YourABA: November 2013
YourABA November 2013 Masthead

8 keys to exposing billable time killers

Boosting billable hours and making better use of your time can be done with a personal productivity audit, according to a recent article in GPSolo eReport. The article lists the following keys to assessing your productivity.

  1. "Is this what I went to law school to do?"
    Quantifying the number of mundane things you do may be difficult until you take it seriously enough to track all your time. It may not seem like a big deal to walk over to the file cabinet, but in the interest of your productivity audit, you’ll need to think about it in terms of what it can cost your firm over the long term.

    As you begin self-assessing habits like these, it’s worth asking yourself: "Is this what I went to law school to do?"

  2. Use lemons to make lemonade.
    The same message might be applied to technology. Use technology for technology tasks and people for the personal touch. Having real human beings on hand for tasks such as answering the phones can pay dividends with clients who resent getting lost in phone trees.

    But it pays to leave other tasks to specialized software and tools to achieve increased efficiency. Often, the most technologically challenged legal professional can capture billable time on the go from mobile devices as well as evaluate whether to integrate matter management with other programs, such as accounting tools, or have an all-in-one solution.

  3. Stop reinventing the document.
    If you’re creating documents manually, document management software should be added to your technology arsenal. In fact, if you have a good practice management program, you may already have it without realizing its potential value.

    Not only does document management software create templates to save you from formatting and reformatting the same types of documents over and over again, but it also can create an unlimited number of documents from information that is entered just once — often from a simple client questionnaire — so it’s an important legal tool for reducing errors from manual typing. Additionally, the right automation software can create first drafts of long, highly complex documents, such as legal trusts, in a fraction of the time it would take to produce them manually.

  4. Choose practice management that takes full advantage of your mobility options.
    It probably goes without saying that you’re using a smartphone and at least one other mobile device, such as a tablet. The most advanced practice management programs now allow you to remotely access practically anything on your office server or in the cloud without having to get in touch with someone back at the office to send something to you. Regarding security: Nothing is accessible without a secure password unique to you.

  5. Consider the idea of a paperless office.
    We know the objections: Computers go down, power goes off and all those hackers are lying in wait — however, the solutions (backup power, off-site data storage, firewalls, etc.) far outweigh the objections. (For more on the paperless office, click here.)

  6. Don’t allow short-term costs to get in the way of long-term productivity and profits.
    It’s estimated that up to 40 percent of small law firms don’t use practice management software. Why? Cost is the most-cited concern, which is entirely understandable until you consider that the right practice management program can save you as much as 40 percent of the time that you presently waste doing manual menial tasks. That’s 40 percent of your time that could be used taking on more cases and clients or even getting home in time to tuck the kids into bed.

  7. Test before you invest: Choose practice management that works for you.
    They may all be designed to do the same thing — they may all even sound pretty much the same — but there can be enormous differences between programs designed to perform the exact same function. Don’t give up. There’s at least one practice management program that will feel comfortable for the way you work.

  8. Join the productivity track.
    Look around your firm. Everywhere people are handling tedious, technical tasks — another opportunity for bringing technology to the rescue.

    Accounting is one such area. There are probably dozens of financial management programs out there created specifically for law firms. Whatever your demands, chances are, you’re going to find at least one that meets those demands.

    It’s time to put productivity on the top of your docket. The fact is, the possibilities for improving productivity in your firm are everywhere you look.

GPSolo eReport is a publication of the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.

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