The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Time Law: A New Paradigm for Small Law Firm Efficiency and Growth

Solo and Small Firm

Solo and Small Firm Section Sponsor CardNow more than ever, dynamic changes and escalating competition within the legal sector demand that small law firms adapt and innovate to survive and thrive. As we navigate this evolving marketplace, law practices require novel tools and methodologies to enhance operational efficiency effectively. This article introduces the “time law” concept — a unique mindset and approach born at the intersection of efficient practice management and executive coaching techniques.

The phrase “time law” was born from my own personal journey through the legal sector and professional development sphere. Over the years that followed my graduation from law school, I embarked on the path of a solo legal practitioner. Subsequently, I expanded my horizons into the realm of executive coaching. Throughout this time, I was continuously challenged by the varying demands of legal practice and the need to stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive industry. Though I had the unique benefit of watching my father, Judge Gordon Murray (administrative chief judge of Miami-Dade County Court Civil, 11th Judicial Circuit), practice as a solo practitioner for more than 25 years, like many other solo practitioners, I struggled with efficient time management during the initial years of my career. Balancing client meetings, court appearances, research, case analysis, document preparation, and many administrative tasks was no easy feat. The legal practice’s frenetic pace and high-pressure nature often led to long hours and a grueling work schedule.

As I progressed in my career, I realized that the challenge wasn’t just about my individual time management, but also the broader operational efficiency of my practice. Despite putting in more hours, I wasn’t converting that time into commensurate professional growth or client satisfaction. I started to notice that I wasn’t alone in this boat — the issue of time management was a pervasive problem affecting many solo practitioners and small law firms.

The realization was the genesis of my journey as an executive coach. I was fascinated by management techniques and strategies that could enhance personal productivity and operational efficiency. Helping others facing similar struggles appealed to me, and I saw an opportunity to combine my legal expertise with these newly learned techniques to formulate a new methodology. Over countless hours of research, introspection, trial, and error, time law took shape. It was born of a necessity to reassess, reorganize, and reprioritize how we manage our time as legal practitioners. Its tenets aim to maximize the value extracted from each minute spent in legal practice, leading to better client service, increased revenue, and a healthier work-life balance.

Through this analysis, I hope to shed light on tools to transform small law firms’ operational framework, thereby benefiting the legal profession as a whole. By understanding and implementing these principles, attorneys can avoid disciplinary or malpractice issues that stem from poor time management.[1] However, I also acknowledge that this approach may only benefit some firms or some areas of legal practice. My goal is to provide a balanced perspective, equipping readers with the knowledge to assess how it could be applicable in their unique practice contexts.

Understanding Time Law

Differing from traditional practice areas, time law is an operational mindset. It elevates time to the most critical resource in legal practice, which, unlike others, cannot be stored. It champions the philosophy of intentional and strategic utilization of time, focusing not just on billable tasks but encompassing all facets of legal work, including non-billable activities. This approach posits that effective time management is the cornerstone of a successful and profitable legal career, compelling legal practitioners to be mindful and deliberate in allocating every moment of their professional lives. Embracing this mindset is pivotal in revolutionizing productivity and efficiency within the legal sphere. Subjectively, I believe time law is our most critical practice area as solo and small firm owners.

Time law means more than just viewing the clock and counting the hours spent on a case. It envisions how individuals utilize time, advocating for minimal waste of this invaluable asset throughout the day. Efficient time utilization entails strategic focusing, decisive action, and firm-wide coordination, going beyond personal efficiency to permeate all aspects of law firm operations. A key to making it work is the law of cause and effect; applying the principles effectively has a ripple effect on other areas of practice management, resulting in overall enhanced firm performance. It influences how law firms manage client engagements, case documents, business processes, financial matters, etc. It serves as a guide to optimum resource allocation, allowing law firms to serve more clients, generate more revenue, and maintain impeccable service quality.

