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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. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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