The tired adage of “time is money” is more aptly suited to the legal industry than any other. Yet, ironically perhaps because of that billable hour model, most lawyers still practice law using traditional tools, without much regard to time-saving solutions or technology.
Whether you want to focus on time savings or productivity, there are many solutions that can increase your output per hour and win back more time for yourself and your clients. This may involve a learning curve, or starting new habits, but it will pay off exponentially no matter how you measure success.
So, where do you start?
Block time. The most common and easiest to adopt strategy in the work-from-anywhere age is to block time in your calendar. Mark an hour or two per day as “busy” and guard it with your life. Use it to catch up on work that requires extreme concentration or complete daily tasks without interruption. Rather than continually working against the clock, use time blocking to stay on track and feel truly in control of your schedule.
Avoid multitasking. Research suggests that our brain is not as good at handling multiple tasks as we think it is. Multitasking divides our focus and attention, leading to errors. As a lawyer, you have probably felt the effects of switching between tasks, such as trying to dive back into research or drafting after taking a call that interrupted your flow of thoughts. A productivity hack to address this is to bundle similar tasks, such as doing research in the early morning, and dedicating an hour for returning client inquiries in the afternoon, rather than switching back and forth between the two. Or try the Pomodoro Technique, which splits tasks into shorter, 25-minute-long (or however long you prefer) sessions, followed by a short break. It’s a proven way to increase productivity, as it’s easier to focus on a single task at a time.
Recognize high productivity zones. Understand when you’re most alert and energized during the day and dedicate your attention to complex tasks during that time. Less demanding matters can be saved for when your energy is fading off.
Practice mindfulness. Adding mindfulness to your routine can help you set aside mental distractions and drive greater attention to the here and now. Scott L. Rogers from the University of Miami School of Law’s ‘Mindfulness in Law’ program says, “The practice is to recognize what is arising and bring attention back to the original object of attention — be it the legal case you are reading, the person you are listening to or the breath”.
Use These Tools to Take Time Back
Measure time. Check out Toggl or Rize for apps that track what you are doing on your computer. They help identify your procrastination points. You can also use them to reclaim a billable hour that you forgot to log when you switched to Gmail and answered that harried client. For the universe of Clio users who are also Windows users, you might want to look at Faster Time (part of Faster Suite) which does a solid job of tracking tasks and allowing you to assign them to clients back in Clio.
Save time on producing client work. That’s where Clio Draft comes in. We all know that aside from getting stuck on an hour-long phone call with a client, the biggest part of a lawyer’s job is paperwork. Most of our paperwork is repetitive. We draft the same forms over and over again. These forms must be tailored to each user and case. But there is a huge opportunity for time savings when you can turn that drafting process into minutes rather than hours. Clio Draft’s industry-leading document automation features combine a user interface that anyone can learn in minutes. It comes with robust features that automate the bulk of the paperwork coming out of your practice.
Generate quick replies. Most of us have seen those nice auto-complete features when replying to emails on our phones. What if you had keyboard shortcuts for every frequently asked client question, every repetitive explanation or case update releasing weekly, and simple salutations in emails or formal letters? TextExpander is a classic answer to this. A quick keyboard shortcut such as “\signature” will insert your email signature, for example. An up-and-coming alternative is typedesk, which enables your team to design, organize and release consistent replies to clients.
The Bottom Line: Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New
We are a productivity-obsessed culture. We deify Startup and legal culture, where working long hours in a week makes you somehow a better and more productive professional. We do all this even though, deep inside, we know that quality is more important than quantity.
One of the best ways to increase the quantity and quality of your work is to adopt a tool that helps you reduce errors and produce work faster. Document automation is that critical key for lawyers, which is why we centered Clio Draft on that concept. By building your documents into repeatable templates, they will be more predictable and less prone to errors. In addition, by automating documents with data you pull in through intake forms and other sources (rather than manually copying data and making errors) your documents will be produced automatically with higher accuracy, leaving you more time to proofread and less time to copy and paste.
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