It can be difficult to improve law firm productivity when so many lawyers and legal professionals are often overwhelmed and struggle to manage their day-to-day. While they’re certainly busy, sometimes bad habits can get in the way of effective task management and can hinder real work from being accomplished.
This isn’t limited to legal professionals – people in all industries can fall victim to low productivity. The modern world is filled with distractions that impede goals and time management, such as smartphones and social media.
Productivity is about working smarter, not harder to make the most of each workday. Take a look at the common ways lawyers and legal professionals hold themselves back from being productive and tips to improve law firm productivity.
1. Lack of Planning
For many, the biggest obstacle to law firm productivity is poor, or nonexistent, planning. Lawyers have to juggle a lot of tasks, clients, and appointments, so the best way to make sure everything gets done is with detailed planning.
Lawyers should map out the entire week and mark any appointments, scheduled calls, research periods, client meetings, or other time-bound tasks. That leaves space to plan other tasks throughout the day, such as unexpected calls, paperwork, time tracking, and more. While it’s expected that tasks may pop up, proper planning offers a time cushion to deal with them without derailing other projects.
How time is scheduled is up to the individual, but having realistic allotted time to complete each task helps people avoid procrastination, get important tasks accomplished, and plan out the most urgent parts of the to-do list.
2. Poor Time and Task Management
After using timekeeping software, lawyers often notice that a lot of time is wasted doing unrelated tasks or procrastinating. Things get put off, leading to a rush to get everything done. In many cases, the tasks that get shuffled are the ones people don’t want to do, such as sending out cold emails or scheduling appointments.
The best way to tackle time and task management is by starting the day off with your less desirable tasks. It’s human nature to complete the easiest tasks first, then leave the most difficult work for later. When this happens, the difficult work may never get done.
Furthermore, willpower decreases over the course of the day, which means people are even less inclined to do that dreaded work they’ve been putting off. Lawyers and legal professionals should prioritize the tasks that are tedious or unpleasant and get them out of the way, making the rest of the day a breeze to complete.
3. Too Many Distractions
Phones and emails are important for client communication, but they can hamper productivity easily. When a phone notification goes off or the inbox registers new emails in the middle of a project, it can distract people from the task at hand. Even if talking to a colleague takes a few minutes, that can add up if they continue to “pop in.” If this happens enough, a significant portion of the day can be lost to juggling multiple tasks.
The best solution is a scheduled time to address phone and email communications. The rest of the time, notifications can be silent. During the scheduled communication period, lawyers should respond to phone calls, emails, and messages immediately, both for professionalism and time management. Then, the rest of the time can be focused on the next task on the list.
And most importantly, social media should be silenced. Responding to one comment on social media can lead to checking other pages and wasting an hour scrolling through a newsfeed or reading articles. Most firms have designated social media professionals, but if not, time to engage with followers can be scheduled like everything else.
4. Poor Prioritization of Tasks
To-do lists are a great tool, but only if they’re used properly. For many lawyers, a to-do list can transform into a long line of tasks to complete in an unrealistic time frame. Lawyers become overwhelmed, and little gets accomplished.
Your to-do list should always begin with critical tasks – the tasks that must be done on that day. From there, the tasks should be less and less important. This way, if unexpected tasks interrupt and take priority, the remaining to-do list doesn’t throw off the whole schedule or lead to a negative outcome.
At the end of the day, lawyers should look at the agenda for the following day and prepare for the tasks ahead. Planning began early in the week, so a lot could change by Wednesday or Thursday. Looking at the next day’s tasks allows lawyers to plan ahead, and reprioritize as needed.
5. Not Using the Right Legal Software
In many ways, the legal industry is an old-school, traditional industry. Lawyers and legal professionals rely on time-consuming, outdated processes like manual time tracking, paper billing, and hard copies of client files. Many lawyers learn from other lawyers, which means they may not be on board with the benefits of using law firm productivity tools like legal software.
Legal software can provide a lot of help for time management and task management for lawyers. Features like time tracking, document automation, client management, and mobile access allow lawyers to automate routine processes and access mission-critical information at any time, from anywhere with an internet connection.
With these administrative tasks covered, lawyers can focus on the important tasks that only they can perform, such as client consultations, case research, and partner meetings. The result is not only to improve law firm productivity, but more accurate documentation for both the firm and the client.
Improve Law Firm Productivity with Bill4Time
The right legal software can go a long way in boosting productivity in a law firm. Bill4Time offers an affordable, efficient, and intuitive legal practice management solution with features designed specifically for law firms, such as document management, case management, billing and invoicing, and time tracking. With Bill4Time, lawyers can practice more and manage less with efficient, automated processes designed with law firms’ needs in mind.