We live in a world full of laws, and not all of them are related to people. Nature, math, technology—everything follows certain regulations and rules.
Knowing these laws helps people better understand the world around them, navigate it, and succeed in it.
But first, you need to find time for it.
There are tasks that no one can take care of but lawyers, and they often get swarmed with a multitude of requests of various importance.
Reviewing routine contracts, being present at negotiations, advising on the company’s strategy, or ensuring the compliance of hiring new candidates are just some of them.
In order to avoid howling at the moon in the middle of the night because you’re still at work, you need to plan your day, manage time schedules, and use automation that will help you take care of routine work faster.
To do that efficiently, it can be helpful for lawyers to get acquainted with the 6 laws of time management, and use them to boost productivity, reduce work stress, and avoid legal burnout.
In addition to introducing these laws, we will also demonstrate to you how document automation solutions can help you comply with each of them.
#1: Murphy’s 1st law
You might know that law as the law of toasted bread or Sod’s law, and it is one of the most pessimistic laws there is.
Developed by Edward A. Murphy Jr., American aerospace engineer, its statement is quite simple:
‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’.
This law is helpful in legal risk modelling, when you try to keep in mind all the potential risks, and plan your day to either minimize the impact of such risks, or eliminate them completely.
Anything that can go wrong, can be automated to go right.
In contract management, the risk is almost always the same: errors, redlines, long negotiations, urgent review requests, or templates that are long overdue.
Thanks to document automation solutions, the number of things that can go wrong with your contracts is limited.
Document automation creates an ecosystem where human involvement is minimal. This means that none of the following scenarios even have a chance to happen:
- Access to contracts and changes without authorization
- Contract reviews that don’t end
- Ignored or missed contract deadlines
- Human-caused errors that impact the contract value and its performance
- Erroneous data in invoices
- Long negotiations and multiple contract versions
- Lost contract attachments (purchase orders, annexes, assets, invoices)
Make no room for error and always stay in control of your contracts.
#2: Pareto Principle
You may have heard this from coaches, motivational speakers, and influencers:
20% of effort is responsible for 80% of results
This time management law is called the ‘Pareto Principle’, and it was invented by an Italian economist, Wilfredo Pareto.
This law helps you define your priorities, focus on tasks that have the most impact, and delegate the ones that don’t.
Delegating routine to document automation solutions
It can be hard to focus on impactful work with a pile of documents sitting on your desk, and a pile of yet non-existent contracts that you need to draft.
Why not delegate drafting these contracts directly to your clients?
A fully self-service document automation solution takes NDA, DPA, sales contracts, SOC 2 report requests, and other simple contracts straight to your customers. By filling out a questionnaire on your website, they will receive a signed contract along with any materials that they are looking for.
You, on the other hand, can keep your focus on the matters of higher importance. Such as attending board meetings, or enjoying your much-deserved lunch.
#3 Parkinson’s law
Have you ever noticed that no matter how much time you get to complete the task, you’ll almost always use it all up? Cyril Parkinson, a British writer, sure did. So he created a law that became groundwork for organization and legal time management:
‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’.
This means that if you allocate more time than you need to complete a task, it will all be consumed by this very project. If only that law worked the other way, and every job could be taken care of in a nanosecond!
Set the boundaries to infinite expansion
According to scientists, the universe is constantly expanding. So does the amount of lawyer’s work.
While the borders of the universe cannot be spotted or measured, time that a lawyer dedicates to work can become finite.
Document management solutions not only take care of your document drafting. The software shows you how much time it took to process any contract. While that gives you an opportunity to track your performance, it is also a tool to help you set realistic goals.
By checking on the report in a dashboard, you can easily keep track of time required for each document, its stages, and determine how many contracts you can process per day, week, or month.
#4: Carlson’s law
Sune Carlson, a Swedish economist, most likely didn’t want to get interrupted from his numbers, and came up with the following law:
‘All interrupted work is less effective and will take more time than if it was completed in a continuous manner’.
This is one of the first laws that you pursue when your work/life balance is off and you decide to practice deep work to help you with concentration.
Even when the task at hand is not serious, it takes 3 to 5 minutes to get back to it after being interrupted. With each phone call, email, or a question from a colleague, the total amount of time a lawyer spends on getting back to work can reach hours every day.
Interrupt the interruptor
While document automation solutions are not a panacea that will stop everyone from storming into your office, they can offer you a way to reduce the number of emails and phone calls that you have to deal with.
Document automation software can include live collaboration features and custom approval workflows that can become great assistants in both contract, and time management for your team. They help you stay focused by removing unnecessary phone calls and long email chains from your contract processes.
Collaboration in the live mode allows lawyers to work on the same contract version together with the client. Custom approval flows help you set up an order of people that can take turns looking at the document when it’s ready for them to review.
No more long email conversations. No more phone calls. Stay focused on your work and step in only when necessary. You will receive a notification.
#5 Illich’s law
The principle of an Austrian ecologist Ivan Illich states that:
‘Beyond a certain threshold, human efficiency decreases, even becoming negative’.
No matter how much you want to get done with the task, if you spend more than 90 minutes on it, all further efforts will most likely have a negative impact.
Doing more and feeling that you haven’t done enough is an early signal of impostor syndrome, and can be harmful to your work performance, self-esteem, and mental health. Learn to take breaks away from work and you will soon find that your tasks are not so hard, and you feel a lot better managing them.
Use document automation solutions to spend less time on tasks
The main goal of document automation solutions is to take care of the work faster. Machine learning algorithms are able to process thousands of lines of text in a matter of seconds, reducing the time you need to dedicate to each document to several minutes.
Knowing that you have to process several contracts alongside an important M&A case to review, you might feel like there isn’t enough time to take breaks. Take a deep breath, stretch, and get into your document automation software.
You will notice that contracts don’t take up that much of your time, and you can properly focus on that important case with enough time for a couple coffee breaks before the day ends.
#6 Laborit’s law
A French neurologist Henri Laborit found out that humans tend to focus on things that make them happy. This means that, in search of immediate gratification, people will often start their day with easy assignments, and procrastinate the rest of the day, not wanting to start with complex or boring tasks.
For a lawyer, few things are more boring than routine contract drafting and review. This job can get so uninteresting you’d rather travel three thousand miles across the North Pole wearing a Hawaiian shirt than go through a few poorly drafted document pages.
Or else, some contracts can take up so much time that you can’t even get to more important tasks, and end up staying late trying to catch up.
Such dedication to work (and geography) can be admirable, but is counterproductive and can result in unexpected risks. When you’re tired, the risk of not noticing a mistake grows higher each passing minute.
Make the hard work easy
Honestly, is there anything more fulfilling than completing a daunting task in a fast, efficient way and forgetting about it for the rest of the day? We think there isn’t.
Using document automation solutions, you can start your day on a successful note—check all the contracts awaiting your approval, quickly review the required comments and clauses, eSign them—way before your coffee gets cold.
If you combine document automation with Laborit’s law, you can greatly improve your efficiency and overall mood, because your most unwanted tasks will bring you the most satisfaction, straight from the start.
While legal time management is an essential technology partner for lawyers that want to succeed and grow, arming them with the tools and habits for successful lawyers isn’t enough. For legal operations, the best approach is to get acquainted with the laws that govern the process.
There might not be a codex or a constitution with all the laws that are strictly applicable to legal time management, but the 7 above-mentioned principles are known and have been proven to work. Being aware of them will help your legal team devise a strategy that will comply with each of them, and devise workflows and schedules that ensure maximum efficiency for your legal department.
Invest your time wisely!