“A lawyer's time is his stock in trade” But…
The passing of Steve Jobs has given us all an opportunity to consider what is really important in life. He had money, success and the satisfaction of giving great technological gifts to the world. What he didn't have was enough time. None of us know how much time we have left but, in reality, our time is all that we own. The money, the material possessions, even fame and professional recognition can come and go and they do.
How are you spending your time? Are you focused on making partner, developing new legal business, preparing for the next trial, getting the billings out? All of that is fine and a necessary part of practicing law. However, the wrong focus can get a lawyer into trouble. It is a fact that human beings spend their time and energy pursuing what they are focused on. And, if what we are focused on is not really how we want to spend our time, there is a problem.
It is important to take a comprehensive view of how we allocate the time that we have. If work and professional success is all you want out of life (and for some attorneys it is) that's fine. But for most lawyers, their law practice is only a portion of their life. They want time to pursue other interests, hobbies, sports, learning… And the time we spend with our families is often the most important use of our time. So what gives when that doesn't happen? The answer is that we are out of balance, we are focusing first on our law practices with our private time coming in second (and sometimes a distant second) place.
My recommendation: “Play Yourself First”. By that I mean that, just as financial advisers recommend you “pay yourself first” by putting aside retirement and investment money before you address other expenditures, you should “play yourself first” by allocating in advance, before other time commitments, the time you want to spend on your personal and family life-your “play.” Put the focus where it needs to be; on carefully planning how you spend the only thing you really own, your time.
How to do it: Make a personal time budget. In working with my clients in developing a legal marketing plan, I insist that they commit to a marketing time budget; the minimum amount of time they will devote, on a weekly basis, to marketing for new legal business. It is very effective. The same principle applies to your personal time. Ask yourself how much time you will commit to spending with your family, your children and on your personal interests. Come up with a number, the number of hours per week that you will devote, at a minimum, to those important parts of your non-lawyer life. The actual number of hours you commit to is not as important as faithfully adhering to your personal time budget. Consistency counts. Tip: It is a good idea to keep a written record, at least at first. This will help you track your time and also keep your focus where it needs to be.
Are you ready to put first things first? It's your life and your time, spend it wisely.
Daniel Roberts, J.D.
Professional Lawyer Coach