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Time is precious to us all, but legal professionals have an even more complex relationship with time when billable hours are central to performance and outcomes. If something is slowing your team down and impacting its efficiency, this can have a detrimental effect on employee motivation and engagement.
Everyone is responsible for their own time management to a large extent, but there are plenty of things that a law firm can do to help its employees manage their time more effectively. In this article, we explore a few ideas that you can encourage, trial and implement in your firm.
Manage your meetings
Meetings are an essential part of office life. They connect the team with what is happening across the business, provide opportunities to collaborate and problem-solve, and create actionable outcomes for people to deliver on.
However, without an agenda, time limit or clear outcomes, meetings can quickly become time-wasting events. To keep your meetings on track:
- Set an agenda and stick to it. An agenda is only useful if you follow it diligently.
- Keep to your allotted time. If a conversation is taking up too much time, maybe it merits a separate meeting or you need more information before you can productively discuss the matter further.
- Agree on follow-up actions. Keep a record of all actions and outcomes and share these with attendees so that everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them.
One final tip: time is money – literally. Of course, be sure to invite the people who need to be in your meeting, but try not to invite the whole office unless you have to; think about how many hours of time that would cost!
Turn off your notifications
We have so many ways to reach people now – email, Teams, Skype, project management systems and so on – that if we allowed all the notifications to distract us, we’d never get anything done. Think back to the last time you tried to write a report or analyse some data while your notifications were pinging in the background. How tempting was it to check who had messaged you and why?
The reality is that we don’t need to reply to every message instantly, and a reply within a few hours or more when something is not immediately time-sensitive is perfectly reasonable. You actually set yourself up to fail if you set the precedent that you will reply as soon as humanly possible – what if you are in a meeting, or visiting another client?
Yes, it is important to be responsive – and that is why services such as our Client Portal are so valuable, because they make communicating with clients quick and easy. However, if you distract yourself from in-depth client work to send a quick client update, it may take you a while to refocus, which is where valuable minutes and even hours can get lost in a day. Instead, try handling emails and other communications in two or three blocks a day. You’ll still be responding quickly, but as you will be batching your correspondence time, you shouldn’t be distracting yourself from valuable project work.
Try flexible working
Stay with me here – this could make all the difference to your team’s ability to maximise their available time and clock more billable hours. With flexible working, your employees can choose to work the hours that work best for them (and when they are most productive), and if they would benefit from some focused time working from home, they can access all the IT systems they need using integrated practice management software solutions such as DPS Cloud.
Long gone is the notion that flexible workers are sitting at home watching TV with a laptop stationed nearby. Flexible working is widely regarded to be a great idea – in fact, it is thought to reduce absenteeism, improve wellbeing, increase productivity and encourage employee engagement. So, why not trial it in your firm?
Update your technology
Cloud-based technology, practice management software and accounting software are evolving all the time, and with cloud-based technology, your systems will be fully up to date and accessible 24/7. If you are still shuffling paper files around the office and digging through paperwork to find client information, that may be a sign that your IT is due for an overhaul – one that could help you declutter your office, increase productivity and minimise the stress of managing a heavy caseload.
Be brave and ditch pointless meetings, encourage a culture of focus rather than distraction and believe in your colleagues’ ability to work effectively on their own schedule. We’re sure you’ll soon see the benefits – in terms of billable hours, as well as employee motivation and morale!
If your technology is also in need of a refresh, contact our friendly team today to find out how we can help your firm maximise efficiency and streamline office processes.