Lawyers Who Manage Their Work Are Happier

Do you manage processes or do they manage you?
It’s no secret that lawyers are suffering. We are 3.6 times as likely to be depressed as people in other jobs. 28% of us suffer from depression. 19% of us have symptoms of anxiety. My theory is that some of that suffering is directly linked to the way we manage our work – or rather, don’t manage it. The drive and perfectionism that took you through law school shouldn’t become a way of life for a 40-year career. Choosing to just “work harder” all the time isn’t going to work forever.

What if you could love your law practice a little more? What if you got more clients and they were happier with your service and sent you more work? Manage things in a better way, and all of that is within reach.

Manage the processes
Henry Ford’s automotive plant kicked it off a long time ago, and now it’s your turn to manage your process. Take practice management, for example: if your system is “I two-hole punch every piece of paper and stick it in the file chronologically,” then…uh…you’ve got a problem. If you don’t have case management software, get after it! 😉

It’s not just case management, though. Whether it’s marketing or billing or anything else in your practice, creating a defined process will seriously change your lawyer life. For example, maybe as part of our marketing efforts first we write an article, then we post it to the law firm blog, then we add it to our Active Campaign email list automation, then we Tweet a link about it, then we share the link on LinkedIn. Easy to follow, right? But it goes beyond that. What font do we use, what formatting choices do we make, etc.? Really get granular with this, and that attention to detail will pay off later.

Manage the projects
Once you’ve got your process figured out, how are you going to keep track of all your projects that go through your beautiful workflow?

We use KanbanTool boards for all project management (we’ve got a board for client work, sales pipeline, marketing efforts, etc.). It’s hard to find simple plain English info about how Kanban works, but you can get a sense here, or from John Grant of Agile Attorney. Even if Kanban isn’t your method of choice, find something to keep track of all your projects so you don’t pull your hair out.

But for the tech-oriented among us, remember that tech tools are just…tools. If your current process is fractured and messy, a tech tool isn’t going to fix everything. Be intentional and create a process that improves your practice and use those tools along the way.

Document it!
Now here’s the real trick – document ALL OF IT. Seriously, if you don’t document it, you’re wasting your time. You’re not going to be able keep all that in your head all the time. And what about when you want to delegate something, or you have to change up your staff? Create process and procedure manuals. Cheat sheets, crib notes, whatever you want to call it, just do it.

I recommend Microsoft OneNote notebook. All updates are autosaved in the cloud, you can easily share it across a small team (even with external email addresses) and it requires no coding or added expense. Another easy way would be a Google Doc, if you use G-Suite.

So what, now what?
Get to it! Even if you’ve done all this in your practice, things change. Are your processes working for you? And when you’re done, check out my four other rules to improve your life and your law practice over at

Jess Birken, Birken Law Office

Jess is a solopreneur lawyer and owner of Birken Law Office, where she helps nonprofits solve problems so they can stop worrying and get back to their mission. When she’s not lawyering she’s helping other lawyers change their lives and their law practices through her “Hack Your Practice” project. Connect with Jess on Twitter, @JessBirken.