It is not about rushing through cases but creating the space to provide thoughtful, high-quality legal service. It strikes a balance between efficient workflows and thorough, diligent work required in legal matters. Working smarter, not harder, where the focus is not only on speed but also on the quality of service delivered.

Strategies for Enhanced Efficiency

Enhancing efficiency is pivotal in adapting to the challenges posed by the evolving landscape of legal practice. Time law is a prop to streamline legal workflows and facilitate effective time management. One of its core strategies is harnessing technology’s potential to optimize practice management.

Modern law firms leverage an array of digital solutions — ranging from case management software that aids in organizing and streamlining case files to scheduling systems that assist in handling appointments and deadlines to comprehensive document management systems that allow for efficient retrieval and modification of files. Legal tech expands even further with the advent of artificial intelligence applications, which can assist in areas like document review, legal research, and drafting predictive analyses. These tools and software solutions reduce time spent on administrative tasks, enhance productivity, facilitate information flow, and drive operational efficiency. For example, scheduling systems like Calendly and Acuity Scheduling streamline the appointment-setting process by automating the coordination of meetings. These tools can minimize the time-consuming back-and-forth often required to find times that work for lawyers and their clients. This improvement in scheduling efficiency directly supports the obligations under Florida Bar Rule 4-1.4, which mandates diligent communication with clients.[2] Furthermore, it’s noteworthy that most non-trust account disciplinary issues faced by attorneys often originate from inadequate time management and ineffective communication with clients, underscoring the critical need for robust systems.[3]

Nevertheless, implementing technology does come with its set of challenges. The high up-front cost of new tools, learning curves, and the fear of change can make some law firms hesitant to adopt these innovative solutions. To overcome these obstacles, firms should consider which tools align best with their specific needs and opt for scalable solutions to support growth and change over time. Appropriate training and support from software providers can also help ease the transition and heighten the office’s overall adaptability.

Process Optimization in Small Law Firms

Time law emphasizes efficiency and the power of systemization in law practice. This involves creating, refining, and consistently applying standardized procedures across all operations. These standardized processes serve as playbooks that guide day-to-day practice operations, from client intake to case resolution, cutting down the time to train new staff, reducing redundancy in tasks, and ensuring consistent service quality delivery.

Successful implementation of systemization, aligned with the principles of the theory of constraints, has been observed in several small law firms. By adopting standardized checklists for case processes, these firms effectively identify and address workflow bottlenecks, significantly reducing procedural errors and enhancing client satisfaction. This approach confirms the benefits of process optimization in a small law firm setup and validates time law’s focused strategy. The theory of constraints teaches that by systematically identifying and managing the most limiting factors (constraints) in a process, a firm can achieve higher efficiency and effectiveness, transforming potential weaknesses into strengths and driving continuous improvement in legal practice.[4]

Standardizing procedures may raise concerns stemming from possible rigidity and stifling of creativity. Some legal matters demand flexibility and a unique approach that might be challenging to integrate into preset methods. However, striking a balance between standardization and adaptability is possible by creating frameworks that allow innovation and custom-tailored solutions to specific client needs. The key is cultivating a mindset that views standardization as an adaptable tool rather than a strict rulebook.

Innovative Management Techniques for Small Law Firms

The innovation in time law extends beyond daily operations to address novel methods of client relationship management, effective team communication, and proactive financial management. Client relationship management, for instance, delves into nurturing long-term, trust-based relationships with clients through improved communication and service delivery, fostering loyalty and repeat business. For example, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like Salesforce or Clio Manage can help track client interactions and ensure timely follow-ups and personalized communication. Automated tools like Mailchimp for customized email campaigns can keep clients informed and engaged with regular updates about their cases or general legal news. Virtual client portals, often part of comprehensive legal practice management software, provide clients with a secure platform to access their case files, communicate directly with their attorneys, and make payments, enhancing transparency and convenience. Additionally, implementing regular client satisfaction surveys through tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can gather feedback, which is crucial for continuous improvement and fostering client loyalty. By leveraging these technologies and strategies, law firms can offer a higher level of service, ultimately leading to repeat business and referrals.

