally or across various sticky notes will inevitably lead to disaster. Just keep a simple daily, weekly, or monthly list of tasks that are prioritized to stay on track.
4. Establish a Schedule
A schedule helps prevent the misdirection of time and tasks. Legal professionals should decide if they are more productive early in the day or later in the afternoon or evening. A morning person should schedule high value tasks at that time. However, those with creativity that picks up as the sun sets, schedule those tasks then. Down time can be scheduled for less important items such as email or returning calls. Understand which rhythm fits best and schedule accordingly.
5. Tackle One Task at a Time
Most people actually spend more time on tasks when multitasking, according to research by the American Psychological Association. Multitasking can also reduce work quality as well. If there are multiple tasks to be done in quick succession, the research shows to group the tasks together by similarity. This approach minimizes the time spent switching between tasks and promotes better time management.
6. Use Legal Time Tracking Software
Not only can legal time tracking software increase firm productivity and efficiency, it can also help avoid costly billing mistakes. Digital time tracking is a game-changer for law firms looking to implement structured workflows into their everyday task management systems. The advantages of digital time tracking software include revealing inefficiencies, improving billing accuracy, and numerous other benefits directly impacting firm revenue and efficiency.
7. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions break concentration, lower productivity, and create a barrier to completing important tasks. And perhaps worst of all, distractions add to stress levels. Identify what distractions keep you from accomplishing core tasks and eliminate them. Use phone and computer settings to limit notifications during core hours of the day to be as productive as possible. Take control of these intrusions to maximize efficiency.
8. Take Periodic Breaks
While productivity is a focus, brains still need rest periods between tasks. If lawyers don’t take breaks, they’ll burn out more quickly. According to multiple studies on the efficacy of breaks on productivity, taking breaks gives the brain valuable time to rest and recharge. Without breaks, the brain wears out faster and takes longer to complete tasks.
Breaks are an essential component to effective time management for lawyers. Squeeze in short breaks between work by taking a five minute break every hour or so to rest. Give ample time for lunch to refuel both mind and body. This goes for both daily tasks and a healthy overall work-life balance.
9. Learn to Say “No”
Every high achiever will preach mastering the art of saying “no” to things that are not a priority. For lawyers, this skill is vital to maintaining control over their firm’s priorities. To learn how to say “no” effectively, legal professionals can start by prioritizing their firm’s goals. Understanding what truly matters allows them to make informed decisions about where to invest their time and energy.
Additionally, practicing polite assertiveness is key. Lawyers can decline non-essential tasks while explaining their commitment to the firm’s top priorities. By embracing these strategies, legal professionals can take charge of their workload and ensure they are managing their firm’s priorities, not someone else’s.
10. Delegate Tasks Accordingly
Sometimes it makes sense to delegate to others to help in accomplishing tasks. Lawyers who delegate properly can save time, reduce stress, and accomplish more when they assign tasks to the right people. Let go of control and grant authority and responsibility to qualified people. Promote accountability and ensure deadlines are satisfied. This can also boost the knowledge of those with less experience — think legal interns and new associates and staff.
How to Implement Effective Time Management for Lawyers
Leveraging these tips will help make the most out of every minute, every hour, and every day. Once time is better managed, then it’s time to better track time. Tracking time is easier with Bill4Time’s legal time tracking software. With an easy-to-use timer for on-the-go time entry, lawyers can enter time on a laptop or mobile phone so every billable minute is accounted for.
Knowing how much time a task takes is not only critical to getting paid, but also estimating future projects. And, time tracking ensures transparency with a client so they know how much was done when they receive the invoice.
Couple time tracking with invoicing for strong and efficient business operations. Then pair that with convenient online payment options. (Did you know that businesses that offer credit card options get paid on average 70% faster than those with traditional methods?)
Better manage time and account for every minute with Bill4Time. Try Bill4Time today with a free trial. Every minute that goes by, you’re missing out on increased productivity…and revenue.
Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in December 2015. Recent update: November 2023.