How to Transform Your Practice With Goal-based Time Management

The key to creating a law practice and life you love is to stop thinking like a lawyer and start thinking like a business owner instead.

If you're anything like most lawyers, your days probably look like this…

You're sitting at your desk, trying not to spill your coffee on the growing stack of files piled next to you. You look at your task list for today, and it's twice the size it was the last time you looked at it because you couldn't get anything done yesterday due to multiple urgent requests. 

Today will be different, you tell yourself. You commit to completing half your task list before lunch, but then the phone rings. So you abandon your plan for the day without even realizing it and frantically dive into reactive mode.

If day after day of this leaves you feeling overworked and stressed out, you're not alone. This is the reality for most lawyers inside of traditional law practices. In fact, this is what my life used to look like too.  

The problem is law school teaches us how to think like lawyers and practice law, but it doesn't teach us how to think like entrepreneurs, and that's why you're overworked and unfulfilled. 

Today I want to shift that for you by teaching you how to transform your stressful law practice into a purpose-driven law business that allows you to create predictable income while having full control of your schedule.

Unlike most traditional law practices, successful law businesses are built on repeatable systems, which means you can achieve your income goals without being overwhelmed and overworked. Once you learn to think and plan like an entrepreneur, you can have a law business that gives you a sense of purpose and provides generously for you and your family.

You may wonder how a law business like this is possible when you have so much to do and so little time. 

The key to creating a sustainable law business is implementing a goal-based time management system.

What is goal-based time management? 

Goal-based time management is a proactive way to manage your time and energy that is based on the premise that your calendar, your money, and your happiness are all parts of the same system. How you spend your time dictates the amount of money you make and how much you enjoy your life. In a goal-based time management system, the input is the appointments and money-generating activities you plug into your calendar, and the output is the revenue and joy you draw from your law business.

Goal-based time management allows you to ditch your never-ending task list and replace it with purpose-driven blocks of time that are tied to your goals. Some of these appointments will be with the clients, and other appointments will be committed time blocks that help you build and continue to grow the business and life you want. (i.e. Attracting new clients, doing the client work, working on the business)

Now that you know what goal-based time management is, let's talk about how to apply it to your life and business.

How to implement a goal-based time management system

1. Set your priorities

We all have competing priorities, but when you become the boss of your life, you get to choose what's most important and which types of activities take precedence over others. Not all categories of activities should be equal. Your hierarchy of priorities determines which activities get blocked out on your calendar first. At New Law Business Model, we suggest you prioritize your activities in this order. 

  1. Self Care 
  2. Family and Social time
  3. Time for income producing activities in your business

If you've never prioritized your life this way before it may seem selfish at first to put yourself before family, and it may even feel risky to put business activities last. Although it's not what most of us are taught, self-care must come first, then family, if you want a successful business and a sustainable life filled with joy.  

You are the greatest asset in your law business. If you are sick, overwhelmed, run-down, or chronically unhappy, you can't be of the highest service to your clients, business, or family. That's why it's important to put yourself first and prioritize your self-care activities in the #1 spot. 

Family and social time should come next. Several studies have shown that our happiness is directly tied to the quality of our relationships. Our loved ones are what give our life meaning and our time with them is finite, so we should prioritize our family time before work.  

Once your self-care and family time is scheduled, only then do you reserve space in your calendar for income producing business activities. And since this comes third on the list it’s crucial to make every moment count in order to build a business that continues to grow and support you and your family.

2. Get clear on your goals

Now that you know how much time you have left for business activities after your self-care and family time are scheduled, it's time to get clear on your goals so you can make the most of your work hours.

When we schedule our business activities into a goal-based time management system, we focus on income-producing activities, not busy work, tending to emergencies and random admin work. In order to know what income generating tasks to focus on, you have to clearly understand your goals and the numbers that drive those goals.

How much money do you need to bring in every month to love your law practice and feel provided for?

The amount of money you want to make will dictate how many clients you need to engage and that will guide how you spend your time.

I created a tool called the Cash Flow Planner to help you make wise decisions about how to spend your time and energy in a way that generates the exact amount of money you want.

The Cash Flow Planner has a place for you to input the number of clients you have the capacity to engage each month and the average fee you expect to collect per engagement. In addition, there is a section for expenses, so you know exactly how much revenue you need to generate to hit your personal income goals. The tool allows you to tailor your numbers as your goals and circumstances change.

Getting clear on your numbers instead of guessing allows you to know exactly how many client meetings you need to book to meet your goals.

Now that you are clear on your numbers, you can be intentional about how you schedule your time.

Here’s a peak at what the Cash Flow Planner looks like for a lawyer just starting out in the NLBM program:

3. Schedule your business activities based on your goals

The key is to schedule just enough meetings to meet your goals. Most NLBM attorneys have at least an 80% engagement rate, and some attorneys book 100% of the clients they meet with. This means with the help of our NLBM client engagement system you don't have to overload your calendar with client meetings since most of the clients you meet with will engage.

Also, our attorneys' average fee per engagement is $3,500-$6,000, which means you get to offer a higher level of service to fewer clients, eliminating the need to overwork. This is a win-win for you and your clients. 

Now that you don't have to burn yourself out trying to serve an unsustainable amount of clients, you can use your goal-based time management system to schedule just enough client meetings based on your goals and capacity.  

Once you have just enough time reserved for client meetings, marketing activities, and serving existing clients, it's time to safeguard your calendar by pre-scheduling reactive time. 

Reserve time in your calendar in advance to handle emergencies and last minute requests. That way, when a client calls needing something urgently, you can impress them by letting them know exactly when you'll fulfill their request—and you can deliver without sacrificing your priorities or burning yourself out. 

Now, with all your time blocks reserved, including your pre-scheduled reactive time, you have a goal-based time management system instead of a running list of tasks that never gets done. Everything on your calendar has a purpose that's tied to predictable outcomes based on your goals.

Tips to optimize your goal-based time management system 

  • Schedule self-care time every day. Remember, you are your greatest asset.
  • When organizing your calendar, plan your days before you plan your hours. Each day of the week should have a specific purpose. For example, Mondays and Tuesdays for client intake meetings. Wednesdays and Thursdays for serving existing clients and Fridays for marketing activities to grow your business. Decide on a purpose for each day.  
  • Once you have your days of the week planned, schedule the hours of the day. You should intentionally plan each time block of every day with activities that will lead to the outcomes you want.

Now you know the fundamentals of turning your stressful law practice into a purpose-driven law business by implementing goal-based time management. 

What I've shared today is just the beginning. If you really want to transform your law business, join us for our upcoming workshop “3 Time Management Strategies for Consistent Law Practice Growth” where Kim Rockwood will show you how she went from making only $500/mo to consistently generating $40,000/mo using the NLBM goal-based time management system. She’ll show you how to take control of your time and create a profitable, purpose-driven law business that you love.  

Also, if you have questions about the New Law Business Model program, and how you can build an entirely new practice that’s good for you, your clients, and your bottom line, consider scheduling a time to speak with one of our Law Business Advisors to see if our program is a good fit for you.