In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, Joleena Louis discusses how she learned three effective techniques to organizing her solo law firm.
We are halfway through the first month of 2016, which means holiday festivities are over and we are getting back into the normal flow of life as a solo. January is a great time to get organized in all areas of our life, including our practices.
Organizing your law firm is the key to becoming more productive as a solo attorney. It’s easier to stay motivated to reach your 2016 law practice goals when the chaos of solo life is under control. Here are some of the ways I organize my law firm to set the year up for success:
I have personally found myself guilty of letting papers and files pile up on my desk and around my office. There is no worse feeling that not being able to find an important document because you’ve allowed your office to get disorganized.
I have learned the most effective solution to this problem is to force myself to sit down and completely clear off my desk. Then I go through everything and only replace the items I have used in the past two months. Everything else gets tossed, stored or filed away.
If you’re like me, it can sometimes be difficult to let go of an item and throw it away. Remember to be realistic with yourself. If you haven’t been using it, then you probably never will.
Repeat this process for all of the surfaces in your office, drawers, file cabinets and your briefcase or purse.
2. Sort and organize
Next go through all of your inboxes– your physical inbox or the pile of papers on your desk, random files in your briefcase, and your email. For each item you touch, either add it to your to-do list, file it, delegate it or toss it.
I have discussed how I use David Allen’s Getting Things Done method before, and it is still the best way for me to stay organized:
- Set aside two hours a week to assess, process, organize, do, and then review tasks
- Go through my physical and digital inbox
- Review my calendar
- Do a “mind dump” to get everything out of my head
- Write everything I need to do for the week on a master list
Once you start sorting through your files, take the opportunity to update or create a case list with the status and outstanding tasks for each open matter. This list will help you improve your communication with your clients because you can use it to quickly review the status of a case and update your clients on the next steps.
3. Review or establish systems
As solos we often have to do everything ourselves and, in my experience, sometimes things slip through the cracks. Having systems in place to manage your law firm makes it easier to stay on top of things and provide consistent service to every client.
You should have systems for everything you do– from client intake to keeping track of deadlines. Even if you already have systems in place, it’s always a good idea to review them and determine how to do them better.
I have found the best way to do this is to create a checklist for every process. Writing it down will encourage you to use the least amount of steps required, and will ensure you never miss any steps. You don’t need to do this all at once, just jot down a checklist as you do a new task.
Having a checklist will also help when you need to delegate tasks to someone else. They’ll be able to easily complete the tasks to your standards.
Another tool I’ve found very useful for creating systems is the workflows in MyCase. For example, when a client schedules a meeting I can set up a workflow that automatically gives me the next steps, such as reserving the conference room, sending a reminder email before the meeting, creating an agenda, sending a follow up email summarizing the meeting and invoicing for the meeting.