How much time are you spending on admin? How many interruptions do you allow and entertain every day? The average numbers might shock you. It shocked the heck out of me! 

In these blog posts, I’ll share with you the best points of my talk about productivity and efficiency with Maddy Martin, head of growth and education for Smith.ai, a virtual receptionist service for live calls and webchat. They handle over 800,000 calls mostly for solo and small firm US attorneys. 

Maddy and I discuss streamlining your processes so you can have as few interruptions as possible without sacrificing your quality of communication with your clients and prospects. 

The Dilemma Between Converting Leads and Doing Actual Billable Work

Lawyers spend a lot of time on admin. And this is something I know myself I’ve fallen into and it is absolutely outrageous. We cannot do this to ourselves because it costs us! And there are people who could do this better than you.

Here are the numbers according to the Clio Legal Trends reports: 

  • 1.9 hours average time an attorney spends on billable work per day 
  • 2.9 hours spent each day on admin tasks
    • Of those 2.9 hours, 1.2 hours are spent on office admin, invoicing, configuring technology 
  • 23 minutes: how long it takes to recover from an interruption. Attorneys are interrupted on an average of 6x per day, so that’s 2 hours lost every day, just recovering from each interruption! 
  • 59% of people still don’t hire even after a consult

You’ve got all these people reaching out to you. And there’s a dilemma of responsiveness vs productivity. You want to work, but you can’t ignore these people because they’re your prospect clients.  

They want an immediate response, they’re interrupting you. And then with each interruption, there’s a 23-minute refracturing period recovery time, which actually results in a two-hour loss per day with the average number of interruptions. 

Not counting your clients, you end up juggling or trying to stay on top of all these interruptions from your current prospects, in addition to initial contacts and consults. 

And then even after the consult, 59% still aren’t hiring that attorney that they consulted with. 

That’s a lot of wasted time, wasted energy, wasted money– money you could have earned from billable work. 

On the other hand, ignoring the emails and phone calls in favor of being a lawyer can also damage your success as a lawyer. 

You can’t neglect responsiveness in your law firm

I always say I don’t know anybody who’s worse at returning an email than an attorney. I myself have been terrible at this and I have a lot of systems in place and I know that I can be absolutely terrible about it. 

What I like to keep in mind is that we get so stressed about something that’s actually not that important. My life doesn’t depend on whether or not I get the mortgage, but I want that instant or very quick response! I’m constantly checking my email to see if I got a response yet.

In the context of our clients where their lives can be literally on the line– I’m an immigration attorney, people’s lives are huge– when we don’t respond, people are freaking out. They need your response. 

And when they don’t get it, they just move down the line to the next lawyer they’ve researched about. You lose a potential client just because you didn’t answer their email or their phone call fast enough. 

At the end of the day, we’re in a people business and people want to feel like a valuable person and feel like they matter.

Take an honest inventory of your firm’s busywork

We need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to busy work: sometimes we keep doing it because it’s something to check off your list and get a little endorphin rush. You feel like you’ve accomplished something when you know deep down that you never really did any work you should have been doing. We’re all guilty of this. Myself included! 

These statistics from Clio are eye-opening and I hope all of us take note and take an honest inventory of our use of our daily time. 

How efficient are you with your admin?  

I preach overcommunication and we discuss above how important responsiveness is. So how responsive are you? Do you keep up with all the calls, and are you positively laboring at trying to keep up with all of them? 

There are people who can do your admin and business tasks and you can do what you should be doing: being a lawyer. 

Admin tasks and taking all the calls are not the best use of your time. 

Do you delegate it to your paralegals? They get a lot of this work, and their time is more valuable than doing a lot of these admin tasks. If you delegate to your paralegals– that’s not actually a solution, only a stop-gap measure. 

Your paralegal or assistant are specialized: think of how deeply they know your firm and all the other, more profitable things they can do. It’s inefficient for someone who’s helping you with casework to be constantly interrupted by phone calls or overburdened with emails and other admin tasks. 

Don’t let customer service suffer

When everyone’s busy,  they’re missing calls, and if they’re already on the phone, they can’t pick up other calls or another phone at the same time. 

When you’re not answering the phone, you’re doing casework. And then the phone rings again and you get interrupted. I believe this is when customer service suffers. 

Here’s how it happens: 

Whether you’re a lawyer or a paralegal or legal assistant, you’re putting a case together. 

  • The phone rings. 
  • You’re frustrated and annoyed because you were interrupted, you didn’t want to stop what you’re doing and there are still more to get done. 
  • You answer the call: you end up rushing that call. 
  • And you’re snappy.  
  • You are not giving the best experience to your clients and prospects. You end up not cultivating a relationship at all. 

When people ask me, what are the three things you would do differently if I knew then what I know now? Here are my answers: 

  1. Get a phone answering service. 
  2. Get a case management system. 
  3. Use Bench for my accounting. 

You’ll notice they’re all admin work. If you try to do these yourself, you become overwhelmed and snappy and that’s not good customer service, and not good lawyering either! 

Stop laboring. Take an honest inventory of where your hours go and start outsourcing what you need to!