Several things changed from the time I started my law practice to the time my practice started growing. The most fundamental change was my relationship with my calendar.
As my friend Taki says, "cashflow follows calendar." In other words, you can tell how successful a law practice will be a year from now by looking at their monthly calendar today.
With that in mind, let’s peek over the shoulder of a high-growth law firm owner and see what their calendar looks like. How do they spend their day? What kinds of tasks get most of their attention?
Mornings, 8 am – 11 am
This is the part of the day that we call “fortress time” in our program. The law firm owner focuses not on client work, but on the real levers of law practice growth – the things that make the business grow.
They don’t start their day reactive. Instead of jumping when clients say “jump,” they take the long view.
There’s something only a tiny fraction of law firm owners realizes. It took me decades to realize it.
And that is, the surest way to go nowhere is to check your voicemail and email in the morning.
Fortress time is spent on marketing, strategic planning, delegating, creating systems, and positioning your law firm. It has absolutely nothing to do with client work.
High-growth law practice owners have their eyes on the prize first thing in the morning. It’s just like working out. The odds of getting it done are far higher if you do it first.
Middays, 11 am – 2 pm
After spending the morning in the fortress, midday is for communication. Communication with clients, communication with staff, or communication for marketing purposes.
It could be pitching a prospect over lunch, staying in touch with referral partners, returning client calls, or checking email.
The most important thing is that your communication must happen during a defined time, scheduled in advance.
Notice a theme here? It’s halfway through the day and the high-growth law firm owner still isn’t reactive.
Now that they’ve actually made progress on the things that matter to the growth and future of the business, they can turn to the tasks that have to get done today.
Related: Bill or Build? How to Balance Clients and Law Practice Growth
I know the notion of waiting until midday to check voicemail and email probably makes you hyperventilate. But what would happen if you were in court? What would happen if you were in negotiations for a client?
Voicemail and email would have to wait.
Shocking as it may seem, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t answer the phone or open emails until noon.
Afternoons, 2 pm – 5 pm
During the afternoon, you can focus on client work or more fortress time. It depends on where you stand in the growth of your practice.
You’ll progressively do less and less client work as you find ways to delegate. You’ll become more of a CEO and less of a factory worker.
But we have to be realistic. All of us, high-growth law practice owners included, start out on the factory floor.
Related: Why You Aren’t Really the CEO of Your Law Firm
Notice that the order of the day thus far is consistent with the priorities of the CEO. First, long-term strategy and growth initiatives. Second, communication and delegation. Third, day-to-day tasks.
A funny thing happens when you start acting like a CEO. You start becoming a CEO of a real company.
Evenings, 5 pm - ?
This is when we separate the attorneys who are succeeding from those who are not. At the end of the day, high-growth law firm owners plan their next day.
They know what their day is going to be like. They follow the same template. They can just go to the office and do the things that need to get done.
By planning the next day, they can leave the office with a clear conscience and not think about it until the following morning.
Of course, reality intrudes until you’ve nailed down these habits. You might not be leaving the office at 5:30 after you’ve finished your planning. But if you’re doing it right, like our members are, you’ll be headed in the right direction.
Working for Today vs. Working for Tomorrow
If you make decisions in the moment about how to spend your time, you’ll always work for today, not tomorrow. You’ll get bogged down putting out fires, solving the crisis du jour, or fixing the squeakiest wheel.
Insert your favorite metaphor here. There are a lot of them.
The key is to always work for tomorrow’s firm, not today’s firm. Yes, we have to get things done, but a day in the life of a high-growth law firm owner is focused on the future.