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.
You have heard the phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” As a solo practitioner or solopreneur, you are Jack. You must be able to handle all aspects of running a business on top of providing the legal services you have trained for. But chances are you are not as proficient at those business-related tasks as you are at practicing law.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with aspects of your business, consider delegating or outsourcing certain tasks so you can focus on providing legal services.
To Whom to Delegate
As attorney coach Roy Ginsburg discussed in his post on when to hire help, you need to carefully weigh your options when it comes to looking for help. Before you choose to hire a part-time assistant or paralegal, you need to spend time evaluating the type and amount of work you want to offload. From there, you can make your choice as to whether to hire a/an:
- Virtual receptionist
- Virtual assistant
- Independent contractor
- In-office administrative assistant
- Full-time paralegal or legal assistant
One of my solo attorney clients uses a mix of these options for his practice. He relies on Ruby Receptionists to take his calls, a virtual paralegal to help with research and drafting of documents, and a part-time in-office assistant who handles paperwork in his office.
Whatever mix of administrative support you use, choose individuals you are comfortable with and on whom you can rely to keep the pieces moving when you are not available.
The Benefits of Delegating
Personal injury attorney Daniel J. Brazil does a great job summarizing what several lawyers have told me about the benefits of building a team and delegating tasks:
Delegating gives me time to focus on my litigation files in a way that makes me a more effective litigator. It equally gives me more time to network, build referral relationships and spend time working with my clients.
Delegate These Administrative Tasks for a More Effective Practice
Accounts receivable, billing, and accounts payable: are you familiar with all that is required to keep your bookkeeping records complete and up to date? If you are like most attorneys, the answer is no.
You probably spend hours each month trying to catch up on your receipts and making sure you have paid all of your bills. And you probably are not sure you have done everything correctly.
You can put your time to better use by hiring a virtual bookkeeper. The bookkeeper’s time spent on your books will be much less than your own, and the cost probably won’t come anywhere near your billable hour rate.
New Client Inquiries & Intake
Vetting potential clients and gathering initial intake information can take up a fair amount of your time. Spare yourself by sending all new client inquiries to a specific email address so you can forward them to a virtual assistant. Your assistant can vet those inquiries based on criteria you provide. You can also create an initial intake form for your assistant to complete with each new approved potential client, saving you from spending time on basic information gathering.
Incoming mail. Outgoing demand letters. File closings. There is no shortage of paperwork to handle in an office. While you can go paperless, someone still needs to manage the paperless process. That is where a part-time (or full-time, if you can afford it) assistant can prove invaluable.
“I spend a big part of my day talking with insurance adjusters, working with my clients, and meeting with new prospects,” said Brazil. “I just do not have a ton of time to draft a lot of the materials we prepare for our litigation files. I delegate preparation of arbitration brochures and liability demand letter to my paralegal and legal assistant.”
Disrupting work to answer the phone leaves you wondering where you left off and leaves the caller feeling like you are uninterested or frustrated.
You deserve focused time to work. Your callers deserve a good experience. Give everyone the experience they deserve by outsourcing your phone calls to a virtual receptionist service.
Brett Manchel, associate attorney with Levinson and Stefani, finds great value in having someone else answer the phones. “I love being the go-to contact for our current and potential clients. But in a small firm, delegation is key. I’ve got to manage my time so I can focus on strategizing and moving cases forward. Having someone there to answer phone calls—providing assistance to the caller or taking a message—allows me to work more efficiently while giving clients the attention they deserve.”
3 Keys to Successful Delegation
Brazil says it best:
As a solo practitioner, I have to think about what I want to focus my time on and why. I then look at each file, itemize the tasks that need to be completed, and then decide who is best equipped in my office to get the job done.
He is not just talking about prioritizing the order of task completion. He is also prioritizing each individual’s time and abilities to ensure that each task goes to the right person.
Use Project Management Software
There are numerous free and paid project management apps that allow you to quickly and concisely organize your tasks for yourself and those you hire to help you. Two of my favorites are Asana and Basecamp. You can also look to practice management software that provides a more comprehensive service aimed at law firms. Options abound here, ranging from Clio and MyCase to CosmoLex and Rocket Matter.
Listen to Your New Hires
Once your new hire or independent contractor is comfortable with you and how you work, they will likely start offering additional assistance. Listen to and trust your assistant. You may find that there are more tasks you can offload than you originally thought, which would allow that position to grow organically and, hopefully, enable your business to do the same.
Featured image: “Notebook with delegate sign. Notebook with delegate sign and sticker remember on wooden desk with cup of coffee and muffin” from Shutterstock.