How To Run Your Law Firm Under 25 Hours Per Week with Darcel Lobo


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In this podcast episode, guest speaker Darcel Lobo shares her insights on how to effectively run a law firm in under 25 hours per week. She stresses the importance of gaining control over one's time and shares her own strategies for achieving work-life balance. 

Darcel discusses the importance of delegating tasks that are not the best use of your time and setting boundaries with staff, clients, and family. She also suggests easy wins like managing email notifications and sticking to a set schedule. 

Overall, Darcel's approach offers valuable tips for lawyers to become more efficient and reclaim control over their time.

Episode Highlights:

  • 00:40 Darcel strategies for running a law firm in under 25 hours per week 
  • 03:03 How she plans her workweek, including non-negotiable time off on Fridays 
  • 07:47 The benefits of transitioning her practice to flat fees
  • 10:46 The importance of setting boundaries with staff, clients, and family 
  • 12:50 The need to respect the boundaries you set for yourself, such as work hours and client selection, to maintain work-life balance
  • 14:34 Provides tips on managing email and phone calls to minimize distractions 

🎥 Watch the full video on YouTube here.

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Transcripts: How To Run Your Law Firm Under 25 Hours Per Week with Darcel Lobo

Speaker 1 (00:00:00) - So in today's episode, we're sharing a presentation from Max Khan 2022. Keep listening to hear Darcel Lobo as we share her talk. How to Run Your Law Firm in under 25 hours per week. You can also head to the maximum lawyer YouTube channel to watch the full video. Now to the episode.

Speaker 2 (00:00:18) - Run your law firm the right way. The right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast podcast. Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson Tricks. Let's partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.

Speaker 3 (00:00:40) - What I'm talking about is how to run your law firm under 25 hours per week. That is what I do at about 23 hours per week currently at my firm. My number one priority when I open my own law firm was to get control of my time. That was my number one priority. I had two small kids there currently 12 to 9, Lucy and Max, I'm married. And so that was why I decided to go out on my own, my team, from my law firm to kind of give you a perspective.

Speaker 3 (00:01:10) - There's three of us. So is me, my full time paralegal, the My VA. And then we outsource support with virtual receptionist and bookkeeping and things like that. And so if for you if 25 hours a week sounds like there's no way I could do that, that's not practical for me. I think that there's still going to be some tips here that you can take away to at least shave some time off your workweek and to become more efficient, even if we're taking just 5 or 10% of your workweek, if you're working 50, 60 hours a week, we can knock five hours off of that. We can start there to kind of help you be more efficient in your law firm and regain some control over your time. So why does it matter? Again, I wouldn't sell though, so I can be more my own priority in my own life before going out my own, I really felt like I was being stretched in a million different directions. I was an attorney to my clients. I was someone's employee.

Speaker 3 (00:02:04) - As a mom, I was a spouse. I was doing all these things. And before going out on my own, I really kind of felt like I wasn't doing any of it very well. I really felt like I was just being stretched in a million different directions and I was trying to fill everyone else's glass with my own empty cup. And so going out on my own will allow me to kind of get control over my schedule and to put myself on my own list of priorities. So not every week is perfect. Not every week is exactly 23 hours, but that's what we plan for at my office. My team knows what my calendar looks like and how to plan things, how to schedule things. And I can plan things for myself and my family around that schedule, knowing what my work week is going to look like. There's some things that we have that are non-negotiables for me, such as for Fridays. I don't work past 12. Today's an exception, but generally speaking, in my firm, 12:00 laptop shut down.

Speaker 3 (00:03:03) - I'm not texting, I'm not emailing, I'm not doing phone calls. I'm done at 12:00. That's a non-negotiable for me. I'm also my schedule. I have by my house. It's like a four mile trail that's been really important to me to be able to go out and do that. I go do that three mornings a week. So before I even gotten to work, before I opened my computer and answered emails, I'm able to do things like that for myself, to take care of myself so I can in turn take care of those around me, my clients, my staff, my family, things like that. So you want to make sure that you're fitting yourself into your own schedule, which before I went out on my own, I wasn't doing. So are you on your own list of priorities when I talked about the last slide and why it's important to me, I was talking about the things that I do for myself. But had you asked me that question 5 or 6 years ago, I wasn't on my own list of priorities.

Speaker 3 (00:04:00) - I wasn't in my top five, I wasn't in my top ten. I was just very focused on taking care of everyone else. And again, I think I really realized since going out on my own how important it is to take care of myself so I can take care of others. So I want to make sure that you are doing that for yourself as well, so that you can be the best attorney. You can be the best parent, you can be the best spouse for those around you by focusing on yourself also. So instead of just talking kind of abstractly in big picture, I want to kind of walk you through what my typical workweek actually looks like. This is how we plan my work week. It's not always perfect. Sometimes things come up, sometimes as a court hearing that, you know, I can't control that schedule. But when we're planning my work week, my staff are scheduling appointments for me, this is what we're looking at. So Monday, I'm about 10 to 4. You'll notice I don't start till ten.

