clock illustrating an article about managing time in your legal career

How Essential is it?

If you’ve completed the Professional Skills Course at any point or attended in house or external training or just been browsing on Linkedin during the commute or your morning coffee, I can guarantee you’ll have read something about Time Management.

Ah we love time management as lawyers don’t we? All those little 6 minute units, time sheets counting the minutes and hours?

So why did I find Time Management of my caseload such a problem in practice?

I tried the Eisenhower Matrix, you know the one, where you catagorise your life into boxes, Urgent, Important and Urgent, Important Not Urgent, Not Urgent and Not Important but does this really help when everything you have to do seems Urgent or Important? Nope, it definitely didn’t help me. At All.  Cue overwhelm, most of the time. Drowning in a sea of demands, client’s urgent demands, and later other people’s client’s urgent demands, I couldn’t keep up. So, what to do about it?

Do I let people down? Do I do things later that I wanted to?

An Extreme Example

I once called an experienced partner on a claim I wanted to settle it on behalf of a client. ( I was a Senior Associate at the time to put this in context).  After several “fob offs” from his secretary, he finally spoke to me.  He apologised and said, he was dealing with an urgent defence which needed filing for another client and couldn’t speak to me about the claim until next week. Flabbergasted, I put the phone down. Why wouldn’t he want to do the best for his client and sort matters out whilst an offer to negotiate was on the table? What sort of lawyer was he, I wondered, who couldn’t manage more than one thing at once?  And more to the flippin’ point, why was I so bothered by his response?

Bemused, but curious,  I explained it to a colleague in the kitchen whilst making a coffee (I am a long-time caffeine addict) and with her help, it struck me. This person prioritised. He focussed one thing at once until it was done. He was clear about the impact of his actions  but made a decision anyway and stuck with it.  Whilst I don’t recommend, for the record, only ever dealing with one case at once, especially in litigation, it’s impossible to operate in this way,  it got me thinking about my approach to time management .Without doubt, too much multi-tasking in law, is dangerous. Without appropriate focus you are risking your practising certificate and for your firm’s PI Insurance. This was an extreme example but dealing with one task and focussing on it is a good lesson. I now have a system which is tried and tested on me and those I’ve coached and is really effective. It involves combining urgent and important jobs and focussing on just a few matters each day. The skills lie in deciding which matters to tackle and when. You can get done more than you ever thought possible. I have literally done four days’ work over three in this way in private practice. For years.

If Time Management is a one of your struggles, I can help. Send me a message and we can explore how coaching can help you to manage your case load and life to get more out of it and more time for balance and joy.

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"With 24 years of experience as a solicitor, coach, teacher and mentor, I can help you find confidence to discover and create a legal career that feels authentic and matches your values. I also help organisations to create actionable plans to create diverse and truly inclusive work places”

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