3 Of The Worst Habits To Avoid In A Small Law Firm

//3 Of The Worst Habits To Avoid In A Small Law Firm

“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?

By |September 19th, 2013|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.