Speaker 3 (00:04:55) - Most days I take my kids to school in the morning. That's a priority for me. So I start a little bit. Later again. Sometimes I'll have a court hearing at 9:00, but not too often. So Monday, 10 to 4 is when I'm doing my in-person appointments, my consultations, getting legal work done. Tuesday, we're about 10 to 3. I'm doing legal work and our team meeting is every Tuesday. That's a non-negotiable. If you're not doing team meetings weekly, you certainly should be doing so. Even if you're a true solo and it's just yourself, you should be walking through your case list and keeping track of what's going on with all of your cases. So that's done every Tuesday at my office. Wednesday is a half day. I kind of need a break on Mondays because I stacked my appointments back to back. It's pretty exhausting. So by Wednesday, I need a little bit of a break. So Wednesday we're doing 10 to 1 From me, I'm doing legal work and then content creation, like creating videos for the firm's YouTube page and things like that.

Speaker 3 (00:05:47) - Wednesdays are My Day is also to make those Costco runs, do grocery shopping, things like that, because I hate doing it on the weekends. So that's a Wednesday for me. Thursdays are staff client signings with my practice. I do estate planning and so we have to do a lot of things with what signings? I can't do everything through DocuSign, and so me and my paralegal are in the office together, witnessing documents, doing wills, doing trusts, things like that. And so that's a pretty full day for me as well as far as being stacked with my client appointments. And then Fridays I keep like I'm not doing legal work on Fridays. I'm cutting out my email inbox, making sure I'm getting caught up on those emails, handling things, handling housekeeping matters. So this is kind of a run through of what my work week looks like and how I schedule things for my work week and how we plan for my work week. And this allows me to know when planning my schedule and my kids have activities and they have field trips for sports, knowing that I have this to, generally speaking, to rely on and to fall back on.

Speaker 3 (00:06:51) - As far as my schedule, again, aside from those things that I can't control, like sometimes court hearings that are assigned to me, but generally speaking, I can control those as well and schedule those to fit inside my work week. I think a big one is this notion that working more will equal more money, and I strongly disagree with that. I don't think working more makes you a better lawyer. I don't think working more makes you more successful. I don't think that those things are equal. I think it does lead to burnout and dissatisfaction and just being unhappy with your practice. And so this is my quick pitch for flat fees. If you're not doing flat fees, if you're doing hourly work, for me to be able to have this schedule that I just went over with you, it was so important that I moved my practice areas all over the flat fee. Previously I was probably about 5050, flat fee and hourly. And so there was a few things that I felt like there's no way I can make this flat fee.

Speaker 3 (00:07:47) - It has to be hourly. But I really sat down my team and we went through the practice areas and for me, my probate practice was the one that I felt like, I don't know how to make this flat fee. It has to be hourly because there's so many variables sometimes in these cases. But we really sat down and went through it and worked through different stages of the probate process and what things can happen. And we actually have a flat fee for our probate that we actually have broken down by stages in the probate process. And so that's been a big one to allow me to have the flexibility while still having the income coming into the office, but being able to reduce my work week. And so getting control of my schedule aside from just giving me my time back and making myself a priority in my own firm, has also allowed me to get away from that billable hour, which has been a big one for me and for the firm.

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Speaker 3 (00:09:37) - So we all have things that we're doing as the attorney, as the owner of the law firm that we should not be doing some of these things. Could be your billings. You're going to move the flat fee. We can get away from billing. But even like your bookkeeping, your payroll, answering the phones, these are all things that are not the highest and best use of your time.

Speaker 3 (00:09:57) - And so when looking at your time and looking at. Your team. You want to look at the things that you're doing that you can get off your plate and delegate to someone else because it's not the best use of your time. And it's time you to your office for more hours than may be necessary. And so for me, I'm always working on this. I'm always trying to figure out what can be done to become more efficient. And I'd just say you're the one thing that I'm working on is my email inbox and handing that off to my VA. I haven't been able to do that yet or commit to that yet, but I know that that's a big one to forget for me to free up my time because it's not the highest or best use of my time to be going through my email, filtering out spam and responding to things that don't actually need my response or forwarding them to someone else to respond. And so that's a big one for me that I need to work on and I'm trying to implement at my firm.

Speaker 3 (00:10:46) - But there's always something that we can be working on in the firm. And so the first step is to sit down and identify kind of what's going on, what changes need to be made and what can you do to help you and to help your team as well. So I can't really talk about making yourself a priority and reducing your work week without talking about setting boundaries for yourself and for those around you. So let's start with your staff. I think the biggest one is the constant interruptions, especially if you are working in person with staff in your office. I fully support having an open door policy, but there needs to be some boundaries. There needs to be some limitations. There cannot be a continuous barrage of emails and questions and topping their head and understanding the few quick minutes. That's not an effective use of your time. You can't focus on what you need to do if you're constantly being interrupted by staff. So you should set aside certain times on whether that's daily or however whatever the frequency that you think that you need for your team.

