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IBA: How to Save Time and Increase Cash Flow

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By Mark Hershman, Hershman Associates

Time is money. You may not be able to detail it on a year-end balance sheet or claim a whiled away afternoon as a legitimate loss, but the old adage is still true. For lawyers dependent on hourly billing, managing time is one of the most essential professional practices to be mastered.

It is also one of the most difficult to master. Seasonal fluctuations and unpredictable clients make it nearly impossible to set a rigid daily schedule and keep to it throughout the year. Chaos often reigns over best intentions. Some very specific techniques are the key. Those who practice techniques in the Professional Practice program report a substantial savings in time and increase in cash flow.

Blocking your time into like tasks is a proven tactic for increasing productivity. Not only does it increase efficiency because less time is spent “getting back into the project,” but it is likely to also reduce errors and duplication of efforts. Multi-tasking may be the current norm, but it also is a source of stress and is, usually, the least effective use of time. If you actually stop to analyze what is being accomplished well, you’ll agree that juggling several balls only means that one is likely to be dropped. Your full attention is what clients expect and deserve.

Like multi-tasking, falling slave to electronic devices is another common mistake that is easy to remedy. Continually being interrupted by emails and cell phones results in your attention being divided and a very reactionary use request tends to get more of your time. One person’s urgent request tends to get your immediate attention, whether it really is a true priority task or not. Immediate response is simply not always the best way to address an issue. This, of course, requires discipline, and for many, a major change in mindset. Many times, it is simply as easy as letting phone calls go to voice mail or shutting off the cell phone.

Scheduling everyday activities into a routine time slot is another effective technique for managing your time. For example, setting aside a 2 to 4 p.m. window for a client meeting gives a predictable and organized structure of your day. Similarly, answering phone calls and emails during a set time period and having a designated time when the door is shut and the staff considers this a “do not disturb” time for other important steps in the process.

Encouraging your team to respect and support this system is also key. Once they understand the motivation and benefits, they are likely to cooperate and even implement their own time-management tactics into their day. The result is an entire office that operates more efficiently as a team.

Understanding why and how to set priorities is also essential. This step, although it sounds simple to some, is actually one of the hardest for most attorneys. “Emergency” questions and the last-minute client always seem to push their way to the top of the Must-Do-Now list. This reactionary type of work system makes it nearly impossible to devote ongoing, quality time to long-term issues such as client development and staff management.

A diagnostic look at your working habits and challenges is the first stop in identifying roadblocks and potential for increased efficiency. Then, working with an experienced coach to enact a Professional Practice Solution is the next step. Studies show that those who have used this time-management program have reduced their work time by up to 10 percent and increased revenue by up to 30 percent. Imagine how that kind of result would affect you!•

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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