Practicing law involves managing countless details and deadlines. For this reason, organization for lawyers can become a challenge for many lawyers in a high-paced law firm juggling various projects.
Without essential organization skills or resources to support the workload, it’s easy for information or tasks to innocently fall through the cracks. Adversely, this can leave lawyers feeling burnout or overwhelmed which could lead to a deterioration of quality of service, impacting overall client satisfaction.
Maintaining organization for lawyers is more than having pristine files and an uncluttered office — it includes critical skills like strategic planning, time management, and task prioritization.
Why Do Lawyers Struggle with Organization?
For years, lawyers were often depicted as busy professionals constantly shuffling through papers and running to the courthouse. Remote work and the rise in legal technology have certainly modernized a lawyer’s day-to-day activities, but that doesn’t mean those tasks are necessarily organized.
Lawyers have a lot to manage in a high-stress, high-performance environment. Often, this can lead to a system of organization that’s known only to the lawyer — billable hours written on sticky notes, case files interspersed with other papers, and deadlines tracked on a notepad. To avoid chaos, here are a few tips to have a more organized work life.
Organization for Lawyers: 6 Tips
Maintain an Organized Workspace
There’s no right or wrong way to set up an office or workspace, but it should work for you. That said, clutter can be a barrier to organization. Keep your desk tidy and free of clutter. Put away anything you’re not working on right now and gather loose documents and file them.
If your law firm relies on paper, consider the benefits of transitioning to a digital process. Lawyers have traditionally dealt with mass amounts of paper which can lead to disorganization and hinder productivity. Limiting the amount of paper you use in your day-to-day with a digital filing system will greatly improve the accessibility you have to the work you need.
Establish a Routine
While we all have the same amount of hours in the day, the way we use them directly impacts our productivity.
Highly productive people often start the day with a priority to-do list that reflects the tasks that absolutely must get done that day. The rest are tasks that you could do, if you have time, to get a jump on the next day’s work.
When you’re planning your routine, be sure to leave time to make calls and emails, take a break, and have lunch. Before signing off for the day, take a few minutes to create your priority to-do list for the next day.
We’re more connected than ever before, which comes with the pressure to stay in touch with work colleagues, family, and friends at all times. Our devices can become a source of distraction instead of productivity at work.
This is where blocking time comes in handy. For some, using time blocks and a calendar is more effective than to-do lists. Use your calendar as a time-blocking tool and divide your day into different blocks of time, each with a specific task.
Improve Time Management
Lawyers often find themselves struggling to balance time spent on non-billable administrative tasks and their caseload.
Fortunately, legal project management tools can help with time management, time tracking, and overall organization, with project management features to manage your caseload along with time tracking and billing functionalities. The right platform allows you to separate time and expenses, add notes or related files, collaborate with colleagues, and set customizable notifications to ensure you’re focused on the highest-priority tasks.
Commit to Better Communication
One of the casualties of disorganization is a reduction in client satisfaction. This can be due to a decrease in the quality of service a lawyer provides because they’re so busy.
A simple way to combat this is by blocking time, but also leveraging modern technology to streamline your communication. Features like client portals are a way for clients to feel connected to your firm while also having on-demand access to the information they need.
Track Time in Real Time
When you’re shuffling between cases, it can be easy to lose track of your billable time. This is why it’s important to have resources that allow lawyers to work as they go without having to guess how many hours they spent on a client.
Neither overestimating nor underestimating billable hours is good for a law firm. If you overestimate your time, you could be in violation of the American Bar Association’s Rule 1.5 on billing and fees. If you underestimate your time, you’re leaving money on the table for valuable services you’ve provided to your client.
Tracking time in real-time is important for accuracy and your organization’s well-being. Time tracking tools allow you to set timers on your laptop, tablet, smartphone, or desktop.
Proper timekeeping not only helps you stay organized and bill accurately, but it helps you identify where you could improve your time management and productivity to get more accomplished in your day.
How Legal Technology Keeps Lawyers Organized
Law practice management software offers plenty of tools to help you stay organized. Time tracking, project management, and document management tools ensure you can organize files, plan your calendar and tasks, communicate with clients, and track time to improve your productivity from anywhere.
Organized Lawyers Are an Asset
Firms and clients realize the value of having modern processes to assist lawyers with staying on top of tasks and deadlines. It may not happen overnight, but taking steps toward better organization with tools like law practice management software will improve your efficiency and productivity.
This article was authored by Nina Lee.