Practicing law involves numerous information and due dates. When lawyers lack organizational skills within a law firm, necessary information can slip through the cracks and create all sort of problems, from overlooked billable hours to a kid custody case gone wrong.
Yet for years, poor organization signified an excellent lawyer. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, saved documents in his stovepipe hat. If you’ve ever seen a painting of Lincoln’s desk, you understand the lawyer-turned-president worked amongst piles of disheveled documents and books. The president was the definition of the “chaotic lawyer”.
Now, nevertheless, that picture of the scattered but dazzling attorney is altering, making disorderliness less an indication of intelligence than a cause for alarm. Kelly Lynn Anders, the associate dean of student affairs at Washburn University School of Law and author of a 2008 book, The Organized Attorney, puts it like this: “Regularly, lawyers are sanctioned for lots of misdeeds that can be traced back to lack of organization. Often, the sanctions are for actions that are untenable however not harmful. Rather, they are examples of how bad things can get when one is disorganized.”
When a messy attorney herself, Anders names a number of incidents that can take place from disorderliness– “commingling of funds, failure to produce records to opposing counsel, failure to submit in a timely way, being inaccessible to clients, and seeming ill-prepared to represent customers throughout conferences,” she says.
4 ideas to assist lawyers get arranged
If you’re a lawyer or paralegal having a hard time to remain on top of your due dates and work, the time to get arranged is now. These four suggestions can help you prevent becoming the “disorganized attorney” and enhance your total professional conduct when dealing with clients.
1. Track time in real-time
Your day doesn’t always go as prepared. Even though you think you’ll discover time to jot down that 45 minutes you invested in customer X, there are no guarantees. You might easily get pulled in another direction.
When you do catch a breath, the last thing you wish to do is enter your time. So you forget and never expense for your hours of legal costs. Or you inadvertently overestimate legal fees or time, tracking an hour and a half instead of the actual time worked– a move that can put you in infraction of the American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) Guideline 1:5 on billing and fees.
Tracking your time in real-time can make the job easier and assist you (and your group) increase your precision. Time-tracking mobile apps allow you to use your smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer to make entries on the go, suggesting you can start and end a timer precisely at the time you begin and end your work, whether you’re off-site at a deposition, in the house drafting an affidavit, or in court. Some apps even get in ABA codes instantly, so you don’t have to rack your brain to keep in mind them or put in the time to look them up.
2. Get a manage on e-mail
In all possibility, you get more e-mail than you can manage and find that it disrupts your focus and drains your time. If you aren’t careful, e-mail can break your concentration and cause you to make mistakes on important jobs. Putting an “email system” in place can be a lifesaver.
Start by reserving a few times a day (and a few times just) to examine your inbox, such as first thing in the morning, mid-day, and late afternoon. This might seem hard at first, but hold consistent and resist the desire to check e-mail outside of those time frames. Let your team understand your new system so they’re not left waiting on an immediate action, therefore they resort to other measures, like knocking on your workplace door or calling you by phone, when something urgent occurs.
Disable your email pop-up notices to prevent pinging distractions, and arrange your e-mail folders in a way that makes sense. For instance, you can organize by customer or legal service locations such as Domestic, Civil or Probate Litigation, Property, or Bad guy. Similarly, you may arrange folders by top priority level– Low, Medium, High, and Urgent. Then when an email can be found in, submit it appropriately. Keep in mind to clean out your folders every so often so they do not end up being too tough to browse.
3. Minimize paper
Lots of offices in the 21st century rely primarily on digital, not paper, files and filing systems. But that’s not possible with law firms, where paper is required for things like court displays, signed approval orders, and contracts. While you won’t have the ability to get rid of paper completely, there are actions you can require to decrease your paper use– and in turn, your opportunity of losing a crucial note or file.
Electronic, cloud-based filing systems are terrific for document and case management, and use up far less space than old metal file cabinets. Many cloud-based programs are created specifically for law practice and feature the included security measures attorneys and paralegals require. As this ABA post discusses, two premier programs are Clio and Law RD. You can utilize them to handle and team up on files, access your calendar, and even connect and share files with customers– all in a safe, protected setting. The greatest benefits? With web-based programs like these, you can access your files and remain on top of your caseload from anywhere you have Internet access, whether you’re on getaway or extended on your house couch. In addition, you lower your danger of leaving delicate documents on your desk or exposed, which anybody might fairly quickly access and browse.