How to Save Hours a Day (And Your Sanity) in Your Law Practice
When you started your law practice, it was probably like any other startup service business. You do everything, and you don’t have anyone to help you.
At this stage, the first (and simplest) form of leverage you’ve got is a form document. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time you need a contract or memo, you open up a file, and start from a form. It’s one of the first tools lawyers use to save hours in the day.
Two Kinds of Leverage that Actually Make a Difference
There are two points of leverage that can save you a huge amount of time when they’re in sync – people and process.
Lawyers understand people leverage. Getting others to do things that you’d otherwise do yourself.
And when you do that, miraculously you start to get some of your time back.
If you still need to review all the work that other people do, you’ll never free up as much time as you want.
What good is hiring an associate to take work off your plate if a good portion of that work just ends up back on your plate anyway? Yes, you’ve freed yourself up some, at the cost of a host of new things to fill your time. From reviewing someone else’s work (which is never exactly how you’d do it) to managing them as employees.
If you really want to save multiple hours each day and grow your practice, you need to seamlessly integrate people leverage with process leverage.
Most attorneys hire an associate (or paralegal, or assistant) either assuming they know nothing and expecting a long, long training road – or assuming they know something (and then being disappointed when they see bad habits instilled from the prior employer… who themselves had no training methodology.)
Process leverage means creating a detailed, step-by-step instruction on how you want things done – to meet your exacting quality standards.
By process, I mean painfully detailed. A formal process that employees follow, step by step, to get things done. Even for seemingly trivial tasks like drafting or research.
When you receive work from someone you go through a process in your head. The key is to get as much of that evaluation process as possible out of your head – and onto paper.
The goal? If someone follows this process, you’ll know and they’ll know that they’ve successfully delivered work that meets your quality standards.
Developing and documenting your process takes time at the beginning. But it frees up significantly more time than the traditional approach – either delegating nothing or reviewing everything you delegate.
Process empowers employees. It enables you to carve yet another slice of time from your day for yourself. It allows your business to run without you.
That’s real leverage.
A Real World Example of People and Process Leverage
You hire an associate. You assign the associate to work on a settlement agreement with opposing counsel.
You’ve achieved leverage because you’re not the one drafting the agreement.
But when the associate is done with it, you have to go over the document with a fine-toothed comb. You have to make sure there are no mistakes.
You’re reviewing it. Catching any issues and sending it back to them.
And if they leave your firm to go work somewhere else? Anything you’ve taught them leaves with them.
Now think about that for a second. This review process in your head can be taught. It was taught to you, right? You figured it out, didn’t you?
The trick to the process piece is taking all that great stuff in your head and empowering the associate to do the review for you.
Will it be 100 percent correct? Maybe not.
But there’s a big difference between you doing a fine-toothed comb review, which might be 50 percent of the work, compared to only having to do 10 percent of the work because the associate caught most of the mistakes themselves.
The wonderful side effect of all this is consistency.
Consistency in quality of work from assignment to assignment. Consistency in employee performance as you hire a second associate, a second paralegal, and so on, because everyone is following the same process.
Instead of training each new employee from scratch, your leverage multiplies itself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Raj Jha helps attorneys create practices that work for them, instead of being trapped in practice. As an attorney who has both grown a seven figure boutique law practice and served as an executive at high-growth companies, he brings real-world business growth strategies to solo and small firm attorneys. Follow his weekly blog here.