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Managing Your Time on a Legal Staff Job

published February 10, 2020

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 15 votes, average: 4.3 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Time management is essential in any professional field, but never more so than when in the legal field. Most work in the legal arena is a team effort. When one attorney or legal staff member is not effectively managing their time, it impacts the workload for other attorneys, paralegals and legal staff involved in the same project. The trickle-down effect deflates morale and can create a hostile work environment.

Managing Your Time on a Legal Staff Job

Even if your time management skills are not directly impacting those around you, you will find yourself under undue mental stress if you find yourself continually juggling deadlines. This will not reflect well on how your performance is viewed by other legal staff and attorneys and will hinder your future career opportunities. Consider the time and effort spent learning time management skills as a valuable investment in your legal career. Taking the time to learn practical time management skills has numerous benefits. These include:
  • Less mental and physical stress as you battle time constraints
  • A healthier work relationship with colleagues and supervisors
  • Managing your time will lead to a feeling of overall job satisfaction
  • More opportunities for professional growth
  • Respect in your field

Every legal professional struggles with time management at some point. In the legal industry, it can be difficult to prioritize what must be done on any given day. You will probably be part of ongoing projects, as well as having day to day responsibilities. The most crucial first step is to understand how to prioritize your legal work. If you are new to the law office or firm and find yourself struggling with understanding the priority of legal assignments, do not be afraid to ask for clarification.

Is time management the issue?

Some legal staff may lack the insight or experience to realize that their struggle is a time management issue. The following are indications that you may be struggling with effective time management:
  • You repeatedly struggle to meet deadlines. In a busy law office, attorneys and legal staff will feel the pressure of an approaching deadline occasionally. However, if you find yourself needing to ask for extensions or getting work done late frequently, you need to take a look at your time management skills.
  • Other legal staff complain about having to carry part of your workload. Take complaints like this seriously. Law firms function best when there is a team mentality. It is normal to feel defensive, but complaints like this are an important indicator that you need to take a step back and ask yourself some difficult questions. Are you frequently asking others to help you complete your assigned task? Is this because you are genuinely overwhelmed by the amount of work you have, or is it because you are not effectively managing your time?
  • Do you experience a constant sense of feeling rushed? Again, law firms can be fast-paced environments, but if you find yourself in a continual state of feeling pressured, you need to determine if there are steps you can take to manage your time better.

Proactive steps to managing time effectively

The following steps are tools utilized by successful legal staff to organize and manage their time:
  1. Identify any time wasters. Do personal phone calls or quick social media checks take up more time than you think? Especially when feeling stressed, it can be easy to believe that a short break will help you think more clearly, but things like social media can eat up more time than you think. Commit to spending one week without taking non-emergency personal calls and spending no time on social media during the workday. Do you find that you have more time to get your work done?
  2. Keep a calendar. Law firms keep meticulous calendars of trial dates, filing deadlines, meetings and other important dates. However, you need a personal calendar of deadlines for assigned work. In addition, start each day by taking a few minutes to write down the days work in order of importance. Have another column for ongoing projects that need your attention. Writing these things down and committing to work on them by the level of importance will help you find a system that works for you.
  3. Similarly, organize your in-box. Make sure the most important or time-sensitive work is on top. Creating these visual reminders will help you stay focused on getting the most time-sensitive things done first.
  4. If something crosses your desk that can be taken care of in just a few minutes, go ahead and take care of it then. It saves you time in having to organize it into your to-do list for the day and keeps simple tasks from piling up.
  5. If you implement the steps above, but still cannot manage to stay on top of your workload, you may have to consider asking for help. First, ask yourself these questions:
    • Are you saying yes to more things than you have time to do, to make a good impression? Although a helpful attitude goes a long way in making a good impression, it only works if you can manage the workload. Only say yes to extra work when you genuinely know you have the time and capability to do it efficiently.
    • Are there gaps in your training that make it hard for you to work as efficiently as possible? If this is the case, what is your best approach to getting additional training? Going to your supervisor and admitting that you are struggling with understanding the contract management system or that you feel you need more training to understand the firm’s filing system looks more professional than continuing to flounder in getting your work done.
    • Do you have more work than you can do in a day? It is possible, especially if you work for more than one direct supervisor, to find yourself buried under more work than you can handle no matter how hard you work. If this is the case, handle it in a professional manner. Determine who you need to speak to about the problem. Do not complain, but calmly present your dilemma. Take a list of what you are expected to complete on an average workday and ask for their advice on what to do. No one may have realized that too much work is ending up on your desk.
Effective time management is a critical skill in the practice of law. All attorneys and legal staff are dependent on all other team members doing their work on-time and efficiently. When one member of the legal team struggles to manage their time, the snowball effect can send ripples through an entire firm. Taking pro-active steps to work effectively and efficiently is not just good for your legal career—you will find that the benefits of time management skills have a profound impact on your stress level, and this is good for your personal life as well.

As with all critical facets of your legal career, the more you practice time management in the law firm, the better you will become. As you increase your skill at time management, you will boost the confidence that other legal staff and attorneys have in you. Ask yourself now what type of reputation you want to build in your legal career, and implement the steps necessary to start building that reputation. Take responsibility for learning to manage your own time instead of making excuses for rushed or late work, and you will be taking an essential step in building your reputation as an invaluable asset to your law firm.

published February 10, 2020

By Author - LawCrossing
( 15 votes, average: 4.3 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.