People choose a career in law for a variety of reasons.

Approximately seven out of 10 current first-year law students reported a desire to work toward social justice or better their communities as their primary motivation for attending law school, according to U.S. News. In the past, it was a desire for prestige, financial security, or the academic challenge that lured students to pursue a career in law.

Whatever your motivation for becoming an attorney, you quickly learn that practicing law can be tedious and humdrum.

Repetitive tasks and legal issues can rob you of the joy and excitement you anticipated when you first applied to law school. Recapturing those feelings and reigniting your passion for the law takes a deliberate decision to make time for deep work.

Deep Work vs. Shallow Work

The work you do as a lawyer can be divided into two general categories. The first is shallow work (also known as busy work), which has the following characteristics:

  • It’s repetitive
  • It doesn’t require much, if any, creativity or independent thought
  • It can be accomplished quickly
  • It requires little or no concentration

The law profession is filled with opportunities to get lost in shallow work. Entering a new client’s information into your case management system, returning emails from clients and opposing counsel, and managing your firm’s income and obligations are all examples of shallow work.

Deep work is different. It requires you to slow down and think through problems to which a solution isn’t readily apparent. You must put away distractions and devote your creative energies to the task at hand. It takes time to accomplish deep work, and going through the process can be both frustrating and rewarding. 

Your Practice Needs Both Types of Work

Both types of work are essential to fulfilling and productive legal practice. Shallow work is crucial for your practice’s viability and profitability. If the busy work doesn’t get done, bills don’t get sent, clients don’t get contacted, and court hearings don’t get scheduled.

Without deep work, however, practicing law becomes monotonous and unfulfilling. You might begin looking at other careers or resign yourself to not accomplishing the things you set out to do with your law degree. Worse, you could become burnt out and experience a deterioration in your relationships and personal well-being.

In short, shallow work keeps your practice alive, while deep work makes you come alive.

How to Do Deep Work

How do you go about doing deep work as part of your practice? The answer will differ for each legal professional, but it begins with understanding what deep work is and why it’s necessary. From there, the following tips can help you get more deep work done.

Make Space for Deep Work

By definition, deep work demands your focus and mental energies. For this reason, it’s wise to have a place where you can be free from distractions and interruptions while you engage in deep work.

You must also make proverbial space. Block time off on your calendar and ask others to refrain from disturbing you during that time. Close your email and social media accounts and silence your phone. Make this your time to do your best work.

Plan the Deep Work You Want to Do

It’s easy to put off meaningful work if you don’t have a specific goal you’re working toward. Shallow work is enticing because it’s familiar to you, can be carried out in short order, and gives you an easy sense of satisfaction for accomplishing something, however small.

If you don’t know what deep work you want to do, you’ll have a hard time keeping any commitment to do it. As such, one of the first duties of deep work is to set a goal for what you want to accomplish during your sessions. Here are some possible ideas:

  • Develop a five-year and 10-year career plan for your practice
  • Identify and solve a redundancy in your practice that takes up time and resources
  • Look for a new or unique way to build value for your clients
  • Take on a challenging or unique legal issue or case, even if you do so pro bono

Whatever you find to devote your time and energy to, make sure it’s truly deep work. It should be something that requires you to concentrate and focus intensely — and, therefore, not something you can check off quickly and mindlessly.

Don’t Give Up if Progress Is Slow

If you’re doing deep work right, it should be uncomfortable, and your sessions may not always produce much progress.

That’s okay because all the deep work you’re performing will expand your mind and enhance your skills over time. Nonetheless, it can be challenging to keep returning for more sessions if you can’t see measurable progress.

One way to keep yourself engaged and encouraged is to keep a journal in which you reflect on each deep work session. Write down the problem you’re facing, the thoughts and ideas you came up with, and where you want to pick up when you have your next session.

Get Help Performing the Shallow Work

Doing deep work helps you grow as an attorney and a person, but it may not always keep the lights on. Remember, you need to take time to do deep work without neglecting the shallow work. To ensure that you have time for both, consider getting help with your practice’s day-to-day tasks.

You don’t need a law degree to perform data entry, accounting, or routine drafting. A qualified receptionist, bookkeeper, paralegal, or legal assistant can perform many of your firm’s routine responsibilities so you’ll have time to engage in regular deep work sessions.

Woven Legal can help you make more time for deep work in your practice.

We connect lawyers and law firms with professional assistants like paralegals, legal assistants, and client intake specialists who can supplement their practices. Our professionals will leave you free to devote time to those pursuits and work that make the practice of law meaningful for you.

Learn more about Woven Legal and the value we can bring to your practice by booking your free discovery call today.


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