A lawyer’s life is a busy life. With piles of cases to handle, matters to discuss, and contracts to draft, legal practitioners rarely have time even for a proper lunch. But if you want to become successful, you will need to learn to organize your day, prioritize tasks, and stick to the plan that you have developed.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, success is ‘the achieving of desired results’. In other words, success consists of 3 key points:
- The results you want to achieve
- The desire that pushes you towards achieving results
- The plan you develop to achieve your results
The 8 lawyer habits that we describe below will point you towards the tools that will help you stay organized, reduce the chance of legal burnout, and build the roadmap.
Your personal roadmap towards success.
Move towards your goals
Sit down and ask yourself these questions:
- What do you want to achieve in 5 years?
- To do that, where do you need to be in 3 years?
- How should your 1 year end in order to achieve that?
- What do you have to do this quarter to complete the year’s task?
- To do that, what are your goals for this month?
- How do you plan this week to achieve monthly results?
- What are you going to do today to get there?
Breaking down your big goals into smaller ones creates a clearer picture of what you need to do to get results. With that you’ll find it easier to achieve them. For example, if your task is to create a draft of a Master Service Agreement, segment it into separate clauses or sections and dedicate time and effort to each of them separately before reviewing the whole document.
Here are some tips to help you set your goals:
- SMART goals. Make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound
- Determine ways of measuring your progress. Even software has KPIs to evaluate.
- Set 1 goal at a time. Don’t lose your focus in trying to change everything. Take step after confident step.
- Only set goals that you want to achieve. If you’re not motivated to reach the result, you won’t move in its direction.
Then, there’s actions. You won’t even reach your daily goal if you don’t act. Understand what needs to be done, and do it. It’s that simple.
If you feel stuck or feel like the task at hand is too difficult, break it down into smaller pieces. The easier the tasks are, the more you’ll be able to cross off your to-do list, while remaining motivated to move towards your main goal.
Set and plan your day
Successful lawyers love planning 😎 Being very detail-oriented, it is important for you to create an extensive plan for everything. But, since you have to allocate a bit of time to doing what you have planned, let’s keep this part simple.
Planning your day shouldn’t take you more than 10-20 minutes. Pull up your goals, open your calendar, grab a pen and write down the following:
- Key tasks. Which 3-5 tasks can you do today to get you closer towards your goal? Write them down.
- Schedule. Plan your key tasks in-between your meetings and appointments. Allocate time for breaks, too. Breaks are important, so make sure to mark them as ‘busy’ for anyone who might have access to your calendar.
- Take action. That should be enough planning to make your day productive. Time to start moving towards your goals!
Having a clear plan with defined actions will help you stay focused, avoid multitasking, and end up doing more than you would have done without planning.
Today, even your watch is smart enough to distract you with various notifications. Technology around us makes sure that we are always connected to everyone – work, friends, and family members have means to reach us 24/7.
Letting distractions into your work life would be fine if you wanted to procrastinate. Imagine becoming an astronaut. You are on your way to success, and that is a way of constant focus. By limiting potential distractions you won’t have to constantly switch between processes.
Here’s what you can do to keep your focus on the tasks at hand:
- Set your phone, watch, and everything else to ‘Do not disturb’. You can always check the notifications and call back, but only when the task is completed.
- Turn off emails for 1 hour a day. After sending a message to the client, you await their reply. Back and forth communication creates an illusion of getting more done. But 7 messages won’t be as effective in getting you towards your goal, than a completed important task. Remember that.
- Do not take any unscheduled calls. Don’t let your clients control your day. Make sure to appreciate what you do, not what your clients want. You’ll find soon that the amount of scheduled calls will grow, and this will make your life easier.
- Let your colleagues know that you are planning to concentrate on an important task, and ask them to not disturb you for a certain period of time.
- Use the Pomodoro technique to keep your focus. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on work, then take a 5 minute break. That’s 1 pomodoro. How many of them will you need to get the task done?
Now that you’ve created a space of mindfulness, it’s time to get things done!
