Never take an unscheduled telephone call, Blackhall Place trainee solicitors have been advised.
Speaking on getting effective work done while satisfying clients, Flor McCarthy (managing partner, McCarthy & Co, Cork), told the trainees that he has not lifted the phone to an unscheduled call once in the last ten years.
The telephone is an insidious distractor, McCarthy said, and he has clearly communicated to both his team and his clients that he doesn’t take unscheduled calls.
McCarthy offered trainees his hard-won tips and advice on time management for effective working, at the ‘Future of Legal Practice, Challenges and Opportunities’ conference on 11 January.
Making oneself available to a random caller doesn’t make sense, McCarthy said, but clients should know that they can schedule a conversation, for which legal staff will always show up, fully familiar with the matter in hand.
At other times, their lawyers will be giving client matters their full attention, without interruption, McCarthy stated.
S effective and efficient work will be faster and produce better quality for clients, he added.
Scheduled calls should have a fixed duration and an agenda for the topic, he said, because this is more productive.
McCarthy also advised dealing with the ‘barrage’ of work emails in a scheduled fashion, checking inboxes at intervals rather than continuously throughout the day.
Turning off notifications eased ‘bombardment’, he said, and dealing with correspondence in batches was much more productive.
Setting clear and reasonable rules and communicating them made lawyers more effective for their clients, he stated.
Random verbal interruptions by a colleague with a question should be handled likewise, he said, with a request for a précis of the question and an assigned time to answer it.
“90% of the conversations don’t actually need to take place,” he commented, adding that by writing a draft, the questioner will very often figure out the answer for themselves.
But an agreed agenda yielded a much more effective and productive conversation, he suggested.
If trainees approach their seniors in a more structured way, they will impress by being respectful of time and not looking for a conversation out of the blue, he added.
McCarthy advised the future lawyers to set out their objectives, strategy, and tactics (OST) each working day, and to be clear about what is to be achieved.
The work objective determines everything else on the list; the strategy will set out how to achieve the objective; and the various tactics will be used daily to give effect to the strategy, he explained.
Be intentional about what is to be achieved, he advised the trainees, both for 2023 and for their future careers.
The focused application of mental abilities is the most powerful thing in the world, he told the trainees.
However, while we can accomplish anything, we can’t accomplish everything, he said, and work must be focused on the most important tasks.
Set down objectives and goals on paper, he suggested, and make them specific and measurable, whether that is an additional qualification, or getting onto a particular team, or into a particular role.
After establishing important objectives, next decide on the meaningful steps to achieve them, he added.
Trainees should be clear about what is a meaningful trajectory for their future career, McCarthy added, and write down what is important to them.
“Unless you are intentional about that, essentially you’re just being carried along by somebody’s else’s desires and agenda,” he said.
He advised trainees to set out the necessary steps for achieving their career objectives and list what they needed to do.
“Write the seven most important steps on a list, and work through those in order of priority,” he suggested.
Any more than seven steps is too many for the human brain to comprehend, he said. These steps could be discussed with one’s training solicitor, he concluded.