The Value of Your Time
As lawyers, we are service providers. We don’t sell tangible things. We sell our knowledge and our expertise. Yet, we spend too much time doing things other than capitalizing on our knowledge and expertise, primarily because we don’t value our time.
Lawyers who bill by the hour should be more in tune with the value of their time, but my experience is that they don’t do a better job of valuing their time than their contingent fee colleagues.
Hearing, seeing, and experiencing a conference room full of lawyers discussing a managerial topic (like purchasing a piece of equipment or engaging a service provider) can get downright comical when you start calculating the hourly rates of those seated around the table. They may spend more on their lost opportunity costs than on the good or service being discussed.
Physicians maximize their time by doing only that work which only they can do, thereby maximizing their revenue.
The physicians maximize their time doing the work only they can do, maximizing their revenue. While law firms have gotten better, physicians have long been ahead of us on the curve. We could learn a few things from them. Why don’t we do better? Many say we are control freaks. Maybe. Are you telling me that surgeons aren’t? I think they value their time more than we do. How can we expect our clients to value our time when we don’t?
So, what does this look like?
Hiring staff or outside vendors to do things necessary for running the firm that don’t require our doing them will have a big impact on our productivity. Sure, we can do them. We might even be great at doing those things. But MUST we? If the answer is no, we ought to think about how to have someone else do them.
What types of things?
Technology and software evaluations
Accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll
Human resources, hiring, and employee management
Marketing (there is no substitute for our face-to-face efforts)
Facilities, physical plant, and equipment (purchase and maintenance)
Budgeting and cash-flow management
However, hiring people to make our jobs easier isn’t an automatic win.
A few things are required for such changes to be effective.
We must do a good job of hiring and we must actively and effectively manage them with clear communications, expectations, and goals.
If we hire someone to do something, then we must manage them. That means holding them accountable and responsible for whatever tasks are assigned to them.
We must also maximize our time with profitable or potentially revenue-generating activities. Freeing up our time to waste time isn’t what this is about (though having some time to recuperate and maintain our mental health is an investment that we cannot overlook).