Effective communication techniques are another critical aspect of innovative management. This involves harnessing technology to facilitate regular and effective communication within the team, enhancing information flow and improving coordination. Given the rapid emergence of remote work arrangements, it becomes even more critical for law firms to embrace new ways of communicating and collaborating within teams. For instance, collaborative platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow for real-time messaging and file sharing, keeping everyone on the same page. Video conferencing tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings have become indispensable for remote consultations and team discussions, enabling face-to-face interactions despite physical distances. Project management software like Asana or Trello can be used to track progress on cases and tasks, ensuring that all team members are aware of deadlines and responsibilities. Additionally, a cloud-based document management system like Google Drive or Dropbox ensures team members can access and collaborate on documents from anywhere. With the rise of remote work arrangements, embracing these technologies is essential for law firms to maintain seamless communication and efficient collaboration among team members.

Lastly, proactive financial management speaks to the importance of innovative billing practices, precise time tracking for billable hours, and efficient collection systems. Here are a couple of unique approaches:

1) Phased Approach: Breaking down a legal project into phases (e.g., discovery, negotiation, trial) with clear deliverables and deadlines. This allows for more precise billing and client updates.

2) Task-Based Billing: Using legal project management tools like Trello or Asana to track and bill for specific tasks rather than overall hours. This increases transparency and allows clients to understand what they are paying for.

Use time-tracking software like TimeSolv or Clio to accurately record time spent on different tasks. This data can inform future billing rates and project estimates. Considerations such as alternative fee arrangements and the use of legal project management strategies can reshape billing practices, offering clients more value and predictability and strengthening the firm’s financial position. Moreover, some forward-thinking lawyers are developing self-service tools that empower the public to handle specific legal tasks without direct lawyer involvement. These tools, which can range from automated document drafting software to online legal guidance platforms, not only enhance accessibility to legal services but also open new avenues for law firms to provide value-added services, thereby diversifying their revenue streams.

Implementing innovative management methods, such as time law, might lead to initial resistance or challenges within the team. For instance, introducing a new case management system could initially disrupt familiar workflows, or adopting a remote working model might initially lower team cohesion. To address these challenges, law firms should invest in adequate training programs, such as expert workshops or training sessions on best practices. Change management strategies are essential, like utilizing platforms such as Prosci or Kotter to guide the change process or appointing a dedicated “change leader” within the firm. These leaders can monitor implementation, gather feedback, and adjust as needed. Law firms should also consider phased rollouts of new technologies or processes, allowing gradual adaptation rather than abrupt changes. Regular meetings can provide forums for discussing concerns and progress. Law firms can smoothly integrate management techniques by focusing on gradual innovation, continuous training, and effective change management, ultimately enhancing their long-term growth and competitiveness.

Ethical Considerations in Implementation

Other aspects warranting contemplation are the ethical considerations that accompany enhanced efficiency and time management in legal practice. Time law may precipitate concerns related to the billing model that most law firms rely upon — billable hours. While more efficient use of time can lead to reduced billable hours, it could give rise to fears of lowered revenue. However, legal professionals must adhere to the highest ethical standards and avoid misconduct when implementing these strategies. Under no circumstances should they manipulate billable hours or deceive clients. Such actions would violate our standing rules and undermine the legal profession’s integrity.[5]

Instead, to reap its benefits without compromising ethics, small law firms must be strategic about utilizing their newfound time effectively. They can invest this time into personal and professional development by learning from resources contributing to their firm’s growth. By honing expertise in lucrative niche areas, attorneys can provide more valuable legal services that enhance client satisfaction and, in turn, generate more revenue. Additionally, reinvesting the surplus time to accelerate the progression of other cases can lead to improved profitability, allowing law firms to capitalize without any ethical breaches.

