How Can Australian Lawyers Deal with Out-of-Hours Demands?

Is the nine-to-five workday a thing of the past? Recent data suggests this may be the case, with an 80 per cent increase in the number of calls made before and after working hours in the legal sector in the past three years.

With more efficient technologies meaning we’re ‘always on’ and increased client pressure, how can Australian lawyers meet their rising out-of-hours demands while avoiding burnout?

Don’t miss out on clients

The data from AllDayPA shows that the average increase in calls to businesses before 9am and between 6pm and 8pm has been 41 per cent since 2012. However, in the legal sector it’s come in at almost double that figure. “Clients are now starting to care less about checking opening hours and just presume that if they’re working then others should be too,” says AllDayPA’s Sue Ratcliffe.

So how can lawyers set boundaries without compromising client service?

Time management

Firstly, it’s about smart time management. Place a value on your time by using it wisely and make your clients and colleagues value it too. Set aside certain hours of the day where you turn off internet access, switch off your phone and shut down your inbox. Don’t check social media all day long – it’s a time waster! Delegate tasks to assistants or paralegals where possible and write a list of the most urgent tasks down to the most routine so that you can plan your time effectively throughout the week.

Set boundaries by putting an out-of-office reply on emails after a certain time each night, not handing out your personal mobile number and letting your clients know the scope of your working hours. Leave your files in the office until you resume work the next day. Unless you’re on a pressing deadline or preparing for cross-examination in court the next day, you’ll likely be a lot fresher and more productive if you’ve had some downtime at home with family or friends.

Technology tools

Phone and messaging services allow you to outsource call answering so that you don’t miss out on valuable clients or let down an existing client. Like a virtual receptionist, they can answer calls when your secretary is out of the office (or if you don’t have one), your clients work in a different time zone, your lines are engaged, you’re at court or your office is closed. You may even want to hire a virtual assistant to help you outside of office hours with emails and other administrative work.

Teamwork

Come to an arrangement with your colleagues whereby you take turns being ‘on call’ for certain days, matters or clients. If your teammates have similar experience or knowledge of your files or clients, it may give you peace of mind to share the increased workload and assist each other in answering calls after work.

Stay on top of the three ‘T’s – time management, technology tools and teamwork – and you’ll reduce your stress significantly. A good lawyer is a happy and productive one!

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