Time Management Tips and Resources

At the State Bar Convention a couple of weeks ago, State Bar Chief Member Services Officer Lisa Deane shared with the audience a number of tips for time management, as well as resources she found helpful.  The response was so positive that here, for your reading pleasure, are her tips:

Time management is about being deliberate; more efficient, simplifying life to make sure the important work gets done.

General Tips
1. Sleep. Get 7-8 hours. Sleep deprivation decreases overall performance. You may get the work done but the quality will suffer.
2. Stay out of the rabbit hole. Only use social media if it is planned or minutes will turn to hours.
3. Buffer Time. Leave time between tasks and meetings. Consider a 50 minute meeting or task to save the last 10 minutes for debriefing or preparing for the next task.
4. Health.
a. Exercise, Stress, Food. Not watching these today is okay but long-term exercise and eating right will reduce chances of disease and cancer.

Work Tips
1. Planning
a. To-do list:
1. Everything you think of should go on a master list. If you know the due date, write that down as well.
2. Each week this list is reviewed to plan the next week.
3. Brian Tracy, recognized sales and personal trainer, says your efficiency will increase 25% the first day you start creating a master list.
b. The Plan:
1. End of each week- Review your master list and create the to-do list for the following week. Calendar blocks of time to accomplish projects, email, meetings.
2. Beginning of each day- Review the list. Look at priorities and tackle starred items.
3. End of each day- Make list for the following day. Star items that must be done. Make sure starred items get blocks of time on your calendar.
2. Most Important First
a. Tackle most important items first in the day. For most people first thing in the morning is our “prime time.” If not, do the most important during your “prime time.”
b. Watch time limits set for projects so all important work gets done.
c. Email-Try to resist doing email during non-designated times. If you can’t resist than review email while you’re having your morning coffee or juice. If the email message will take longer than 2 minutes to respond save for later.
3. Email
a. Calendar time for emailing. If you have a few extra minutes than only respond to emails that take 2 minutes or less, otherwise move them to folders:
1. Read
2. Archive
3. Needs Action This Week or Needs Action Later
4. Specific Content Folders
a.  Julie Morganstein’s 4 Ds:
1. Delete- some things aren’t work doing, they are schedule clutter.
2. Delay- If something is a low priority then delay it until later and re-evaluate whether or not to take on the task.
3. Delegate- Can someone else take on the task?
4. Diminish- Tackle the task in a short meeting, short email response.
c. No- It is not a four-letter word. Say yes only to what helps accomplish short and long-term goals and brings great value.
d. Organize- FOR PAPER
1. Try to touch it 1 time.
a. Keep it for your records
b. Throw it away if it has no value
c. Give it away to someone who can use it
d. Response Needed- put it on the master list
5. Focus
a. Turn off distractions – turn off ringer, email alerts, phone beeps, etc.
b. From The Muse, a blog: The 52/17 Rule:
They studied employees and found those who worked for 52 minutes followed by 17 minutes of socializing were 10% more productive than the others.
6. Time Pockets
a. Between tasks, if you have worked 52 minutes get up and deliver documents, walk to clear your head or visit with a colleague.
b. Read an article or blog in your “to read” folder or email box. Have these accessible for short pockets of time that become available.
6. Batch Tasks
a. Multitasking- switching gears requires changing thoughts and results in a 40% of lost productivity. Instead,
b. Batch Tasks:
1. Phone Calls
2. Delivering materials, documents, etc. to colleagues
3. Emails- Calendar two to three times each day to check emails. If this is new to you start by calendaring six times and then slowly back down to three.
7. Access your System. If it doesn’t work calendar time to seek online resources to help.

Other Resources:
1. Time Management Skills
https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/time-management.html
2. How to Manage Time with 10 Tips That Work
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/219553
3. Mind Tools
https://www.mindtools.com/pages/main/newMN_HTE.htm
4. Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/top-15-time-management-apps-and-tools.html

 

Traveling this summer? Here’s some helpful technology

When it comes to travel, like most other things these days “there’s an app for that.”  Recent articles in the ABA Journal’s online Tech edition and other publications prompted us to do our own research for apps/sites/services that might be of use to us as we begin or continue our summer travels.

This list is by no means comprehensive; it merely reflects apps that we thought we’d use, or that we wish we’d had during previous travels – either for business or leisure.  In no particular order, (and without endorsement) here’s some of what we found:

Tired of wedging yourself into an unusually narrow seat, or one that seems mere millimeters away from the seat in front of you? Seat Guru lets you check the seat width and pitch on major (and some not-so-major) airlines. (free)

Upside Travel Co. (started by the founder of Priceline) promises to revolutionize your business travel. They book your travel and lodging in a single-priced package for 5 – 10% off regular rates and give you a retail gift card to boot.  Once you enter your arrival and departure dates and the kind of hotel you want (2 star to 5 star), Upside offers a package and one or more alternatives that may better fit your wishes. (free)

If grabbing a meal or snack during a layover is part of your travel routine, try Grab.  Grab shows you what is available in the airport, the menu, and (where available) allows you to order your food on your mobile device.  Then when you land, grab your meal and head off again. (free)

