Time is a finite resource, but sometimes we can have more time on key tasks by finding new time!

Consider tech tools to save time

There is no shortage of tech tools that can save you time. For a starting point, check out practicePRO’s Technology Products for Lawyers and Law Firms to learn about different products that can help you to streamline and automate routine tasks, simplify calendaring, enhance workflow, and otherwise do more in less time. With less time on mundane tasks like finding calendar availability from clients, colleagues and clients, you’ll have more time to spend elsewhere.


Delegating is a key piece of the lawyer skill set that helps increase productivity and free up your time. Delegating lower value work or work where you do not have relative expertise enables you to focus on the areas of your practice where you add the most value. It frees you up to focus on the most interesting and higher level issues.

Effective delegation

To effectively delegate:

  • Ask whether it would be efficient to delegate the task. If you’re just going to micromanage, wordsmith or otherwise remain in the weeds on the task, then don’t delegate it.
  • If you will delegate:
    • Be clear as to the task.
    • Give the context for how the assignment fits into the overall matter.
    • Set the parameters.
    • Set the deadline. Don’t make it an artificially tight deadline, or you will be creating unnecessary stress for your colleague.
    • When you receive the work, give thanks, and prompt constructive feedback.

Check out practicePRO’s delegation tips sheet and checklist to get into the habit of delegating effectively.

“Managing Up” – Managing Your Assigned Work

If you’re completing tasks being delegated to you, it’s important to effectively manage both each assignment and everything that’s on your plate. Your communication skills are key:

  • Understand the task: understand the task, how your assignment fits into the broader picture of the legal matter, and key parameters including any interim and final deliverables, who should receive them and when.
  • Ask, don’t assume: When you receive an assignment, do not make assumptions.
  • Unsure? Ask: If you aren’t 100% sure, or don’t understand something, ask! For example, on a research assignment, if it isn’t clear ask how the findings should be reported, ask. Does the lawyer want the results back orally, in a 1 page memo, or in a 10 page memo? Knowing the parameters will make sure you’re spending the risk time on the right tasks.
  • Manage expectations from the outset: If you have competing priorities to manage and are concerned that the requested deliverable cannot be provided by the date asked:
    • Explain what’s on your plate and limitations
    • Suggest solutions, such as offering to prioritizing Assignment B over Assignment A, or suggesting an alternate completion date
    • Keep an open mind – your superior / manager may have different priorities, needs or solutions. Consider any solution proposed by them, and whether it’s one that might work.
  • Managing the busy boss: Sometimes even the best intentioned lawyers will delegate an assignment through an intermediary, memo, email or other means where you aren’t face to face. You may have follow-up questions but may be worried that it’s hard to find time or don’t want to bother your busy boss.
    • See if others can help you with your question. But if you still need clarity, ask follow up questions. Work with your boss to figure out what’s the best way to get the key information you need to complete the assignments. Often you don’t need a one on one in person meeting. Use work chat, email, text or whatever works easiest to get the green light you need.
    • If your boss is not being responsive, look into booking a set time to chat with them about the questions you have. This can be daunting, but it’s better to have clarity before starting on an assignment than delivering a product that does not meet expectations because of a lack of clarity or misunderstandings.

Set yourself up for success by checking out practicePRO’s communication tips and checklist to help make sure that you understand assignments and that the deliverables are clear.

Subtract to Get More Time

As professor Leidi Klotz notes in Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less and related articles (such as this free one here), we often overlook the possibility of doing less rather than more. Humans generally are wired to look to solutions that involve adding steps, rather than subtracting. Before working to solve a problem for your clients or in your practice, consider whether subtraction might be an option.

Subtraction example: Saying goodbye to difficult clients

One subtraction example that can be worth considering relates to your clients. At times ending the solicitor-client relationship is a suitable step. When a client is disrespectful to you or your staff, regularly does not follow your advice, is behind on your fees, or is otherwise taking up more of your mental energy than others, ending that solicitor-client relationship might be an option to consider. Done properly (per the Rules of Professional Conduct), ending your solicitor-client relationship with clients who you are having difficulty working well can free up your time and energy to serve other clients, or to attract clients you enjoy working with.

Next week we’ll share some tips to maximize productivity through collaboration. Spoiler alert – it can be productive and more enjoyable when others help and cheer you on! Subscribe to the avoidaclaim.com blog to have the post emailed right to you. Got a question? Reach out to [email protected].