Small law firms must balance optimizing their efficiency and adhering to their ethical obligations to clients and the broader legal community. By safeguarding this balance, legal professionals can foster an ethically sound, prosperous, and future-ready legal practice that stands as a shining example for others.

Upholding Ethical Standards in Billing Practices

In addition to personal ethical responsibility, partners and supervisory lawyers in law firms also bear a broader supervisory duty under Florida Bar Rule 4-5.1 to ensure that their direct reports uphold the standards of professional conduct, including honest and transparent billing practices.[6] This rule emphasizes that law firm partners or lawyers who, individually or together, possess comparable managerial authority in a law firm should make painstaking efforts to maintain an organizational environment that promotes ethically compliant behavior among all its members.

Therefore, the culture of honest billing must be deeply embedded into the law firm’s ethos, stemming from the highest rungs of management. It’s crucial that partners and supervisory attorneys set the tone by maintaining an unwavering commitment to ethical billing. They should ensure that processes are in place to review and confirm the accuracy of billing records and their alignment with the actual time spent on each task.

Training programs and routine audits can be beneficial in reinforcing the importance of ethical billing and detecting any discrepancies early. Partners should also foster an open-door policy where team members can voice their concerns regarding potential unethical billing practices without fear of retaliation.

Implementing strategies does not equate to compromising ethical standards; they must coexist harmoniously. Honesty, transparency, and ethical vigor should continue as non-negotiable elements in pursuing enhanced efficiency. By leading from the front, partners can embed these attributes into every facet of the firm, thereby maintaining the firm’s reputation and ensuring enduring trust between lawyers and clients.

The Role of Executive Coaching in Implementing

Time law appropriates a holistic view of law practice management, integrating not just systems but also the people who run these systems — a point where executive coaching comes into play. Executive coaching is a vital investment. It encourages personal development, focus, and resilience — skills required to gracefully handle the pressures of legal practice. Executive coaching also targets the leadership skills essential for implementing methodologies and transforming small law firms.

Consider the following scenarios where an executive coach can help:

1) Leadership Development Workshops: An executive coach conducts workshops on leadership skills for partners and senior attorneys, focusing on effective delegation, communication, and team motivation. These workshops help implement methodologies by ensuring leaders can efficiently manage their teams and distribute workloads effectively.

2) One-on-One Coaching Sessions: Individual coaching sessions with attorneys to develop personal time management skills, focusing on prioritizing tasks, setting realistic goals, and managing stress. These sessions directly impact the attorney’s ability to better manage their time, contributing to the firm’s overall efficiency.

3) Team-Building Retreats: Organizing team-building retreats that focus on improving collaboration and empathy among team members. These retreats can include activities and discussions facilitated by the coach, aiming to enhance understanding and teamwork within the firm, thereby improving collective efficiency.

4) Feedback and Performance Reviews: The coach assists in developing a more constructive feedback and performance review system. By guiding, giving, and receiving feedback, the firm can create a culture of continuous improvement and open communication.

5) Productivity Analysis: The coach works with attorneys to analyze their typical workday and identify areas where time could be more effectively used. They then suggest practical changes, like restructuring their schedule or adopting new tools, to maximize productivity.

6) Resilience Training: Providing training sessions on resilience and stress management, helping lawyers develop coping strategies for the high-pressure legal practice environment. This ensures that attorneys remain focused and efficient under challenging conditions.

7) Work Culture Enhancement: Advising on strategies to create a more positive and inclusive work environment. This might involve initiating regular team meetings, creating open channels for communication, or establishing wellness programs.

8) Conflict Resolution: Coaching attorneys on effective conflict resolution techniques, enhancing their ability to resolve disputes internally and with clients, leading to smoother operations and better client relationships.

9) Client Relationship Management: Guiding lawyers in improving client interactions and communications, which are vital for client retention and satisfaction.

