“There’s no such thing as a bad law firm, just a badly managed law firm.”

I love this quote. It resonates because it not only describes the wider impact of poor practice management, but also suggests that with the right tools any law firm can turn their fortunes around.

It’s not easy… every day attorneys face a high pressure environment that demands the highest standard of work at a rapid pace. It’s a breeding ground for bad habits as all and sundry scramble to stay on top of increasing workloads and time pressure.

Everyone has bad habits. According to this book by Charles Duhigg, 40% of our daily routines are made up by habit. However, you can change for the better, and the first step is identifying the problems. Here are three of the biggest and most common…

1. Ineffective document management

When it comes to technology, it’s tempting to look for the quickest and easiest way out. People have a tendency to stick to what they know, rather than risking a small investment for a big long-term pay-off. Nothing is truer of document management. It’s absolute madness wasting time on searching for documents, coming up with naming conventions, or making trips to the filing cabinet. These little things add up to huge amounts of wasted time, energy and anger.

Remember, your documents are your IP and your product. Keeping a good document routine is important and there are plenty of solutions out there to help you break out of old habits.

2. Too much time spent on emails

Is there a greater productivity killer out there than the trusty email? According to this widely referenced report by McKinsey, the average interaction worker spends 28% of their working week managing e-mail. That’s the average worker… can you imagine what the percentage is for the average attorney?

We all have our own habits when it comes to email but the worst ones revolve around allowing the ubiquitous *you’ve got mail* alert to interrupt real work. Then of course there is the issue of organizing your inbox. Folders within folders within folders, emails that seem to disappear at exactly the point when you need them… bad email organization habits can cost you time and, in the worst cases, clients.

3. Getting caught up in the minutiae

Good habits, like creating short, actionable plans for each day, can easily become undone by bad ones. I know I fight a constant battle trying to stick to my action plan, with comparatively trivial tasks and issues constantly creeping onto the front page of brain.

One way to counter what I call ‘operational creep’ is to set aside small chunks in the day to cover administrative and operational tasks. The other is to put in place the right systems to eliminate repetitive operational tasks altogether.

‘Fess up

What are your worst habits? Do you have any tips for squashing them?

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