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Time Management for Busy Attorneys

published January 28, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 6 votes, average: 3.5 out of 5)
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Time management is a simple yet frustrating problem for attorneys. A personal practice plan allocates more time to be spent effectively pursuing goals and objectives. The plan can be marketing oriented or developed for some other purpose. But creating a personal agenda will provide focus for activities, leading to attainment of objectives.

Attorneys agree that one of the most frustrating problems impacting professional and personal lives is time management. Juggling time for CLEs, business development, billing time, personal time, and social affairs, not to mention family life, puts a great deal of pressure on every attorney.


One solution is a personal practice plan. With a personal plan, more time can be spent effectively pursuing goals and objectives. The plan can be primarily for marketing or other purposes to help the attorney reach practice objectives. It creates a personal agenda which the attorney can follow to cut out unnecessary, time-absorbing tasks.

The first, most important, and usually most difficult element to conceptualize is an individual objective. The attorney must identify in very specific terms what he or she wants to accomplish and receive from professional practice and personal life. What motivates the attorney—income, recognition, social responsibility—or is there another stimulus? The attorney must clearly understand his or her primary objective and then write it down. It will be the beacon which guides all additional planning tasks.

Once a personal objective has been identified, putting the tools of time management to work can be relatively easy. Alan Lakein, in his classic work on time management How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, developed a simple, easy-to-use concept of prioritizing tasks. To condense, he advocates that the time manager make three lists of tasks, an "A," "B," and"C" list.

All items placed on the "A" list are of the highest impact and are very time sensitive. Issues and matters on the "B" list have a lower priority, and items on the "C" list are the lowest priority of all tasks to be accomplished to the point that they are of little consequence. Lakein suggests that all items belong on either the "A" list or "C" list. Lakein additionally recommends that only small portions of large tasks be tackled at once, to avoid procrastination. Another time management technique is "batch" work. This is simply lumping together similar activities to streamline work efforts. The efficiency of the batch process comes from the time saved by not duplicating similar efforts. For the attorney, this may mean combining all trips outside the office into one long errand, or spending one section of time with the secretary in the morning to outline work for the day rather than sporadically throwing "to do" papers on his or her desk.

Striking a balance between client work and a role in office administration, business development, education, and all other time conflicts becomes less frustrating if time is used efficiently. The question an attorney must continually ask is: "Is this the most important thing I can be doing with my time right now?" Self-discipline helps to assign priorities among professional tasks and personal items.

Peter Drucker, in his book The Effective Executive, lists five elements as being important to effectiveness:
 
  1. Effective executives know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing their time.
  2. Effective executives focus on outward contributions. They gear their efforts toward results rather than work.
  3. They build on strengths, not weaknesses.
  4. They concentrate on a few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.
  5. Effective executives make effective decisions. They know that judgments are always based on dissenting opinions rather than on a consensus of facts and that to make any decision fast means to make the wrong decisions.

Although many business managers and executives read Drucker's works to learn more about management theory, many of his management effectiveness theories are time management directives as well.

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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