Speaker 3 (00:11:47) - But eliminating those constant interruptions to your work, then your productivity will help you to focus and get work done a lot sooner with your clients. It's really the biggest one to me is the communication as a setting that up in the very beginning when you're talking to them, when they're hiring you. As far as the expectations, as far as response time to phone calls, to emails, to having documents back to them, letting them know up front what that time frame can look like and what to expect so that they don't have any expectations that you're going to do something quicker than what you can actually commit to with your family. I work hybrid. My team works hybrid where we're in office a few days and working from home a few days at home. I have a full home office with the door on it, but mommy's home and they don't always respect that while Mommy is home. I'm working and I need to focus on work. And so that's been a big one for my kids who are nine and 12 now and through the past two years is, yes, mommy's home, but mommy's working.

Speaker 3 (00:12:50) - And so setting those boundaries with your family so that when I'm done with work, I can be done with work and focus on them and not be at family dinner, on my phone, checking emails or responding to text. You want to be able to shut that down and focus on your family. But it needs to work both ways, between with your family and then with work. And then I think the biggest one I put it on here last, but I think it's the most important one is yourself. I think we can be the biggest offenders of breaking our own boundaries. You have to respect your own boundaries, whatever those are that you put in place. So if you decide that you want to start working half day on Friday at 12 or 1:00, you need to shut that computer down and respect that your own time. If you decided what clients are red flags when they contact your office, you can't and then break your own boundary and take them on because of what the fee may be or who referred them.

Speaker 3 (00:13:41) - If they're a red flag and you've decided these are red flags, I'm not taking these kinds of clients. You need to respect that boundary that you set for yourself and not take that client on. So I think there's a lot of areas where we can set boundaries and make sure that we're respecting our own boundaries and that those around us respect our boundaries so we can then in turn be more efficient and be more productive in our firms and so what are we working towards? For me, my list is, you know, becoming your own priority, doing the things that you want to do, having happier clients, because I think being a happier lawyer makes for happier clients and also doing the things that you want to do and enjoying the work that you do. You know, so many times with burnout and with not having control of your schedule, working too many hours or not really having a good grasp or handle on things, things can kind of spiral and you don't enjoy the work anymore. You don't have the same passion and maybe that you once did.

Speaker 3 (00:14:34) - And so having your schedule under control, having your calendar under control, I think really helps allow you to make yourself a priority so that you can still continue to enjoy the work that you do and the clients that you serve. So I want to take away with some easy wins. I think the first one is your email in managing your email and deciding when you're going to check your email on my laptop, I turned off the little notification bar. That comes up in the bottom right hand corner is too much of a distraction for me to see like, oh, what this person sent me, What's going on Now everybody can wait until you decided to check your email if that's going to be, you know, twice a day or once an hour, whatever those guidelines you're going to put in place for yourself as far as when you're going to check your email. But you don't need your email going off 24 over seven and alerting you because people can wait a few hours for a response from you. And again, it allows you to get whatever you're working on and get that done so much more quicker because you're not being interrupted by that distraction.

Speaker 3 (00:15:33) - Same with phone calls. When someone calls the office, they should not expect to get you on the phone immediately. You should set aside time for when you're going to return phone calls. For me, that's in the afternoon. And so if someone calls the office, hopefully my team can just handle it and I don't actually need to return the phone call. But if I do need to return a phone call, it's going to be in the afternoon probably around 2 or 3:00, somewhere in that time frame. I cannot be constantly interrupted by phone calls because the distraction, if I'm working on, you know, a motion for someone and I've got to take a phone call and then get back into the groove that I was in and working on that motion, I lost a lot of time there. And so I think it's much more efficient to handle phone calls in a block at a time. You know, again, setting aside, you know, a certain hour of the day or half hour of the day to return phone calls and not be constantly interrupted by the phones.

Speaker 3 (00:16:23) - And then along the same line is blocking out time for getting legal work done. If you've got an eight hour workday and you're trying to get some legal work done, but you're constantly interrupted by the phones, by the emails, by staff, by whatever's going on, it's going to take you so much more time to get that work done versus if you had a three hour block of time that you cut out and just committed to getting that legal work done. You could have it done so much faster and so much more efficient. I find that that works great for me. And so that's how I handle getting my legal work done or having client appointments is blocking out that time and sticking to that time block that I have set out for myself. So that's about it for me, that's kind of my work week, what it looks like, what my 25 hour workweek looks like again, is not always perfect, but this is how we plan for it. This is how I schedule it and my team knows my calendar looks like as well when they're planning things for me also.

Speaker 3 (00:17:15) - So thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 2 (00:17:21) - Thanks. Thanks for listening to the Maximum Lawyer podcast. Stay in contact with your host and to access more content content. Go to maximum Have a great week and catch you next time.

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