- New lawyers face challenges in time management, but cutting-edge AI and technologies offer solutions.
- As AI evolves, it will likely assist with routine legal tasks, allowing lawyers to focus on client relationships and complex tasks.
Mastering time management is one of the greatest challenges new lawyers face. While it will never be easy to fit our daily tasks into the limited hours we have each day while balancing our work and personal lives, cutting-edge artificial intelligence and other new technologies can help.
A few years ago, if you walked into a seminar on time management for young legal professionals, you would most likely have learned about senior associates or partners primarily using pen and paper agendas for tracking tasks. While paper and pencil may still be the preferred method for some, many have moved toward online appointment and meeting scheduling tools.
For some, that means using the tried and true methods such as Outlook Calendar, Microsoft Teams, Google Calendar, and Calend.ly. These platforms facilitate team collaboration through shared calendars and the creation of workflow charts, both of which enhance operational efficiency by allowing young lawyers to understand where particular pieces of a project stand at any one time. In addition, well-established platforms like Clio, Toggl, Asana, and Monday.com can serve as young lawyers’ personal assistants by manipulating calendars and providing timely reminders regarding outstanding tasks.
Advancements in AI have opened up even more possibilities in time management by automating tasks and scheduling once the AI algorithm learns your work habits. For instance, Trevor AI will schedule recurring meetings, provide scheduling suggestions, and remind you of overdue tasks.
AI can also help you budget the appropriate time for each task. For example, a general AI platform like ChatGPT or Google Bard can provide an estimated time frame for a project; a platform such as Todoist can then be used to outline the tasks and sub-tasks.
Prioritization of tasks is another important factor of time management. A common teaching tool used to help young students understand prioritization involves a mason jar, some large rocks, small rocks, pebbles, sand, and water. The instructor first shows the students an empty jar, then explains that the other items are all the tasks that must be completed. The large rocks symbolize the most important things, with the significance of each item diminishing as its size decreases. The instructor explains that if you first fill the jar with sand, there will be no room for the rocks or pebbles. Instead, you must start with the large rocks (the absolute most important tasks), then move on to the small rocks (the next most important tasks), then the pebbles, then the sand, and finally the water.
It’s a simple yet fundamental principle that holds significant weight in the legal profession. In your daily legal practice, you must discern the most preeminent tasks and prioritize them accordingly. This means you need to know what is most important and how long each task will likely take. Here, too, AI platforms can help in several ways.
First, some AI platforms’ algorithms can learn your work habits and help you prioritize tasks based on that knowledge. Tools such as RescueTime and Toggl monitor the time you spend across various tasks and applications, providing useful data on how your time is spent and helping you find time to focus on important tasks. RescueTime can also provide alerts when it notices that you are distracted.
Second, AI platforms can help you prioritize but handle less important tasks for you. AI apps like ChatGPT, for instance, can help draft email responses, providing suggestions and a starting point that can be edited and adjusted to suit your needs. While you must always thoroughly check the AI app’s work to ensure the quality of the drafts it provides, utilizing it to handle smaller tasks will give you more time to focus on the larger ones.
The legal profession is increasingly aware that attorneys must manage their physical and mental health to have a sustainable practice and avoid burnout. Self-care includes exercising, eating healthy foods, prioritizing sleep, maintaining boundaries, managing stress, delegating tasks, making time for reflection and relaxation, and staying connected to those in your personal and professional circle. Here, too, AI platforms like Calm and Headspace can also help you figure out self-care rituals that work for you. Of course, these tools do not replace the guidance of a mental health professional where needed.
AI is constantly changing and evolving, so it is certain there will be more and more AI tools that can assist you in your law practice in the future. While it is hard to predict what the future will bring, it seems likely that AI will evolve to assist attorneys with routine legal tasks, as well as non-legal tasks, so that attorneys can spend more of their time focusing on cultivating client relationships and executing more complex legal tasks. New lawyers should keep abreast of technological developments and stay connected with their peers to understand what platforms can best be leveraged to help with time management in their practices.