I was so impressed re-reading expert advice we published last summer that dividing it into sections by author seems like a real service to our friends in the legal community, given all the pressure on that segment.
Here are some great ideas from Peggy Gruenke, a real productivity guru.
1. How do you suggest those in the legal industry best manage their time?
With the number of distractions present in our daily lives — emails, social media, text messages, client calls, handling documents, and questions from staff — it’s a wonder we get anything accomplished in a given day.
I think there has also been a shift away from the phrase “time management” to more of a focus on productivity, performance and success. I believe time is not something to be managed. There will never be enough time to do everything. There will always be more tasks added to the list. And as a lawyer, building a business, you hope that the tasks never run out because that would be a bad sign.
The focus should not be on managing your time, but managing your tasks and improving your ability to focus and take action. With this, the challenge then becomes managing tasks and identifying activities that have the highest value and continually asking yourself: “Is this task I am doing, at this moment, leading me towards my goals and at the end of the day, adding value?” If the answer to this is “yes,” then you are being more productive not because you managed your time better, but because you chose better and acted out of clarity.
2. What 3 tips would you give to those in the legal industry on managing personal productivity?
Start each week (a Sunday night task) with a master list of tasks broken down into sections. I even use a different highlighter color for each section. What kind of list system you use is a personal preference — just choose something that is convenient for you and you will use. I love technology and apps, but I still use my Moleskin for tracking tasks. I like the visual side of seeing my tasks, adding tasks during the day and marking a task complete.
Resist the temptation to do the “little stuff” first, trying to just get things off the list. Remember, the list never goes away so this method is somewhat self-defeating.
Take 1 minute — just 1 minute — at the end of each day to evaluate what you accomplished. This is somewhat therapeutic. It also becomes the start of your next day task list. Planning is an important key to productivity and your success. Creating the habit of preparing for tomorrow, today, is a great place to start.
3. What are the current stumbling blocks for the legal industry when it comes to being more efficient?
The focus on becoming more efficient involves an honest and unbiased inward look at and evaluation of current business processes. A task not all lawyers are equipped to do themselves and one that may be another stumbling block. In order to improve upon current processes with the goal of identifying areas to increase efficiency, they may have to make a financial investment in their business by hiring someone who does have this skill set.
The stumbling blocks are more like brick walls. But I am starting to see more cracks in the wall as the flow of information regarding the use of technology in law firms and the stories of successful implementations increases, while at the same time, the cost to implement technology decreases.
The introduction of cloud-based products for law firms has opened up a whole new set of doors for solos and small firms looking for affordable solutions to improve technology. So cost is no longer a stumbling block.
Maybe the main stumbling block for improving efficiency comes down to the failure to take action. Taking steps to improve efficiency is disruptive, costs money and takes time. No wonder there is resistance to improving efficiency in law firms.
4. How do you feel the industry can overcome these barriers?
I think it is not a matter of the industry overcoming these barriers but instead, seeing the change take place with entrepreneurial law students, lawyers and law firms. Change in small, consistent steps can be very powerful. Managing these steps is easier at a level where innovation and legal can play together.
I believe these barriers to efficiency (disruption, cost and time) are starting to crumble with the innovation that is happening on the edge of the legal industry. As products are created, as seen with the increase in legal service start-ups, and they are brought to the lawyers and law firms, you will start seeing a trend of faster adoption of this new legal technology. The adoption curve will accelerate because the younger lawyers who are joining the legal industry grew up with technology and are creative enough to see how using this technology can improve the delivery of legal services.
About Peggy E Gruenke (@PeggyGruenke)
Peggy is the Director of Practice Operations at Curo Legal. She is also the owner of LegalBizSuccess. She has over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur and has combined her experiences to bring a competitive advantage to law firms when building their business. She has been a speaker at the ABA Legal TechShow and is a Certified Clio Consultant. These comments were first published in July 2014.