Time Management & Prioritizing Work
The California Desert Trial Academy (CDTA) provides students with a distinctive educational platform that focuses on students learning soft skills, as well as the substantive law. Soft skills include people skills, management skills, technical skills, and analytical skills. While CDTA emphasizes these crucial skills that can make a positive difference in an attorney’s daily practice of law, many traditional law schools fail to properly ensure that students receive adequate instruction in the soft skills. One important soft skill is time management, which can make or break the profitability of an attorney’s practice.
Today’s attorney has multiple phone lines, email addresses, and social media accounts. Attorneys could spend more than a few hours each day just dealing with the communiques that flow from these communication sources. The modern attorney must deal with a multitude of these distractions while trying to perform the basic functions of her job, such as conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, communicating with adversaries, and making necessary court appearances. Attorneys must consciously prioritize their work to ensure they do not spend most of their time accomplishing lesser important tasks. Otherwise, it is safe to assume that this inefficiency may cause the failure of their practice.
- Make a prioritized to-do list
Many lawyers are hesitant to spend time organizing their time because “they don’t have the time.” However, simply expending 15 minutes at the end of each workday to prioritize the next day’s activities may provide a valuable daily framework, and record, of any work that is performed. Making a daily to-do list at the beginning of the day may cause a substantial problem. Deciding the same day what to do on the same day risks pushing the most unwanted task to the bottom of the list. Ask, “If I only get one thing completed on my to-do list tomorrow, what do I want it to be?”
Once tasks have been prioritized, the next question to consider is what can be delegated to others? Once tasks have been prioritized, assign lower-level tasks to those who are competent enough to complete them. Many successful attorneys are obsessed with maximizing the time spent on client service and client acquisition, while delegating, and thereby minimizing, the time spent on anything else.
- Do the worst first
Each day’s to-do list will inevitably contain some task that is dreadful, undesirable, and troublesome to complete, at least relative to every other task on the list. The solution is to avoid procrastination and perform this task first before any other. After completing this unpalatable task, the burden of completing it will be is lifted, and an attorney can move forward more expediently through the rest of the day’s tasks, which will seem relatively easier based on the completion of the day’s initial dreaded work.
- Avoid interruptions at specific, regular times
If you ask any attorneys what they loathe over the course of an average workday, most will reply that it’s answering phone calls. Unlike emails, texts, and faxes, phone calls require an immediate response. There is little that breaks a lawyer’s concentration on work more than having to respond to phone calls repeatedly. Most lawyers will say that they are most productive when working after hours during the evening or weekend when there are no phone calls or other live interruptions to address.
Most workers, especially attorneys, require segregated blocks of uninterrupted time to perform at maximum efficiency, productivity, and quality. Scheduling specific hours of the day for returning phone calls, answering emails, and meeting clients will establish a regular framework for the remainder of the day’s important, billable work. Of course, there are always certain phone calls, texts, and emails that must be responded to immediately. However, most phone calls may be handled by a secretary, paralegal, or just during designated telephone hours at a less busy time of the day.
Starting the day by answering email will cause any lawyer to start each day in a reactive mode. While answering email may serve the needs of clients, lawyers may serve, to their detriment, the needs of others, while ignoring their own. It’s also a good idea to start each day doing something that proactively furthers short- and long-term goals. This is especially true because once the day starts to unfold, there may not be enough time for doing anything similar.
The California Desert Trial Academy opened its doors in 2012, featuring a more practical and modern approach to legal education. The California Desert Trial Academy is a 21st Century law school that moves students toward a successful legal career on the first day of class. We believe that practical experience in tandem with legal knowledge is the best road to a successful, rewarding, and prosperous legal career. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.