“Impossible!” attorneys cry. “My work is my life!” Man, do I feel bad for them. In reality, it’s very much possible. We even encourage Practice Alchemy members to spend time away from their practices because some time away is so important to staying in touch with the big picture of their firm’s growth strategy.
Related Post: What I Learned from Taking One Day Off a Week
It all comes down to prioritization. If we look back to the legal masses, it’s about this time that they roll their eyes. Of course it’s about prioritization and time management. By getting a better grip on your schedule, anyone can become more efficient and make time for the important goings-on in their life. For lawyers, though, it’s a little bit more involved. You don’t want to just divide your time into blocks; you want to block off only the most vital tasks that you alone can handle.
Identifying Your Mission-Critical Tasks
Picture your practice in your absence. When the phone rings, are you the only one available to answer it? How about with emails? Client matter reviews? Issuing invoices? Those are some examples of tasks that someone with even just a modicum of training could complete. Not every message can be passed off, since some will need authorization or knowledge of prior activity, but some portion (likely a large one) can be completed by an assistant. Or better yet, it can be automated.
While there are some items that can be passed off, there are others that can’t. These are things like strategic decisions, staffing decisions, setting pricing, or working on your highest-profile matters. To lead your law firm, you need to really believe that notion and reinforce it. We sum it up in a single sentence: As the practice’s principal, you’re a leader - not just another laborer for your clients. The sooner you start to take on this viewpoint and hold yourself accountable for the activities critical to practice growth, the sooner you can cut out all the menial work and get home to your family and private passions.
Setting Up a Support Structure to Handle the Day-to-Day Tasks
In order to get out, you’re going to need to let go. Trust in your associates. There are always going to be those nagging fears that accompany delegation, but if you’re hoping to really unplug from your firm every once in awhile, you’ll need someone to pick up the work in your stead. Look, we’re trying to help you get away from your desk, but not at the expense of your profitability - the work still needs to go somewhere.
Luckily, there is a way to help reduce the anxiety that comes with deferring to others - processes. Tell your teammates exactly what you need done and how it should be done, and there’s less opportunity for that work to get fouled up. One practice that I use in my own office is immediate documentation. When an employee asks a question about how something should be done, I have them record my response. We have a central repository for all of my responses, and in my absence, the team knows to look in that library first if a question ever comes up.
Freedom is Food for Continued Growth
Burying yourself in work and being physically and mentally shackled to your law firm will most definitely creep into your private home life, but being in too deep actually stunts your firm’s growth, too. If you follow the right steps to prioritize your workload, you’ll find you gain back time outside of the office. Earning back a half-day of freedom can help you gain a new, outside perspective on your work and relationships, or just serve as a safe period to let your day-to-day observations incubate until they manifest as a new idea or strategic course of action.
For some more tips and information about setting up a practice development process that give you the freedom to do what you love, click here and download a free resource guide on the topic.