In today’s episode Jake Minick talks about a lawyers most valuable commodity: time. Your legal business cannot be successful if you don’t have time to spend on your business instead of just in it. The key to buying time is to delegate delegate delegate! Find someone else to take over the tasks that you do not enjoy doing and see your practice thrive and your life become full.
A discussion of why the billable hour has harmed the entire legal industry, even firms that don’t use a billable hour model
We look at how the key to generating more time for yourself is delegation, starting with the task you like to do least
We talk about how a good legal practice can only become an exceptional legal business when the managing partners are spending time working on their business
Despite the importance of work ethic, we examine why working smarter, not longer, is the key to success
Episode 5 Transcript
Hello, fellow freedom fighters and welcome to another episode of the NC DWI Guy Podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about something that none of us has enough of, time. None of us has enough time. We are constantly scrambling, constantly running behind, constantly procrastinating, and it is all due to time management. We don’t control our own time. This has got to be a point of concentration in order to run an effective practice. If you’re running an effective practice in order to run a good practice, if you’re running a good practice, in order to run a great legal practice, time management has to be one of the focal points, one of the points of concentration and the big key to time management is delegation.
Getting other people involved, whether that is an associate, a paralegal, a legal assistant, a virtual assistant, getting somebody else to take over the tasks that don’t help you run your practice, that you don’t need to do. We think of ourselves as attorneys as being so irreplaceable, and this is a dangerous mindset to have in any legal business because a legal business thrives when the owner removes himself or herself from his or her business. That’s when you see a business of any kind, but in our case, a law firm, go from being a successful practice to a superb practice. It is the removal of the business owner. It is the freeing up of the legal business’ CEO of his or her time. That is what creates excellence in the legal business world.
That’s what you have to concentrate on is how do you more effectively delegate? How can you trust other people to get done what you do not need to be spending your time on? How can you get disciplined about spending your time on the right things? As cases build up, as return phone calls build up and answering of emails, as we start to work on our trust account, as we start to have to make daily trips back and forth to court, as we have unexpected meetings put onto our calendar, bills that have to get paid, marketing companies to talk to, we see our time, our free time shrinking, shrinking until there is no more time, but there are still tasks left to do. We’re not working 9 to 5, we’re working 6 AM to 8 PM and then 5 AM to 11 PM in order to get it all done.
Working longer is not as effective as working smarter. Work ethic is important. Fundamentally, there is really nothing that beats work ethic, but if you’re not spending your time in the right places, then it’s going to be a losing battle because there will always be something else to fill up your calendar. You will never have the ability to walk into the office and have nothing to do and that is a problem. Anytime somebody asks you, how are you doing? One of the common things that you hear back is, I’m busy, right? I’m busy. There is almost a kind of mindset that that busyness is a good thing, that it’s a positive thing to be busy, but when it comes to being a business owner, being busy will crush your business.
Good business does not come from being busy at the highest level of those in the business. In your law firm, you have to have free time, real free time, real time of reflection on how to build your business in bigger and better ways, how to do things faster, how to get better client service integrated into your firm. You have to have free time to work on those things. When you’re constantly running around to get an order signed, to talk to a DA, to do a onsite investigation, to run to the bank, when you’re constantly doing these type of errands, it becomes impossible to work effectively on your business.
In law school and in the past, the billable hour has been what governs every firm, right? You’re selling your time, you’re in the business of selling your time, and so the longer I work, the more I get paid under that model, right? Whether that was for partners who are billing at a higher hourly rate or for an associate who’s billing at a lower hourly rate, the goal is to bill the most hours. The goal is to spend the most time doing legal work. That’s not a productive business model. The goal should not be to spend the most time on a case. The goal should be to get the best result for the client possible in the least amount of time with the least amount of effort.
That is not to take away from client service, from the ability to deliver value to the client. Taking the billable hour out of the equation provides more value to your client. There is nothing productive for your client in a billable hour. If you hire a plumber to come fix your toilet, you don’t want to be billed by the hour and then have the plumber spend eight hours fixing your toilet and bill you $400 or $800. That’s not value being provided. If the plumber comes in and fixes the toilet in five minutes and charges you 60 bucks, that’s a win. That’s a win on everybody’s end.
Billing by the hour is bad business and it has created bad business practices within the legal industry. Even for those of us not currently billing by the hour, and a lot of criminal practices don’t use that model, so kudos to us for advancing the legal industry to where it needs to be. Kudos to us who are not billing by the hour, and again, many criminal defense attorneys are not using that model, but despite the fact that we’re not billing by the hour, that billable hour mindset is so much in the legal industry that we have to be very cautious not to start thinking about how we are monetizing our time.
We don’t want to be monetizing our time. What you possibly want to do is monetize somebody else’s time but you don’t want to monetize your own time. You don’t want to have the business only function when you are in it working, when you are in it clocked in because the billable hour is a clock in, clock out model and you will be enslaved to that model as long as the billable hour mindset remains in the legal industry. The key for us is to identify where we are spending our time wisely as legal business owners and where we could pass tasks off to somebody else to free our time. It should be a point of emphasis for all of us to regularly look at our schedules, to regularly identify where we could be delegating more, where we could free up more of our time, how can we eliminate unnecessary tasks from our schedule?
It is amazing when you sit down and list out the things that you do not like doing. What a long list you would come up with. Why are you doing those things? Why am I doing those things? It is crazy to me to have such a long list of things that I don’t enjoy doing. It does take time to delegate, but it frees up loads of hours down the road, hundreds of hours down the road to free up the tasks that you don’t enjoy doing. As a business owner, to some extent, you don’t want to have a job, you don’t want to be your own boss, but at the same time, if you’re in a small firm, if you are somebody that practices in the courtroom like most of us do, that is part of the reality of the situation is that we are both working on our business and working in our business, but we are our own boss.
Why are we not sitting down with ourselves and having a quarterly employee review session and saying to ourself, “I really don’t like doing this job. Why don’t I get somebody else at the firm to do that? Why don’t we outsource this? Why don’t we hire a virtual assistant to take this over? Why don’t we try to systematize this and use software to eliminate the need to do this thing?” We should be the ones that are in control of our time more than any other employee because we are our own boss. We have to set the standard in the firm of it is important to delegate the things that are taking up our time that are not necessary. Freeing your time will allow for not only a thriving practice, but also a much richer life.
We want to go into the office every day, breathing it in, loving our job, loving defending the constitution, loving helping our clients. When all of the small things that we don’t enjoy doing start to stack up on our shoulders, going to the office is a chore. When we delegate those things and remove them, going to the office is a joy. Practicing the law is a joy. Running the business is fun. That’s the goal for us. So challenge to you, challenge to myself, sit down and identify the three things that you are doing right now that you most dislike doing, and then figure out a way to delegate those tasks to somebody else. Do it now. Do it every quarter. Get those things onto somebody else’s plate. Looking forward to speaking with you again next time.