Start with the difficult ones
The hardest task on your schedule will be the task that you want to avoid most. Everyone tends to procrastinate, even the most successful lawyers. A long, complex task at hand makes you think pessimistic thoughts and avoid doing it. So why not deal with it, feel accomplished, and keep on with the easy stuff?
If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, that will probably be the worst thing you do all day. – Mark Twain
Easy vs. hard tasks has been among the top topics for hot discussions for a long time. To make an informed decision, let’s find out what the psychologists have to say on that matter:
- When you put off the hard task for later, the stress you experience for the rest of the day affects your productivity
- Completing easier tasks first is constructive procrastination and destroys productivity.
- However, completing an easier task will make you feel better.
- A human enjoys processes that improve over time. So, when things get harder, you will start feeling worse.
- Smaller tasks are usually the ones that can be delegated, or neglected at all. Like simple contracts that can be delegated to self-service automation software.
Always keep one thing in mind: you have faced challenges in your life, and you overcame them. You can do the same with the current task, but only if you start doing it now.
Go back to the very first lawyer habit, break down the hard task into smaller, easier steps, and get done with it. Use legal project management to help you plan the hard work.
Keep your notebook close
Your brain is a very powerful tool, but even your brain has limitations. By writing down all of your thoughts, ideas, and contemplations, you let your brain know that it does not have to keep all important things in mind.
This will give you a great boost of productivity, since your brain can now allocate more processing power to the task at hand. You’ll soon find out that you can live a life with less stress and stop waking up in cold sweat at night because you forgot something.
Limit the places to write down your thought to:
- 1 paper notebook
- 1 digital note app
Aside from just writing your ideas down, allocate time on your weekly agenda to sort everything you have written down. Don’t let your ideas linger too long at the idea stage. Structure your ideas into 3 sections:
- Do it. If it takes you less than 2-5 minutes, take care of it right now and cross it off.
- Plan it. If it takes you longer, put it on your calendar and put a deadline to it.
- Delegate it. If you need help with it, or you need someone else to do it, let them know.
Big changes start with small ideas. Keep those ideas on paper.
Automate your routine
Routine tasks, such as contract management, take up a lot of lawyer’s time. Time that a successful lawyer can use to dedicate to more meaningful tasks. Increase your productivity, by automating those tasks.
- Manage contracts 80% faster
- Keep an outlook of key dates and clauses in your dashboard
- Analyze contract performance
- Delegate legal tasks to non-legal colleagues
Read something new every day
Continuous education is one of the key components on any successful lawyer’s schedule. Pursue knowledge outside of your legal expertise. Find something interesting in the finance, marketing, sales, science sectors that will help you reach your goals.
Here are some benefits that you can reap with regular learning:
- Get a broader spectrum of perspectives on your narrow specialization
- Adapt to new situations with ease
- Get inspired to think more creatively and become more innovative
- Become a source of inspiration to others and build a deeper character
- Become more confident in all areas of life
Regular studies will help you not only with your current tasks. Education helps you create a clearer vision of your goals, and gives you a broader knowledge base for achieving them.
After all, a successful lawyer is well-versed not only in legal matters.
Call it a day when it’s time to call it a day
There’s only that many hours in a day, so don’t try to fit everything into it. Your mental health is the most important asset in your legal practice. You need to be able to make well-informed decisions, stay focused on your goals and tasks, and not feel exhausted at the end of the day.
When the day is done, go home. Turn off your phone, relax, have a proper meal, spend time with family, and reflect on your day. What have you done to get closer to achieving your goals? If you didn’t manage to complete all tasks that you have planned, analyze the reason behind it.
Starting your day earlier will help you accomplish more with less distractions during the early hours. Having a productive morning will also help you leave work earlier, rest more, and start your next day on an even more productive note.
An organized lawyer with clear goals, strong motivation, and purpose is a successful lawyer. Making these lawyer habits a part of your daily routine ensures the stability of your work, high performance, and strong mental health. This is the pavement for your road to success.
Always have your goal in mind, carefully plan your next step, and take it with confidence. Success does not come suddenly. It takes planning, persistence, and focus to achieve it.
You now have all it takes to become a successful lawyer. Take the first step today!