Martha M. Newman 2016-09-27 00:21:38
Get Smart Stop sabotaging your law practice. When you’re hard at work practicing law, you may unknowingly let some bad habits sabotage your billable time and lower your revenues. Here are six tips for achieving higher productivity. 1) End free advice on the phone. Your law license is at stake and you are risking a malpractice claim if you let your compassion or your hunger for a new client cause you to dispense advice over the phone without really knowing the facts. You can listen to the caller’s story and proffer suggestions while emphasizing that you cannot give definitive legal advice over the phone. Then, if the caller persists, end the call by saying something like: Mrs. Jones, legal matters are complicated. Without seeing your documents and asking you more detailed questions, I can neither evaluate your case nor give you more than general suggestions. I’d be glad to set an appointment for you to come into my office to discuss your rights and liabilities. My rate is $____. Giving you advice over the phone creates an attorney-client relationship, and I cannot do that. 2) Resist answering unscheduled calls. If you answer every call that comes in, you are interrupting labor on a known, billable priority in favor of the unknown. If it is feasible in your law practice, when you are immersed in work, ask your receptionist or assistant to schedule a callback time, send the caller to voicemail, or have the caller make an appointment to see you. Prospects and clients will respect you for structuring your time, and their expectations to reach you immediately will be curbed. 3) Practice law without your hair on fire. If you are constantly reacting and putting out fires, you may think there is no way to control your day. False. You can’t foresee the clients who call with instant demands, the new client who wants to hire you today, or other timesensitive demands, but what you can frequently control are your boundaries. You can plan what you are going to work on the next day, block off focus time to do that work, and manage the expectations of your clients in advance by saying: Mr. Smith, an important priority for me is to be responsive to your needs and to take your calls. I hope you will understand when I have to work on another client’s case at a time when you may want to talk about yours. Be assured I will return your call as soon as possible and give your case the attention that it deserves. 4) Defeat the procrastination demon. When procrastination has you by the throat, you may rush to meet deadlines, produce substandard work, and provoke impatient clients. You also may lose the case, which makes your client mad and causes him or her to lose money. You know what comes next. Beat the “I’ll do it later” habit that damages your productivity. • Do the work you hate the most first. • Plan ahead and designate the cases that are going to get your attention the next day. • Define periods of focused work every day, preferably at the same time, i.e. 9:30-11 and 1:30-3. Some lawyers work in only 30to 45minute increments. • Put your landline on Do Not Disturb. • Tell your assistant to take your messages and interrupt you only if it’s a new client, a time-sensitive matter, or your boss calling. • Set your cellphone alarm to ring when the work periods end. 5) Prevent email from shoplifting your time. Answering every email immediately breaks your focus and hijacks productivity. If you start your day with emailing, you will be swept into the morass of this obsessive time waster. Schedule time later in the morning to answer emails unless a matter is urgent. • Keep your email program closed unless you are working in your inbox. • Consider setting up an automatic email message response advising clients that you will get back to them shortly. 6) Overcome the “head in the sand” mentality. Have the courage to fire employees who need to go. By rationalizing that keeping a bad employee is better than the hassle of hiring and training someone new, you allow incompetent, troublesome, or lazy staff members to drag you and your law firm down and demoralize your good employees. Day after day, you hang in there, tolerating mistakes and irritating behavior to avoid the 15 minutes of unpleasantness you would experience when firing a person who really needs to be shown the door. Be honest with yourself about the price you are paying for your inaction. Then be brave and do something about it. MARTHA M. NEWMAN is a former oil and gas litigator and owner of Top Lawyer Coach. Newman has been awarded the Professional Certified Coach credential by the International Coach Federation in recognition of her coaching excellence. She specializes in lawyer coaching, training, facilitating, and speaking in the areas of business development, career advancement, and law firm management. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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