Below is an excerpt from the book, “The E Myth Attorney – Why most legal practices don’t work and what to do about it” by Michael E. Gerber. The excerpt aptly addresses the subject of time management for a lawyer and it is a good read.
The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today. —Abraham Lincoln
Common laments among attorneys are, ‘‘I’m running out of time!’’ ‘‘I’ve got to learn how to manage my time more carefully!’’
Of course, they see no real solution to this problem. They’re just worrying the subject to death. Singing the attorney’s blues. Some make a real effort to control time. Maybe they go to time management classes, or faithfully try to record their activities during every hour of the day. But it’s hopeless. Even when attorneys work harder, even when they keep precise records of their time, there’s always a shortage of it. It’s as if they’re looking at a square clock in a round universe. Something doesn’t fit. The result: The attorney is constantly chasing work, money, life. And as a country song once put it, ‘‘I’m always running . . . and always running behind.’’
The reason is simple. Attorneys don’t see time for what it really is. They think of time with a small ‘‘t,’’ rather than Time with a capital ‘‘T.’’ Yet Time is simply another word for your life. It’s your ultimate asset, your gift at birth—and you can spend it any way you want. Do you know how you want to spend it? Do you have a plan? How do you deal with Time? Are you even conscious of it? If you are, I bet you are constantly locked into either the future or the past. Relying on either memory or imagination. Do you recognize these voices? ‘‘Once I get through this, I can have a drink … go on a vacation… retire.’’ ‘‘I remember when I was young and practicing law was satisfying.’’ As you go to bed at midnight, are you thinking about waking up at 6 A.M. so that you can get to the office by 7 A.M. so that you can be in court by 8 A.M. so that you can go to lunch by noon, because you’ve got a client consultation at 2 P.M. and two hours of work on the Hanson case that needs to be finished by 5… ? Most of us are prisoners of the future or the past. While pinballing between the two, we miss the richest moments of our life—the present. Trapped forever in memory or imagination, we are strangers to the here and now. Our future is nothing more than an extension of our past, and the present is merely the background.
It’s sobering to think that right now each of us is at a precise spot somewhere between the beginning of our Time (our birth) and the end of our Time (our death). No wonder everyone frets about Time. What really terrifies us is that we’re using up our life and we can’t stop it. It feels as if we’re plummeting toward the end with nothing to break our free fall. Time is out of control! Understandably, this is horrifying, mostly because the real issue is not time with a small ‘‘t’’ but Death with a big ‘‘D.’’
From the depths of our existential anxiety, we try to put Time in a different perspective—all the while pretending we can manage it. We talk about Time as though it were something other than what it is. ‘‘Time is money,’’ we announce, as though that explains it.
But what every attorney should know is that Time is life. And Time ends! Life ends!