Are you vegan or vegetarian?  Happy Cow lists vegetarian and vegan restaurants in North America and offers recipes for when you get back home. (free)

Want to find bargain flights?  Skiplagged finds flights other travel search engines don’t, including some from “hidden cities.”  What’s a “hidden city?” It’s the city in which a longer flight has a layover – you can sometimes book the second leg of that flight for a reduced price vs. a direct flight between the two cities. (free)

Sidekix provides “interest based routing.”  Like art galleries, or maybe coffee shops, or boutiques.  Tell Sidekix what you like, and your starting and ending points and it will plan a personalized walking route for you based on your interests.  Streetography overlays maps with curated photos to let you see what is along your route.  You can filter by recency and photographer and offer your own photos for posting. (both free)

Finally, a more luxurious option for frequent business travelers.  Do you wish you could just have your “work clothes” clean and ready for you when you get to your destination?  You may want to check out DUFL.  Once you register with DUFL (yes, this one costs), they send you a suitcase to fill with the clothes you usually use for business travel.  DUFL then inventories, photographs and cleans the items you send.  When you have business travel ahead, you click on the photos of the items you want and DUFL delivers them to your hotel.  When you are done, they pick up the clothes, clean and store them for next time.  There is a cost for this convenience ($9.95 a month for storage and $99 per each round-trip) but if you spend more time on the road than at home, think of the trips to the dry cleaner and packing time you’ll save.

 

Are you well?

Wellness.  It’s the newest buzz-word; OK that and mindfulness.  Have you rolled your eyes more than once when someone starts to discuss wellness?  But when we talk about wellness, are we just talking about physical health?  Or are we, as we should talking about not only physical, but mental health?  And the health of our practices and careers?

At the 2017 State Bar Convention last week, the Member Assistance Committee and Practice 2.0 co-sponsored MAC Minutes – a series of short presentations on a variety of subjects from time management to substance abuse to mental illness to the more traditional health and wellness.  The presentations, brief but fact-filled, make us wonder, are you well?

Law is a stress-filled profession; it can be simultaneously invigorating and exhausting.  Many experts have discussed the impact of vicarious trauma – the consequences of taking on the emotional burden of clients in crisis.  Are you taking care of yourself?

It’s a multi-level question and the answers, we suspect, are as complicated.  Are you exercising, making healthy eating choices, attending to your inner lives, seeking balance in the way that makes sense for you and, if you have one, your families?  Are you enjoying the practice of law or the area of law you have chosen?  Is your practice well?  Is it running well and are you able to concentrate on the important stuff while wisely using human or technological resources to minimize the time you spend doing administrative or non-lawyering tasks?

We are posing the questions . . . there are no simple answers.  But the Bar has resources for you if you are seeking change.  Our Member Assistance Program provides volunteer peer support if you are experiencing personal challenges.  Our Practice 2.0 program provides advice and counsel on running your practice, on making your procedures more efficient, and a variety of practical law office issues including technology.  Want to talk?  We’re here.

Member Assistance Program, 602-340-7334

Practice 2.0 practice management advice line, 602-340-7332

 

Does your fee agreement include a document retention policy?

Have you looked at your fee agreement lately? Does it include your document retention policy?

A clear and concise document retention policy will let your clients know how long they can expect their lawyer to keep their documents. If you do not inform your clients about your policy then you  may be stuck with maintaining client files for a long time.  Ethics Opinion 15-02 makes clear that clients are entitled to their file at the end of the representation. But, that does not necessarily mean that you have to keep all of your client files available indefinitely. The length of time that you should retain your clients files after the conclusion of the representation may vary based on the practice area.  You should also consult your malpractice insurance provider in case they have a proscribed length of time that you are required to keep client files to be covered.

If you  are not sure what your document retention policy should say, never fear! We have a sample available along with sample fee agreements and numerous other handy forms. Practice 2.0 also offers a free review of your fee agreement.

Words of Wisdom on Cybersecurity Management and Policies

When experts in the field are willing to share their expertise, who are we to argue?  We are excited, therefore, to pass on a great guide on these thorny issues from Sharon Nelson (Esq.) and John Simek of Sensei Enterprises – technology and cybersecurity gurus extraordinaire, national experts and founders of the company.

In this article they pose the following questions and provide expert guidance.  Can lawyers actually manage their technology (instead of it managing them)? Can firms create and enforce policies that provide a secure environment for their users and protect client data, rather than acting like computer usage and security if the “Wild Wild West,” where anything goes?

Buying, implementing, replacing, and securing technology are huge challenges – especially when you have billable work to do. And yet, technology (and the policies that govern its usage) is the most important part of a law firm today – at least after the carbon-based units!

Read their article on Technology/Cybersecurity Management & Policies; and remember, Practice 2.0 is a State Bar of Arizona member benefit.  Call us at 602-340-7332 for quick help by phone or to book a longer consultation by phone or in person.

How’s that conflict checking system working?

Checking for conflicts is like paying taxes – sort of painful, but necessary.  Every lawyer has their own method for checking for conflicts – some use a manual system, some have a digital system, some use office automation.  Perhaps your practice management software has a conflict-checking function; maybe you use a spreadsheet or some stand-alone product – maybe you are old school and use index cards.

