In this blog post, Apurva Rathee, an Advocate at the Punjab and Haryana High Court and pursuing a Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws from NUJS, Kolkata, describes ways to increase Lawyers productivity that will help them enhance their career.
The legal profession demands knowledge, hard work, efficiency and precision. Long working hours, huge workloads and a “No Room for Error” approach often leads to an intense strife for perfectionism, which in turn results in increased levels of stress in lawyers.
As a fellow lawyer, I am fully aware of this struggle to meet the expectations of judges, seniors and clients. Most daunting of all is to meet the expectation that we set for ourselves. However, while we struggle and toil, we see lawyers who are able to successfully complete a hundred tasks in a day. They dazzle us with their efficiency at work and we aspire to be like them.
So, what is it that makes these lawyers so productive and how can we crack the code? What can lawyers do to increase their personal productivity?
Simply put, productivity is the state of being productive. In industry terms, it can be defined as a measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc. in converting inputs into useful outputs.
Personal productivity is the ability of doing or getting things done and at the same time, doing them in an effective way. Therefore, productivity of a lawyer is a measure of his efficiency and his ability of doing his work in the most effective way possible in order to produce useful results. This brings us to a very important question, which is, how do we measure the productivity of a lawyer? Is it a measure of his billable hours or his income in a day or a month or is it the quality of work he delivers?
The popular opinion is to measure the Lawyers productivity in terms of monetary gain. This is yet another harsh reality of the legal profession; your success is seen in terms of money. When a law firm earns more without making any additional expenditure towards it, it amounts to an increase in productivity for them.
However, I shall slightly deviate from the popular opinion and take a more holistic approach towards the question of lawyers productivity. In my opinion, it is not just the money that acts as the determining factor but also the quality of work that the lawyer delivers and his overall approach towards the profession.
For instance, a lawyer may be earning more than most of his peers, however, if he is working under too much stress, his creativity and the quality of his work will suffer which in turn will result in losing clients and monetary loss. Thus, in this article, I shall enumerate points for improving professional efficiency as well as for improving personal efficiency. Together they shall help increase the lawyers productivity.
- Time Management
Managing time is the first and foremost step towards increasing productivity. Many lawyers complain of not having enough hours to complete the tasks at hand. However, if they actually visualize the situation, they will realize that they waste a lot of time doing things which in no way add to their productivity.
Ask yourself this question- do you spend a lot of time simply copying documents or finding case files from cabinets? If the answer is Yes, then know that these tasks do not add to your practice. Therefore, it is best to delegate these tasks to your secretary so that you can focus on the creative and qualitative aspect of your work. This would root out some of the inefficiencies in your office.
Suggestive Read: How can a lawyer manage Time?
- Using Technology for Optimizing Productivity
It is common knowledge that lawyers need good people skills in order to procure clients. However, not all tasks require a personal touch. Using technology for streamlining work around the office can greatly increase productivity. For example, it is good to have a person answer your client’s calls as it reassures them of your dedication towards their cases. But in other matters such as managing case data, technology can improve productivity by leaps and bounds.
The American Bar Association lays great emphasis on the usage of ‘Practise Management Software System’ and with good reason. Using such a software can help keep all data related to cases in one place. Data storage becomes very easy with these systems. Our memories may fail us but computer software can help us greatly to align all our case related data at one place. For instance, when a client calls and asks about the status of his case, you do not have to go running to the file cabinet to locate his case file. You can simply check your system and promptly answer.
Do not look at these “practice management software systems” as unnecessary expenditure but as an investment which will give good returns in the long run. Some lawyers hesitate to use technology citing reasons such as – computer systems may fail and are prone to hacking. However, a power backup and a good anti-virus can sort these problems out easily.
- Organized Office Space
A lawyer’s office or a law firm should work as a well-oiled machinery. The first step towards this organization is to have a proper schedule. Every day should begin with a to-do list, prioritizing work, and making sure that wherever possible work is delegated to the staff.
