Clock showing that time is moneyWe’re almost halfway there in our 30 day challenge. Our last discussion went into how lawyers can make their practices more efficient and make clients happier by conducting weekly calendar audits. Saving time means handling a larger caseload with fewer resources and increased profits. It also means happier clients and, in turn, more referrals. Today let’s further reduce wasted time and improve customer service. This is done by reducing distractions and taking a trip to O.H.I.O.

The “Only Handle It Once” (O.H.I.O.) method is espoused by productivity experts for obvious reasons. Suppose an item lands on your desk. Attorneys are notorious for picking it up, reading it, and then putting it in a pile for later. Here’s the problem. When you pick it up later to deal with it you have to read it again. This leaves you with two choices. First, you can take the time to read something once and deal with it or, second, you can take the time to read something twice and deal with it. To make matters worse, that initial time-wasting read is usually done when an attorney is in the middle of something else and they let themselves be distracted by that new incoming thing. One of the worst examples of this is email – do you often open an email right when it comes in, skim it, and then close it to deal with it later? You know you do. Don’t lie. Let’s fix this.

Attorneys are more productive when they apply O.H.I.O to their email

Speeding up the rate at which you get things done, reducing wasted time, and making clients happy is about to happen through two easy steps.  You need this improved efficiency. It keeps overhead down and since you’re following the steps from day 1, day 2, and day 3 you are now seeing an increase in business. This increased business requires you to be more efficient so that you can handle these additional cases without increasing overhead.

First, devote a certain portion of your day, and no more than that portion, to your email. In my practice I made it a point, and required my associates, to get through their inbox once a day. This was done first thing in the morning before moving on to other issues. When doing this I only dealt with emails that were in my inbox when I opened it and anything that came in after I initially opened up my handy-dandy Gmail account could wait until tomorrow (with the exception of new client inquiries that came in through the web). Right now you’re thinking “but some things need to be responded to right away!” If it’s that important they would have picked up the frickin’ phone and called you rather than emailing you. Second, because you’re managing your calendar better after yesterday’s tip, and because we’ll implement O.H.I.O., there will be far fewer distracting things that “come up.” Eliminating your distraction level in this way will supercharge your productivity and allow you to do more with less.

Second, don’t open an email and say “I’ll deal with this later.” That means you’re going to read it a second time in the future which wastes time. If it’s a client asking questions then actually type a response before you move on. If responding requires some sort of task completion then get that task done, or at least in motion, before responding and moving on to the next email. You can then archive that email and it’s out of your life forever and here’s the magic – you just saved wasted time by reading that email once rather than twice; by getting something done on the issue immediately you’re less likely to get multiple follow up emails inquiring as to why you haven’t responded, and you’ve just pushed that case along a little quicker which means you’ll resolve it faster and get it out of your office sooner.

Yes, I understand you’re saying that you don’t have time to actually act on every email occupying your inbox in the A.M. Throughout this series I’ve been stressing the idea of “investing” in your firm. Yesterday’s calendar tip requires a one-hour time investment that will yield tens of hours in saved time each month. Likewise, by investing time in tacking your email as described above you’ll save many more hours than you invest. Methods like this were crucial to my office handling $1,000,000 worth of revenue with a much smaller operation than other firms which did the same volume (which means more profits). Implement this change and you’ll start making more money.

Day 14 action items for attorneys interested in making more money

Attorneys always want to increase business. The way to truly get ahead in your practice, however, is to make your firm far more efficient. Given that few professions are as inefficient as the legal field it’s not hard to improve. Today’s steps require you to invest a little bit of time and will yield you much more time in return. The alternative is to continue spending time you don’t have on inefficiency and decreasing your profits in the process. So today:

  1. Devote a dedicated block of time to your email and stop reading/skimming emails as soon as they come in. This reduces the distractions currently killing your profits.
  2. Practice the O.H.I.O method with your email. This leads to you getting less email overall because items are dealt with. It also improves the customer experience because clients will see their items being dealt with immediately. Finally, you save large amounts of time by not reading the same emails multiple times.

We’ve already taken a few steps in this series to flatten your information flow. Tomorrow we’ll flatten it a little further.