Blog post • 28 Mar 2023

How To Identify Wasted Time and Inefficiency in Your Law Firm

Time is valuable for all businesses, but research suggests that only 60% of work time is spent effectively. Unfortunately, most employees are prone to distraction at work, resulting in ineffective time use. This behavior can adversely impact your firm's profitability.

Nonetheless, there are many ways to combat time-wasting activities and inspire employees to be more productive. Here we will examine inefficiency in law firms and its repercussions. Afterward, we will identify the ordinary time wasters in the workplace and offer actionable tips to lower inefficiency and enhance productivity.

What Is Inefficiency At Work?

Time incurred while eating lunch, taking breaks, rebooting, and attending to customers, is inevitable. But employees might also experience hindrances beyond their control, leading to inefficiencies. These hindrances may include uncoordinated responsibilities, poor task delegation, insufficient reporting, equipment issues, lack of information, ineffective or lengthy meetings, unclear communication, and mistakes by others.

Also, the time needed to search for files, communicate tasks, prepare meetings, and draft documents, isn’t always billable. Employees may also intentionally waste time by diverting their attention from high-priority work to attend to impactless tasks. Or participate in unnecessary meetings, answer trivial emails, engage in water cooler chats, work slowly, take personal calls, or conduct irrelevant research. These are all examples of inefficiency at work.

Internal And External Time Wasters

There are two types of time wasters at work: internal and external. Internal time wasters are controllable, for example checking emails, chatting with colleagues, and browsing social media.

External time-wasters are beyond our control, for example accommodating requests from others, being assigned low-priority tasks, attending unnecessary meetings, working in a noisy environment, and making pointless phone calls.

The Relationship Between Wasted Time and Inefficiency

When employees are inefficient at work, it may lead to wasting time. And when there is wasted time, it can result in further inefficiencies. The demotivating effects of inefficiency usually fuel this cycle.

When employees need more resources and information to complete a task and are uncertain about what to do, it is easy to procrastinate and get distracted by time-wasting activities. Time wasted can negatively impact work, which may lead to working long hours to make up the lost time. However, this may lead to burnout if it becomes a pattern.

How To Identify Wasted Time and Inefficiency in Law Firms

Even the most well-managed law firms are not immune to inefficiencies, therefore it’s crucial to be vigilant in identifying them. While some inefficiencies are hard to spot, there are some usual suspects when it comes to inefficiency.

1. Manual Processes

Manual processes can be a source of wasted time, as they may lead to duplication of work and errors.

2. Difficult-to-Find Or Lost Data

Data disorganization or difficult-to-find data may cause inefficiency in law firms, as employees spend too much time searching for information.

3. People Versus Processes

In some cases, inefficiency in law firms can be attributed to people rather than processes. Sometimes employees become overly reliant on established processes and become unproductive, which might go unnoticed during times of change.

4. Lack Of Strategic Focus

A lack of strategic focus is a costly issue that affects most law firms. Even if a law firm has excellent supervisors, managers, and employees, a lack of vision may cause individuals to work at cross-purposes with misaligned goals and objectives.

5. Meetings

Meetings can also be a time-waster, especially if they are too frequent or lack a clear objective or agenda.

6. Process Drift

Process drift is a frequent issue in most law firms where processes no longer align with digital solutions, forcing workers to create workarounds for repetitive tasks on a case-by-case basis.

How To Improve Efficiency In Law Firms

Identifying and enhancing every inefficient practice can be a daunting task. But here are proven tactics law firms can use to boost efficiency in the workplace.

1. Assess The Current Processes

Although it can be problematic for hands-on managers, assessing current processes is inevitably beneficial. Observing processes and asking relevant questions to team members makes it easy to uncover inefficiencies and boost morale as workers become invested in the process.

This approach also allows employees to identify deficiencies they may have noticed but were hesitant to report. Streamlining processes through valuable process evaluations can help eliminate process drift. Solutions like productivity suites, scheduling and resource management tools, and stand-alone productivity solutions can be helpful in this regard.

2. Set Improvement Goals

If your law firm has competent employees who follow instructions, you can approach improving efficiency like any other project requiring attention. After figuring out the sectors that need improvement, you can use KPIs, and deadlines to prove that the implemented measures are genuinely helping to increase efficiency.

In this sector, project management communication plans can help establish specific guidelines for identifying responsibilities, sharing information, and determining who should have access to different types of communication.

3. Tighten Up Meetings

As previously mentioned, having a clear agenda for meetings is essential, including brainstorming sessions. Only relevant team members should attend meetings, nonessential personnel should be excluded. Plus, every meeting should clearly state goals and actions, regardless of length or perceived significance in the broader context.

4. Deploy Digital Solutions

Thanks to the rise of automated time-tracking software, it's now easier than ever to enhance efficiency in everyday tasks. Time tracking software is designed to streamline complex tasks, save time and error in registering time, and increase productivity.

Productivity solutions and suites can also centralize data, avoiding the problem of lost data and reducing frustration over wasted time in law firms. Automating repetitive tasks such as timekeeping and billing can also save valuable time.

5. Open Feedback Channels

Regular feedback and open communication channels are important factors in improving employee efficiency. Employees can learn where they need to improve and how to do it by providing constructive feedback. This can help them feel more confident in their work and more invested in their tasks.

Additionally, when employees feel like they are heard, and their suggestions are taken seriously, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work.

Identify Wasted Time And Reduce Inefficiency

In summary, identifying areas where employees waste time can help reduce inefficiency, leading to a more streamlined workflow and improved morale. By objectively becoming more productive, employees can feel more motivated, self-confident, and happier while delivering higher-quality work.

Ultimately, optimizing break time, reducing unnecessary meetings and inbox management, and reorganizing schedules to prioritize vital tasks don't just increase productivity and save time. It also leads to greater job satisfaction.

Also, read our Ultimate Time Management Guide For Lawyers

A New Way Of Tracking Time

TIQ Time helps lawyers build complete and consistent time entries with an add-on to your Practice Management System and Document Management System. To ensure that filling out a timesheet is as easy as possible for every fee-earner, TIQ Time automatically captures the time spent on activities such as drafting documents, emails, meetings, and other activities.

Would you like to create consistent, high-quality narratives for every time entry? Increase revenues and reduce leakage? And reduce time spent on filling out time?

Please request a demo, we are happy to help you set up the best time-tracking software for your firm!