Even the most competent of attorneys would likely admit that running a law office can at times be overwhelming. Managing a firm involves working long hours, making difficult decisions, and often balancing multiple challenging tasks at once. Being frequently overstressed at work is nothing to take lightly. According to WebMD, work related stress can result in headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. These are issues that will not only disrupt your ability to serve clients, but can keep you from enjoying life.
Before going any further, we should note that our first suggestion for dealing with any severe work related stress symptoms is to consult with a medical professional. We can’t replicate the help a doctor may be able to provide, but what we can do is offer some valuable legal practice management advice, that might just keep attorneys from burning out. Let us help you work smarter, so you can enjoy a healthier work experience.
Be More Efficient By Using Legal Software
According to a 2017 study, administrative tasks, like collecting payments, handling documents, and gathering and organizing information, can take up 48% of an attorney’s time that could instead be spent on billable work. When administrative work begins building up, and the well being of your practice becomes threatened, stress will likely not be too far behind. And when you have to work late into the night to get these administrative tasks done, you put yourself at higher risk of becoming burnt out.
Fortunately there are a lot of legal softwares tools now available to help attorneys complete administrative duties in a more efficient fashion. Today’s legal softwares are becoming increasingly easy to use, come from companies with helpful support teams, and can help attorneys stay more organized. Working digitally will also make communication with clients easier than ever. The bottom line is that using legal softwares can help you maximize your time, and ensure that all of your client obligations are always met.
Plan Out Your Day
Any good attorney knows the value of preparation. Walking into a court case with a carefully crafted plan to win your client’s case can go a long way in bringing you the final outcome you desire.
Unfortunately, not all attorneys carry that same degree of preparation to their work in the office. Bringing a higher level of organization to your day can be another effective strategy for limiting work related stress and burnout. Here are some ways you can better tackle your daily shift.
Don’t Run From Daunting Tasks
As adults we know procrastination is a bad idea. But, often when there is an unpleasant task we need to get done, we’ll still act like we’re back in high school, pushing it off for as long as possible. It’s just human nature to run from things we know will cause us stress or anxiety.
Our advice is to tackle your biggest, most unenviable tasks right at the beginning of the day when possible. If you don’t, you’ll likely be emotionally consumed by them all day, and distracted while working on other tasks. Rip that band-aid off in the morning, and you’ll feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulders the rest of the day.
Lay Out Realistic Daily Goals
No one knows better what you’re capable of accomplishing in a certain period of time than you, so use your past experiences to put together a list you can actually get through by the end of the day. Is one task too big to get done in a day? Lay out a day-by-day plan for the week or month, breaking down in detail what needs to get done each day. Give yourself strict deadlines, and make sure you actually meet them.
One of the biggest keys to better managing your day is accepting that you can’t get everything done on your own. Knowing how much you can handle in a given day or week is a must, so you can properly assign the tasks you don’t have time to members of your staff.
Spend Less Time On The Phone
Nothing can derail your day quicker than getting stuck on the phone with a client. Not only does the phone call itself keep you from getting tasks done, the amount of time it takes you to get back in a working rhythm also will prevent you from accomplishing more. Not to mention, spending large chunks of your day answering phones can be enough to drive an attorney nuts. You didn’t go to law school to become a receptionist!
We know that ignoring calls is not an option for your firm. Every one of those calls could be from a potential new client, and it is crucial that you have a live voice ready to answer them. So to keep yourself from losing your days and sanity to answering calls, we recommend teaming up with a legal answering service. Doing so will guarantee all your calls are answered by a live receptionist. The trained professional who answers your calls can take down all your client’s relevant information, before trying to patch you in. From there you can choose to either jump on the call, or have a message taken for you. This will give you the option to the return less important calls at a later time, and keep your days on track.
Of course an in-house receptionist can also help you with phone answering. However, using a legal answering service is not only significantly cheaper, but can give you 24 hours of phone answering a day, compared to just the eight. Why does this matter so much? Well in order to avoid running yourself into the ground you need to…
Take Some Time Off!
According to a study performed by the Harvard Business Review, employees that take 11 or more vacation days in a year, are 30% more likely to receive a raise. The takeaway here for lawyers should be that those who take the occasional break, are better able to avoid burnout and be more productive while at work.
We know you can’t afford to be away for too long, especially if you’re a solo or small firm attorney, but some time away is necessary, even if it’s just a few days to reset the old battery.
When is it time for a break? Knowing these three warning signals for burnout provided by BCG Search, can help:
- An emotional exhaustion-feeling drained, not having anything to give even before the day begins
- A depersonalization-feeling disconnected from other people, feeling resentful and seeing them negatively
- A reduced sense of personal accomplishment-feeling ineffective and perceiving that results achieved are not meaningful
If you’re experiencing any of the above feelings, you should schedule some time away from the office for yourself as soon as possible. That brings us back to using an answering service. If you use a 24/7 legal answering service like Answering Legal, you can take the occasional week off, without having to worry about missing out on new client opportunities. While you’re away, all of your callers will be handled by a live voice, and alerted as to when you will be returning. Meanwhile you can keep track of all your callers through your phone or laptop, and jump into action if anything urgent pops up.
The practice of law is inherently stressful, and no attorney can survive out there on their own. Make sure you invest in quality help, whether it be through new employees, new technology, or new services. Don’t wait until your body breaks down and forces you to get help, get help before!