Being disorganized can waste time, increase stress levels, and limit productivity. But the most concerning potential outcome of all is misconduct, such as commingling of funds, appearing unprepared during client meetings, and failing to produce records to opposing counsel. To take control of your task list, paperwork, and anxiety, here are some tools and methods to help you prioritize and accomplish your goals.
Turn to tech
When your calendar, email, matter documents, and client information are all in separate locations it can be difficult to keep track of things, no matter how organized you are. Cloud-based practice management programs compile your daily calendar, to-do list, and case documents in one spot, making it easy to find from any location.
Take control of your inbox
Lawyers often receive more email than they can process resulting in an inbox full of unread notifications, making it easy for critical emails to get lost. Implementing an email system can make sure that you’re not missing important emails or losing out on billable time due to the distraction of constant email notifications.
To start, turn off all your email notifications, either setting dedicated times of the day to check email or doing so after specific tasks are completed. If you have clients who truly need immediate responses, the majority of email providers offer a way to set up a VIP list, where notifications will come through for select individuals. Once interrupted, studies have shown it can take you 23 minutes to get back on track. Just think of all the time you lose doing that!
From there, use labels and designate your emails to specific folders and action types as soon as they come in. The important part is to set up a system that works for you. Check out these articles for some suggestions:
- Inbox Zero
With many states turning to e-filing, it’s clear that even the courts have recognized the benefits of eliminating paper. Cloud-based programs can help keep track of your documents, eliminating the need to sift through piles of papers to find what you’re looking for. It also makes it easy to locate and access files when and where you need them.
When using a cloud-based program or cloud storage, a scanner is especially helpful. Within a few seconds, you can get rid of the need to hold onto a piece of paperwork while reducing clutter. Be sure all scanned documents are stored in the appropriate folders so you can easily find them later.
Set up processes
Running a law firm often means you’re wearing a lot of hats, but operations is one area where you can fix a lot of your workflow organization problems. It’s likely you have set ways you handle certain documents, but in writing them down you can find opportunities to create efficiencies or at the very least implement structure into the firm.
Start by creating a list of all tasks at the firm, from client intake to matter management to billing. Then think about what the workflow should look like for each of these, documenting it and applying specific dates for recurring tasks such as monthly invoicing. This ensures your entire team is on the same page as to how work should be handled, where it will be stored and what is expected of them, streamlining your internal operations and eliminating the guesswork out of regular tasks.
Keep at it
You need to be consistent to stay organized. Long hours, a high caseload and complaining clients can cause lawyers to not take the time to properly scan, follow processes and stay on top of email. It’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of it, but the few extra minutes spent on these tasks will ultimately lead to higher productivity and less stress.