An effective coach provides an unbiased perspective, identifying productivity hindrances, suggesting practical solutions, and guiding towards personal and professional growth. The coach’s role extends to fostering a healthy work culture, encouraging teamwork, and more efficient, empathetic ways of problem-solving. In effect, executive coaching turbocharges the adoption and effectiveness of time law. By harnessing its principles at both a firm-wide and individual level, it fosters an environment that enhances productivity and nurtures the individuals that make productivity possible.

Leveraging Extra Time: Top Five Recommendations

With new principles, attorneys can optimize their practices and generate extra time. But how should one utilize this newfound time most effectively? Here are my top five recommendations for leveraging this surplus resource for betterment:

1) Invest in Learning and Development: Use the additional time to enrich your knowledge and competence in your practice areas or learn about lucrative niche areas in law. Attend webinars, seminars, and workshops, or take advanced professional courses. Continuous learning allows you to provide more valuable legal services and stokes your intellectual curiosity and growth.

2) Strengthen Client Relationships: The extra time provides an opportunity to foster stronger relationships with your clients. Regularly communicating and updating clients about their case status, spending time understanding their concerns, and providing legal advice in a more personalized and empathetic way can lead to heightened client satisfaction and loyalty.

3) Expand Your Network: Networking is essential in the legal industry. Use this time to collaborate and forge connections with other legal professionals. Joining bar associations, attending legal conferences, or being part of online forums can open opportunities for referral cases, collaborative projects, and exchanging insights.

4) Focus on Business Development: Use the additional time to work on business development strategies. This could include enhancing your law firm’s online presence, writing educational blogs or articles, partaking in guest lectures, or improving your law firm’s marketing strategies. These activities can go a long way in gaining visibility and attracting more clients.

5) Take Care of Your Health and Well-Being: Lastly, but most crucially, use this extra time to care for your mental and physical health. Regular exercise, meditation, reading, or spending quality time with your loved ones can significantly reduce stress and increase overall productivity. No amount of success or money can compensate for good health — it is the foundation of a rewarding and sustainable legal practice.

Remember, while time law helps generate more time, your conscious choices determine whether the extra time leads to personal growth, professional enhancement, or both. Use it wisely to ensure a fulfilling and balanced legal career.


Implementing time law across my legal practice and coaching other lawyers on its principles has been a humbling and rewarding journey. I have seen firsthand how lawyers can transform their practices, serve their clients better, enhance their professional growth, and improve their personal lives. Through it, legal practices can maximize their time utilization, streamline workflows, and leverage the power of executive coaching to revolutionize practice operations. It is a solution to address the system inefficiencies many small law firms face.

Time law allows small law firms to rethink their operations, driving efficiency and growth while enhancing client experiences. While not universally applicable, its core principles can benefit many firms. By understanding and applying it, legal professionals can make informed decisions about their practice management, contributing to the legal profession’s evolution and improvement.

[1] Rul. Reg. Fla. Bar 4-1.1.

[2] Rul. Reg. Fla. Bar 4-1.4.

[3] F. Scott Westheimer, How to Avoid Florida’s Lawyer Discipline System, The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Virtual Summit: Mastering the Practice of Law: CLE Presentation (Nov. 2, 2023).

[4] E. M. Goldratt, The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement (3d ed. 2004 North River Press).

[5] Rul. Reg. Fla. Bar 4-8.4.

[6] Rul. Reg. Fla. Bar 4-5.1.

G.C. Murray II

G.C. Murray II is a nationally recognized, award-winning lawyer and executive coach. He is the CEO & managing attorney of Association GC. He has presented throughout the Northern Hemisphere on leadership and professional development. Murray received his J.D. from Florida State University College of Law, where he was a Mason Ladd Scholar and a Calvin Patterson Scholar.

This article is submitted on behalf of the Solo and Small Firm Section, Cristina Alonso, chair, and Michelle Garcia Gilbert, editor.

Solo and Small Firm