Another way that can greatly help in the organization is, going for a ‘paper-less’ office. True, it is not possible to immediately reach this goal. But try and reduce as much paper as you possibly can. Working in the High Court, I see lawyers loaded with papers, their offices littered with bundles upon bundles of case files.
And, as much as I love my senior’s robust office library, I feel that having a law finding software can greatly reduce the stress of going through each and every book to find the relevant case law. Softwares such as Manupatra, LawFinder etc. can greatly improve lawyers efficiency.
- Managing Documents
If a lawyer is in the habit of creating each and every document manually, it can be highly time-consuming. A way to work around this is to use ‘templates’ wherever possible. So, wherever the document is similar to a previously drafted one, a template can be used for the same.
- Adding Minutes To Your Day
Paul Burton, a former corporate finance attorney and software executive came up with a rather interesting theory to increase billable time. He said that ‘if you are able to add six minutes to your day’s work then, that would mean that you are adding 23 hours of billable time to your year’.
if you are able to add six minutes to your day’s work then, that would mean that you are adding 23 hours of billable time to your year’.
This can be done by managing your emails and being able to prioritize your urgent work emails and removing yourself from those email lists which are not of any priority. At the same time having a quiet place where you can work on your creative matters without being disturbed, greatly adds to your productivity.
- Improving Personal Productivity
Another interesting approach is to link productivity with energy. The premise of this approach is fairly simple that, energetic lawyers approach their work with more enthusiasm and therefore end up doing more. They attack each problem with equal zeal and this energy then transpires into productivity.
- Dealing With Stress
As a young lawyer, a person may face many insecurities such as, not being able to please the seniors or judges. But this will only adversely impact lawyers work. Striving for perfection is a very good thing but letting it dictate your entire approach towards practice is not. This would only lead to increased stress.
It is therefore very important to have a more balanced approach. Making a mistake does not mean the end of your practice but refusing to learn from it can. Also, know how much work you can do, know your limitations.
Saying “YES” to every client does not make anybody a good lawyer. Choose your work wisely and do not over-commit. However, knowing your limitations should not be confused with underestimating yourself. Be rational and reasonable. Having fewer but happier clients is better than being over-burdened with cases where you are unable to deliver.
Having a healthy lifestyle is yet another way to deal with stress and at the same time to increase lawyers productivity. Many lawyers feel that if they sleep less then they can add to their working hours. But, ask yourself this, if you sleep less and work with a tired mind, can you produce the same quality of work which you did when you worked with a fresh mind?
As a law student, I interned in the office of a Senior Advocate in Punjab and Haryana High Court. He worked long hours but everyday without fail he would make some time for exercising. It was his routine and he never faltered. His healthy outlook towards life and work somehow reflected on his associates and office staff.
- Block Unwanted Interruptions
Imagine that you are working on a case and all of a sudden your phone rings. It is a client who wants to discuss his matter, which is completely unrelated to what you are doing right now and disrupts your concentration. To avoid such a situation, train your secretarial staff to answer your calls while you work. You can always return their calls. If you keep answering phone calls in the middle of work it would take you longer to finish your task at hand.
- Co-Working Spaces
Taking a shared office space is another way for young lawyers who are starting out on their own to reduce costs and increase productivity.
- Keep Adding Skills to Your Profile
Adding new skills to your profile can greatly improve your productivity. A good way is to take up courses which add to your knowledge. Many online and offline courses are currently available to lawyers. For instance, the various diploma and degree courses offered by NUJS in association with iPleaders or courses offered by FICCI. Such courses help increase your knowledge in those areas which are traditionally not paid much attention in law colleges, such as commercial laws, arbitration, taxation etc. Such courses also help you improve your practical knowledge.
Well, A sound mind resides in a sound body and a sound body is the product of “feel-good” factor. So, feel Good, be Happy & Positive.
How do you boost up your productivity? Comment Below & Share the Article.
* Student, NUJS DEABL, September 2016 Batch
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