Lawyers: What is the True Value of Your Time?
The “true value of your time” is something that Great Legal Marketing members discuss at length and with good reason. If we, as business owners, are using a lot of our time on low-level tasks, we are wasting real money. It may not always be actual dollar bills, but there is still value lost. Even smart and experienced business owners struggle with the value of their time, and we all reach a point when we need to reassess our priorities.
Law Firm Owners Who are Spending Their Time Wisely are Helping Their Employees
If you are unfamiliar with the concept, when we talk about the real value of your time, we are asking which of your tasks are the most profitable to you and if those tasks have top priority. An attorney who is valuing their time accurately is spending their time closing clients, working on cases, and handling upper management responsibilities. They are NOT doing paralegal work, settling office disputes, or keeping the office supplies stocked.
No one wants to be labeled “entitled.” However, you must acknowledge that there are better, more productive uses of your time than handling low-level office functions. Most can remember a time when we wished a boss would leave their corner office and “work in the trenches.” However, we must remember that “working in the trenches” behavior is only beneficial to the employees, not the boss or the company as a whole.
Teaching Your Office Staff to Better Value their Time
The time = value relationship also applies to your employees and legal staff. Your employees should understand what valuing their time means. Your employees may be “busy” while they are at work, but they could still be spending their time on unproductive tasks.
Ask your employees to create a list of their tasks and have them sort that list based on how much time those tasks take. Review the list with your employees and ask how their duties contribute to the law firm. If they spend a lot of time on a function that is not critical, ask them to find a way to remove that from their daily tasks.
You can also utilize freelancers to help accomplish your marketing goals. Freelancers exist for nearly any task, and they can be a good investment. When you outsource a task, you are paying someone else to handle the work and free up your time to work on the more profitable duties in your practice.
Keep in mind, hiring the right freelancer can be as tricky as hiring a full-time employee. You have to vet the freelancer you are considering and make sure they are the right person for your project. It is a good idea to develop a long-term relationship with your freelancers, so it is vital that you hire someone who does good work and who you can trust.
Automate Tasks That Are Not High Value
You should also explore options for automating low-level activities to free up your employees’ time. As we have mentioned before, automation works best when you focus on automating basic tasks (instead of complex tasks). First, focus on items that can be automated easily, duties like proofreading or scheduling social media posts. Doing this will free up your staff’s time and allow them to focus their time and energy on more important responsibilities.
Deciding When It is Time to Hire a New Employee
For solo attorneys who are doing all the work themselves, you will reach a point when you have too much casework to keep up with administrative duties. That is the time to consider hiring someone to help. Assign that new person all the tasks that 1) don’t generate income for your business and 2) that you don’t want to do anymore.
As you evaluate which tasks and duties are the best use of your time, you will also decide which tasks you don’t like to do. There are probably one or two duties that you HATE doing, but they require your expertise or experience. Offload those items to another attorney. You don’t necessarily need to hire another full-time attorney. There are many places you can find a licensed attorney with experience who is interested in part-time work.
As you streamline your practice, you will have to re-assess your priorities several times. Each time you do this, consider what low-level duties you can offload to someone else, and the responsibilities you don’t want to manage anymore. As you grow and learn to delegate, you can spend your time more efficiently and be happier with your day-to-day schedule.
Most attorneys start their firms assuming that being a really, really good attorney should, in and of itself, be a marketing advantage. Those attorneys believe that joining a whole bunch of committees and putting their name in lawyer directories is “marketing,” and they never bother to ask if there is a better way.
Attorneys are catching on, however, and those who succeed learn to leverage their current resources to create effective (and ethical) marketing. What they discover isn’t a magic pill or silver bullet but a different approach to marketing that your competitors haven’t considered.
by Ben Glass
Ben is a nationally recognized expert in attorney marketing and the owner of Great Legal Marketing.