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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. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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