Personal Productivity for Lawyers
This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.
Resolutions are silly, but the end of the year is a better time than most to take stock of the past year and set goals for the coming year. After you balance your accounts for the year, set aside at least a few minutes to come up with some goals for 2014.
To get you started, here are a few suggestions:
Stop Taking Bad Clients
“Some of the best cases are the ones you never take.” — Randall Ryder
Some clients are quite literally more trouble than they are worth. In 2012, Randall put together a short list of red flags:
- Asking for a discount
- Excessive phone calls before signing a retainer
- Armchair lawyering
No doubt you have learned more warning signs. It wouldn’t hurt to get together with your partners and staff, if you have them, to talk through the warning signs of a problem client every now and then, to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to client intake.
Figure Out Your Daily Revenue Target
A daily revenue target can be a powerful motivator. If nothing else, it is a useful way to track your success over time. Here is how to figure out what you need to make every day:
- Write down your target take-home salary.
- Add your total expenses, including employees, partners’ target salaries, etc.
- Divide by 242.1
The result is what your firm needs to bring in, on average, every business day. (You might as well also write down your weekly, monthly, and quarterly targets.)
Every morning, take a minute or two to ask yourself what you can do to meet that goal and prioritize your tasks accordingly. You will not meet it every day, but when you do, make a note of it. Each week, month, quarter, and year, try to reach your daily target at least as often as you did during the previous period.
Even better, build rewards into your income target. If your target includes a new gadget for you every quarter, you are more likely to keep it in mind throughout the year. Consider sharing your revenue target with your partners or staff, as well, so that everyone is working towards the same goal (and sharing the rewards).
Just remember that your daily goal is just a target. Not all of your work is profitable, but you still have to do it. In fact, some of the unprofitable work is the most important stuff you do.
Paperless is not cutting-edge anymore. In fact, it isn’t even ahead of the curve. I went paperless in 2006, and I learned from lawyers who were paperless before that. Even many courts are paperless, now. If you aren’t paperless, that means the courts are more tech-savvy than you and your practice. It’s long past time to catch up.
There are a ton of paperless-office posts on Lawyerist that will help you get started. Here are some of the most-useful from the last year or so:
- “Attorney’s Guide to Going Paperless”
- “How to Secure Your Paperless Office”
- “How to Organize Paperless Client Files”
- “How to Design Your Firm’s Paperless Workflow”
If there is not a scanner in your office, get one. Here are our picks for the best scanners for lawyers. And if you aren’t incorporating at least some paperless practices into your law practice, you are well behind the times, and falling further behind. Catch up.
Drink Better Coffee
If you drink coffee, resolve (this one is worth a resolution) to drink better coffee — or at least to serve better coffee to your visitors. We have had some debate on the relative merits of the french press and Aeropress, which are also convenient (especially the Aeropress) for making coffee at the office.
Sometimes, it’s the little things.
There are roughly 252 business days in a year. If you give yourself two weeks of vacation, that works out to 242 business days. If you want more vacation, adjust this number accordingly. ↩