Ask the Experts:
Organizational Hacks for Small Firms

Solo Attorney's New Year's ChecklistLet’s face it, lawyers are busy. Practicing law and providing your clients with the best possible representation can be time consuming. Add to that the responsibilities of running a law firm, and sometimes it’s a wonder you get anything done at all!

For many lawyers, staying on top of their busy law practices can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are ways to streamline your day-to-day activities and create a more efficient workflow. If you’re not sure where to start, then you’re in luck. We asked the experts for some of their best productivity tips for lawyers. Read on for lots of great ideas from law practice management experts and your fellow lawyers that you can immediately implement into your daily workflow.

Reduce clutter

“According to a 2011 Princeton University Neuroscience Institute study, ‘[w]hen your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus.’ This can apply to both physical and virtual clutter. One easy productivity tip to help limit distractions and increase productivity is to set aside a mere fifteen minutes at the end of each week to spend organizing your space. This might include sorting through physical mail and trashing outdated publications and advertisements, moving physical files into a file cabinet or onto a shelf, organizing and pruning electronic files cluttering your desktop, and more. When you get back to work that next week (or weekend), you’ll be ready to sit down (or stand, if that’s your preference) and focus in on the work you need to do rather than be distracted by all that stuff surrounding you!”

– Heidi Alexander, lawyer turned law practice management consultant and author at Mass LOMAP

Maximize your law firm’s calendaring system

“Utilize your calendar as your best friend. Integrate it on your phone and in your case management software, and make sure it has alerts set up to notify you in enough advanced time to be useful. It is not just for appointments – use it for important ‘to do’ items that you don’t want to forget, whether it’s picking up the dry cleaning or responding to an email from late at night that you don’t want to get buried. For tasks like these, delete them from the calendar after you’ve done them so they don’t clutter up your records.”

– Megan Zavieh, lawyer, and legal ethics columnist

Take advantage of legal cloud software

“Use the cloud. The cloud lets you work from anywhere, and stay organized at the same time. When you’re on your own, you can’t make money if you’re spending your time trying to find paper copies of something at your office when it’s the weekend and you have a brief due Monday. Another tip: set up rules in Outlook. People don’t realize how destructive it is to get 100 emails a day. Even if it’s just a pop up on your screen, it takes you out of deep focus and prevents you from doing your best work. Filtering unnecessary emails into a folder keeps them from popping up on your screen every few minutes.”

– Jeff Bennion, lawyer, legal technology columnist)

Use Office 365 templates

Template Phrases is an add-in to Office 365 that allows you to create pre-set responses for phrases that you use often for emails and other documents. So when you’re sending an email you can simply click on the template phrases add-in and the drop down menu will provide you with phrases you’ve created to choose from. Findtime is another add-in to Office 365 that is a lot like Doodle and allows meeting attendees to identify dates and times that work for them. It’s a huge timesaver because it helps you avoid the time-consuming back and forth of emails when trying to determine a meeting time that works for everyone.”

– Rochelle Washington, Senior Staff Attorney for the DC Bar Practice Management Advisory Service

Reduce interruptions

“Reduce needless interruptions! It takes your brain up to 20 MINUTES to recover from each interruption you deal with during the day. Schedule uninterrupted time in your calendar (30-90 minutes); stick to it; and watch your productivity soar.”

– Nora Bergman, Nora Bergman, law firm business coach and author of “50 Lessons for Lawyers”

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