Time-management for attorneys

Being an attorney can be rewarding, lucrative, and fulfilling–and it can also be incredibly time-consuming. Many attorneys regularly log 12+ hour days–with only a fraction of that time being billable (one study showed that lawyers bill only 2.3 hours a day, on average).

That being the case, time management is of utmost importance to attorneys. With a heavy load of responsibilities, a variety of tasks, and a range of clients/projects, they can benefit enormously from using tools and developing strategies to maximize their personal efficiency. The end result? A balanced and effective approach to personal productivity–and maybe even a shorter workday.

The Challenges

Attorneys face a particular set of challenges when it comes to managing their workload. As mentioned above, they have a “dynamic” workload (and that’s putting it nicely) that compels them to juggle various people, projects, and administrative tasks. Here’s why that makes time management so difficult:

The Temptation to Multitask

Like most professionals, attorneys may find it tempting to constantly multitask–switching back and forth between checking their inbox, researching a case, and tackling “urgent” tasks as they pop up. Multitasking can sometimes feel like the only way to work, but the truth is, it significantly drains productivity and efficiency. Click To Tweet In fact, psychologist Susan Weinschenk says that switching tasks drains up to 40% of our productivity.

While it may not always be realistic to completely avoid multitasking because of genuine urgency or time pressure, attorneys still need tools in place to help mitigate the risk created by multitasking–for example, a tool that automatically tracks what they’re doing so that they can accurately bill clients.

Time-management for attorneys

A Heavy Load of Non-Billable Administrative Tasks

One primary reason for their exceptionally lengthy work days is that attorneys typically have a heavy load of administrative tasks outside of their billable work–such as researching law, drafting up legal documents, and representing clients in court. Checking email, billing clients, and communicating with potential new clients are just a small handful of the tasks that attorneys must also perform as a part of their profession.

Forgetting the Big Picture

With a heavy day-to-day workflow and overwhelming number of high-urgency demands, it can become easy for attorneys to get bogged down in the details and forget their big-picture goals or focus on business development. Effective time management can help attorneys to optimize their time usage so that it’s possible to build in time to take a step back, review long-term goals, and strategize for the future.

While the challenges that attorneys face are not insignificant, they can be managed with the right tools and strategies. In the next section, we’ll take a look at how Timing can help attorneys to manage their time more effectively–ultimately resulting in a work schedule that’s more streamlined and manageable.

How Attorneys Can Use Timing to Optimize Their Time Usage

Timing automatically tracks all hours and minutes, including where and when that time was spent. It’s ideal for attorneys because it allows them to manage their diverse workload, gauge their productivity, and even automatically generate reporting for clients with minimal effort.

Here are three core strategies that attorneys can utilize on Timing to up productivity and efficiency:

Strategy #1: Set Up Clients as “Projects” in Timing

One of the most powerful advantages of Timing is that it allows you to create categories–called “Projects”–that allow for more targeted time-tracking. At the end of the day, you can review not just your overall time usage, but your time usage for specific cases, for example.

This comes in handy especially when making a continual switch back and forth between cases and clients–no need to stress about accurately invoicing for your time.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Go to your “Review” tab, and click the “plus” sign on the project list. This will present a dialog where you can configure the project’s properties.. You can also create sub-projects below each client for e.g. specific cases.
  2. To help Timing more effectively categorize your work, you can create rules by ⌥-dragging and dropping relevant URLs, applications, “paths,” and additional keywords that Timing detects in your work history onto a Project. For example, you may use your client’s or plaintiff’s name as a keyword for a specific case. To help Timing pick up on this automatically, simply ⌥-drag and drop this keyword onto the appropriate case.
  3. Finally, your “Overview” tab will show you a detailed breakdown of how much time you’ve spent on individual cases per day, week, month, or year. Simply go to “Overview” and adjust the time frame accordingly. You can also generate more detailed reports in the “Reports” tab. More on that later.

Strategy #2: Stay Accountable to Your Time Usage

By using Strategy #1 described above, you can get started on Strategy #2: staying accountable to your own usage of time.

As mentioned above, attorneys spend a majority of their time engaged in non-billable work. While this may be non-avoidable for the most part, you’ll still want to be strategic about how you use both your billable and non-billable hours in order to maximize your efficiency, and ultimately, your profitability.

Let’s say you begin the day with the goal of spending one hour on Case A until 11 AM, and then the remainder of the day focused on research for Case B. You’d also like to squeeze in an hour at the end of the day for business development purposes for your firm.

Timing can help you accurately assess how well you’ve met these three goals, and if you made the best use of your time. Under the Review tab, you’ll see a timeline of your time usage with a breakdown of what you did for each portion of the day. If, for example, you worked on Case A until 1:30 PM because you got caught up in minutiae, then you can quickly identify why it is you still have work left to do for Case B…and why you never made it to your goal of working on business development.

In any case, combining goal-setting with the ability to review your time usage can help to identify–and resolve–weak spots in efficiency and productivity.

Strategy #3: Use Reporting to Bill Clients

As mentioned above, one of the benefits of using Timing as an attorney is that it accurately measures time usage for your range of cases and clients…even if you’ve been switching back and forth between projects.

Time-management for attorneys

Timing’s detailed accuracy can also help you to detect fine “context switches” between cases–for example, you might use the same application for all cases, and even similar keywords and URLs. By creating a couple detailed rules, however, you can use Timing to detect the difference between cases….and accurately calculate how much time you’ve spent on each.

The best part? You don’t even have to come up with your own invoices. Timing’s Reporting feature will automatically generate detailed Reports of your time usage, that you can download with the presets (e.g. by Weekly Time Usage, Time per Document, etc.) and format of your choosing.

Timing Saves You Time

Ultimately, the most powerful aspect of Timing for an attorney is that it can save you time–a pretty powerful benefit for time-strapped attorneys. By helping you to reduce time waste, automating time-tracking, and generating accurate, automatic reports for invoicing, Timing can help you maximize efficiency and do what you do best even better. To try Timing for free for 14 days, click here.