Working until you’re satisfied? Or scrambling to deadlines?
We’ve all done it. As lawyers, we’ve all cracked and crackled on our keyboards while watching the clock tick down to the last minute – the last possible minute to make changes and beat a looming deadline to file.
Even if we aren’t born procrastinators, we’ve all scrambled too close to a deadline in the name of providing the most value for our clients. We find ourselves working up until the buzzer because our clients’ lives, liberty, and property is on the line.
We do it because we believe this is how we deliver our best work product. But working right up to deadlines – stretching the boundaries of time to their theoretical limits – is not a habit sane people would wish upon themselves. It’s stressful, and it intuitively seems like a rough path to success.
An inherent problem with the way we have worked
Last-minute scrambling is a symptom of what can feel like a built-in dysfunction with the way we work. This problem raises its head in nagging questions like:
- Is my motion actually finished?
- Did I exhaust all my options?
- Did I do my duty to my client?
- Is this a winning brief?
A nagging feeling that there is a stone left unturned drives an unhealthy and unproductive pattern of behavior. Working until the last minute can lead to an excessive attachment to your work and an inability to step away. The result feels like frantic scrambling.
All of this leads to an inordinate amount of stress. And as a matter of principle, stressed work is rarely your best work.
Finding a sense of completion
As human beings, we all work toward a sense of completion. But that sense of completion can be illusory.
It’s especially understandable in the legal context. When crafting an argument, everything you’re working on is going to be subject to dissection. When building a case, there is an opposing party working just as hard as you are to tear down what you’ve built. It leaves you on shaky emotional ground, to say the least.
After all, who wants to be known as the lawyer who lost simply because they called their work “finished” too soon?
As a result, we strive to deliver maximum client value by working right up until deadlines. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Make running too close to a deadline a relic of the past
We owe it to ourselves as a profession to make a better tomorrow for ourselves and those who come after. We need new ways of behavior, and we need to forge new tools that help us work to an orderly sense of completion, as opposed to repeatedly running up against deadlines.
What if there was a way to double-check your work and help you validate that you have indeed done your duty to your client? What if you could accomplish your quality checks in a predictable amount of time? What if you could get that final quality check accomplished in a matter of minutes, instead of scrambling for hours?
Would you be interested?
It requires a shift in mental approach and an examination of the way you work.
Adopt an invest-in-yourself mindset for a smoother, more productive tomorrow
- Challenge your assumptions about the way you work. You know your practice the best, and you know your pain points. You may be accustomed to these pain points, and you may be willing to work through them. To find improvement, you need to actively challenge any assumptions you have about these pain points.
- Quantify your pain points. Evaluate whether any pain points are truly insurmountable. Then quantify the costs of these pain points in dollar terms as best as you can, whether it is in time lost, opportunities lost, or personal stress.
- Invest in the right tools for the job. Once you can quantify the costs of your pain points, you can establish a budget and a framework for evaluating tools to alleviate or eliminate those problems.
- Give yourself the confidence you need to know when your work is finished. With the right tools in your hands, you can automate many steps involved in the research and quality-checking process. Final draft reviews can be accomplished in a fraction of the time, minimizing the risk of a deadline-driven scramble.