Unlike mid- or large firm lawyers, who may have trained staff to conduct conflict checks at predetermined intervals, for most solo/small firm lawyers, when it comes to conflict checking the buck stops with the lawyer.  Having a reliable system into which to enter names of parties, involved individuals or business entities, opposing counsel, actual and potential witnesses, etc. is only half the battle.  The other part, and possibly the more painful part, is actually doing the conflict check at the outset and then continually during the representation as the need presents itself.

When is that, exactly?  Well, you know that you are going to check for conflicts (actual and potential) before getting confidential information from a potential new client.  You’ll be checking for conflicts (at a minimum) with the client, their business or employer, individuals involved in the legal issue with which they are presenting  you including the potential opposing party, their business or employer,  and their lawyer if they have one. How often after that should you be checking for conflicts?  As with most things legal, the answer is “it depends,” and there is no way to set out the parameters without knowing more about the substantive area of law, the nature of the claim and other details.

General guideline: you should check for conflicts whenever a new individual, business entity or other party is added to the case.  If a new witness or potential witness is identified, recheck for conflicts.  Is that all?  Well, maybe.  You know your case best and you will have to be alert for actions or occurrences in the case that could cause a conflict to arise, or a potential conflict to become an actual conflict.  And finally, the Rules of Professional Conduct remind us that our own personal interests may create a conflict.

Bottom line:  You need a system that works well for you and that you diligently use.  It has to be one you are comfortable with, that is relatively simple to use and has to be part of your regular routine.  The greatest conflict checking system in the world won’t work unless you use it correctly and diligently.

Choosing Practice Management Software

Using practice management software is one of the first steps to keeping your law practice in order.  You can use practice management software for a variety of functions. Before selecting one, think about the features you need. What will you be using it for? You can use it for all or some of these tasks, the important thing is to be consistent:

  • Contact management
  • Document management
  • Document automation
  • Timekeeping
  • Billing
  • Calendaring
  • Rules based calendaring
  • Payment processing
  • Client portal
  • Email management
  • Trust accounting

Some practice management software even integrates with popular programs like Office 360, QuickBooks, and others.

You will also need to consider the price. Practice management software that is cloud based is usually billed at a per user per month price. Sometimes you can receive a discount by virtue of your membership in the State Bar of Arizona and usually staff accounts are cheaper than lawyer accounts. A discount may also be available for paying in advance.

You will also need to consider security. Who owns your data? What level of security does the practice management tool provide?

Many practice management software options include a free trial.  This will enable to you to determine whether the software is easy to use, and whether you will need training.

Selecting a practice management software may be a tough decision.  Practice 2.0 has created a checklist to help you make the choice.  Once you find a practice management software and begin to regularly use and rely on it, you will enjoy the benefits of organization and keeping all of the activities involved in running your law firm in one centralized place.

Practice 2.0 offers free in person and telephonic consultations.  We will help you find a practice management tool that will work for your firm.  Feel free to contact us with questions about this or any other topic related to running your practice.

Securing your snail mail

Did you know that the U.S. Postal Service now offers a service called Informed Delivery? Do you still get bills, bank statements or other “snail mail” in hard copy by delivery This service offers you a digital image of all regular mail (not magazines or catalogues) that is scheduled for delivery to your address each day.  Why do you care?  If something containing confidential or personal information is missing, you will know as soon as you get the mail each day.

Wouldn’t it be better to know that your credit card bill, your bank statement or other sensitive information has been mis-delivered, or worse stolen, that day rather than wondering weeks later whether you’d actually received it?

Check out Informed Delivery here.

New guidance on cybersecurity

There’s been little official guidance on ethics and cybersecurity until now.  This week the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 477 providing guidance on “securing communication of protected client information.”  Needless to say, there are no bright line rules, but the reality that data breaches are no longer an “if” but “when” puts this issue front and center.  Happily, this ethics opinion confirms the general advice Practice 2.0 has been providing on this issue.  Does that sound a little self-congratulatory?  Perhaps, but we’ve earned it.

You can read the opinion for yourself, but here are the highlights:

  • Lawyers must understand the “benefits and risks associated with relevant technology” (see the comment to ER 1.1)
  • Lawyers must be mindful that the duty of confidentiality extends to electronic communications and communication of client information
  • When determining whether additional safeguards are needed, there are numerous factors to consider by way of a cost-benefit analysis – several factors are enumerated in the opinion.

Lawyers need to understand the nature of the threat, consider the sensitivity of a client’s information and assess the risk to the lawyer and the client.  Lawyers are expected to exercise due diligence in selecting technology vendors and products and use reasonable electronic security measures.  In short, if you have been using free (unsecured) Wi-Fi at your favorite coffee shop or elsewhere, those days are over.  If you have been using free file-sharing solutions that do not encrypt data “at rest,” it’s time to move on to a more secure solution.

There’s lots more to the opinion, and you can read it at here.  You can also call the Practice 2.0 advice line at 602-340-7332 to ask questions, or book a consultation with one of the Practice Management Advisor attorneys to discuss cybersecurity or other practice management issues.

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