I often get questions about the tools we use at Practice Alchemy. Many people want to know what tools we recommend for our members so they can make their practices more profitable and less stressful. Just like having associates or assistants, technology is a form of leverage.
A word of caution – using a tool just for the sake of “leveraging technology” with no strategic purpose can make a problem worse. The strategy is more important than the technology.
With our members, we’ve already worked on a strategy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a "hands-off" marketing system that we've set up for them or one of our coaching programs, once we have the strategy and know it works, only then do we find the best tools for automation.
Here are three must-have strategies that we recommend to all of our members.
Strategy 1: Automate Your Scheduling
A major time suck for most attorneys is the tedious back-and-forth communication about scheduling meetings and appointments. When the phone rings, you pick it up regardless of the work you’re doing.
You may think you can get away with this because you’re such a great multi-tasker. But you’re not as good as you think. Every ounce of research shows that a person’s effectiveness, efficiency and quality of thinking suffer when they allow themselves to be interrupted.
The solution is simple. Schedule your availability.
There are tools that specify when you’re available and not available, and sync with your calendar. People can schedule themselves onto your calendar, or you can have an assistant do it for you.
Either way, the time, mental energy, and de-focusing that comes with managing a calendar - a low-level task that doesn't add value to your practice - is freed up to increase your productivity.
The amazing side effect is that you know when you need to be in that mindset to handle calls. You're much more productive with your time when you know you won’t be interrupted.
One of our members shared on our private member community how managing his calendar and communications has made a huge difference:
So far the system has been working very nicely. That hour and a half or so when I'm on calls every day is usually very fast paced as I'm going from one call to another, but then once the call times are through, I'm back in the Fortress* and I don't have to worry about being interrupted.
... Raj, your comments above certainly sparked a system that has been helping me tremendously. Thank you again!
Protecting your time allows you to get more done and spend more time on strategic tasks that will grow your practice. (*In our programs we use a concept called the Fortress that protects your time from people who to drag you into their poorly managed days - keeping you strategic, organized, and stopping reactive practice).
Strategy 2: Do the Most Important Things First
Sounds obvious, but mastering the basics of proper planning and time management tends to elude most lawyers.
What’s the first thing you do when you get to the office? Check email, right?
If you want to find the right clients and grow the kind of practice you want, you have to be very disciplined about what you do with your time. Those ideal clients won’t just fall out of the sky and land on your doorstep.
You need to develop and document a marketing strategy to find them, attract them, convert them, and make them raving fans so they refer their friends and colleagues.
Instead of starting your day by opening your email inbox or listening to voicemail, schedule some protected time for yourself like we discussed in the first strategy. And schedule it at the beginning of the day.
Do this for a month or two and you’ll see how much more you can accomplish than when you start the day in reactive mode. It's hard - very hard - to break the email in the morning habit. But try it for a month and see how much more you get done.
Strategy 3: Outsource for Leverage
When we first launched Practice Alchemy, we quickly discovered the one thing lawyers want more than anything else: The ability to focus on the legal work, and on business growth.
The bottom line is this. You shouldn’t be doing most of the things you’re doing.
You’re not an expert in that stuff. And your billable rate says those things are definitely not worth your time. You need to figure out what things should be done by someone else. Figure it out as quickly as possible so you can delegate and outsource those tasks.
For example, marketing is a critical function. But if you have the right partner, you can take pieces of your marketing and "set it and forget it." This lets you to focus on the big picture.
Your marketing will be executed in your voice – ethically and effectively – and allow you to attract the high-quality clients you need to grow your practice. (How do I know? Well, it's what we do for your colleagues across the country.)
So - where do you go from here?
Get control over your time and communications. First and foremost, you can't build your practice if you're always in reactive mode. If you don't have time for things that need to get done, outsource them.
I'd love to tell you there's a free lunch. A magic bullet where all you have to do is use one magic tech tool and everything changes. But the world doesn't work that way. Building the law practice you want doesn't work that way.
But you can work smarter. There are blueprints that can speed everything up (a lot). Start with these three.