The following post was written by Scott Distasio, the founder of Distasio Law Firm in Tampa. His firm focuses on all types of personal injury cases and holds the responsibility to provide clients with outstanding service in high regard. Follow @scottdistasio on Twitter.
The law profession has always been legendary for the amount of stress that accompanies it. The evidence is much more than anecdotal: A 2016 study discovered that, on average, 23% of attorneys report depression, anxiety, and stress. This is a pattern that has been shown to set in early on, as another study of Yale Law School students found that 70% self-reported mental health challenges by the time they graduated.
The continued stress and regular workload of the legal profession is standard. This indicates that there should be a proactive effort on our part towards maintaining our mental equilibrium and positive health. Our professional code of conduct requires that we function at our best in order to provide the highest level of competence to our clients. We need to take time to maintain our most valuable asset – ourselves.
Maintaining our standard of services requires that we occasionally step back and evaluate our business practices and our own involvement. One of the more difficult parts of maturing as an attorney is learning how to manage our time effectively. Here are 5 strategies that you can implement:
1. Start Maintaining a Regular Work Day
It’s an unwritten rule that we leave law school with a schedule of 14-hour days, and then never break out of the pattern. It’s better to get more sleep and have more effective work days. Pushing through fatigue doesn’t make us more productive and give us additional time to check for errors – it creates more of them.
Alertness peaks and ebbs throughout the day – understanding this will help you use your time effectively, and avoid working through the times that your intellectual abilities are at their lowest. We may want to have superhuman abilities when working on a case, but biology just doesn’t allow it to happen.
2. Seek Support
Law is stressful, as we’ve already discussed. It’s easy to go for short-term solutions and not address the underlying issues. The American Bar Association, recognizing that there is a risk that is associated with our profession, has now assigned a national task force to address this issue.
If you’re experiencing the common signs of stress and anxiety, it’s not unusual, and there are resources available to help you regain your life balance. Whether you engage in self-care by joining a support group, taking workshops, or consulting a medical professional, it’s important to realize that not everything can be micro-managed away.
3. Learn to Outsource Some Jobs
The professional work world has changed, and outsourcing is frequently a game-changer for busy offices. It’s hard to delegate jobs, and it’s hard to release control of some tasks. But, take a critical look at what you’re doing.
There’s a thriving gig economy now, and there are plenty of smaller pieces of a project that can now be outsourced, without losing efficiency. Actually, effective outsourcing will increase efficiency for everyone on your team. There are agencies who will gladly analyze your needs and advise on what they can offer. Talk to your staff, and have a frank discussion about what is repetitive, and can simply be outsourced. On big cases, pull in temporary workers to handle the load. You’ll find it improves everyone’s morale and that your work will be more productive and focused.
4. Schedule in Organization Time
Set aside a daily block of time to review, organize and clear your inbox. This is a particularly difficult procedure to implement, especially with a solo practice. You’ll have to be disciplined. If at all possible, do this at the close of the workday.
There are two reasons for timing it this way. First, it cues you to start adhering to a more regular work day and schedule. It’s hard to form a routine, but having parts of your daily workflow that you can control will help it gel.
Second, this will roll over to your morning routine. You’ll perform an end of the day review, and then begin each day with a fresh mental assessment of your duties. It relieves stress and provides structure twice a day.
5. Educate yourself on technology
It’s foolish to ignore the advances in technology, even when related to our profession. No matter what your specialty, there are now products that can automate standard parts of the workflow.
There is now specifically focused legal practice management software that can allow your firm to automate items such as:
- Lawyer time tracking software
- Standardized workflow tasks
- Legal document automation software
- Legal billing software
A good law firm case management software package can handle almost all of your practice because you can integrate several functions into one solution. Talk with your staff, and get opinions on what is problematic and time-consuming. It’s a certainty that there are ways to automate some, if not all, of the processes. And schedule a free demo of Smokeball to see if it’s the right fit for your practice.
Maintaining the right work and life balance is essential to growing our practice, providing the highest level of service to our clients, and staying healthy. Our busiest times beget a vicious cycle of burn-out, poor coping, and reduced work performance. Learn to step back, take time to re-assess, and never forget that there can always be improvements in how we manage our workload and stress.