Working through the complexity of a Medicaid application or setting up an estate plan that involves trusts, QLACs or multiple marriages; the most important thing you can give your client is your undivided attention. That goes for when they are in your office sitting at your conference table or when you are mapping out a strategy and preparing their documents.
Clients like knowing that you went to a well-respected law school. They also like knowing that you are a leader in your field. But they need to know that you have their back. That you or a team member isn’t going to let a simple (or complex) error create a problem for them, their heirs, or their accountant.
Delivering quality work requires undivided attention, and that requires managing your time, one of your most valuable assets. Your cell phone rings, and it’s your brother-in-law. Do you answer it? Some estate planning attorneys set clearer boundaries than others. Their family and friends know that when they are in the office, they do not have time to schmooze. Lacking this basic time management skill causes more than a few attorneys to find themselves working late on a regular basis. But what do you do when the interruptions are coming from the people you work with?
Do associates have unfettered access to you throughout the day? This kind of interruption presents a challenge. Your associates or colleagues need to be able to ask questions. The trick is to balance their need for input with your need to stay on task. The solution is setting time boundaries.
Does the question have to be answered right away? If there is a deadline approaching, then you clearly need to have a discussion. Keep it on topic. Otherwise, schedule a time after you have finished up the work you are doing.
Does anyone else in the office have the answer? If you have a senior associate who can discern the difference of when they can accurately answer the question and when they cannot, perhaps the younger attorney could speak with them first. If not, your time will be needed.
Can a time for questions be scheduled? If your associate knows that they have fifteen minutes of your time at a specific time every day, they should be able to manage their own work flow in order to hold questions until that time.
Ultimately, you have to establish and enforce your time boundaries. And some of your associates may have to adjust to a change in your level of accessibility. But imagine yourself with a stretch of time where you can fully concentrate on your client’s estate planning with no interruptions and get enough work done to get out of the office at a reasonable hour. Sounds like a treat to us!