The work of a good lawyer is never done. That’s why it can be so difficult to take a step back from the day-to-day grind and get organized. But it’s also essential—a tidy desk, cleaned-up computer and calm mind are the building blocks for exceptional work.
‘Tis the season for spring cleaning, which makes it the perfect time to block out some time for good, old-fashioned organization. Of course, organization looks a little different now than it did twenty years ago or even two years ago, but the same technology that can complicate things also makes it simpler than ever to get your practice in order.
With that in mind, here are 7 tips for organizing everything from desk drawers to your mobile calendar:
1. Let’s start with the basics: Files.
One of the most daunting parts of walking into the office every day is facing the filing cabinet, which is likely overflowing with folders and papers, most of which you’ll never need to look at again. Of course, there are ethical rules to follow when weeding through client files, but there’s still a lot of work that can be done. If you haven’t already digitized your files, do it now. (Seriously. Do it.) If you already have a digital system, make sure you’re all caught up. Once you have a copy of everything on your computer, back it up on an external hard drive or to the cloud. Then store all old files (closed cases and those that haven’t been active for several months) somewhere away from your workspace. Less paper = better headspace.
Organizing client files is a huge job, but the good news is that once it’s finished, decluttering the rest of your office feels like a piece of cake. Go through your desk drawers the same you’d go through your closet: Donate or toss anything you haven’t used in a year. Throw away those grimy rubber bands and the white-out that’s no longer liquefied. Give away the unopened package of highlighters you don’t remember buying. Recycle that pile of old holiday cards at the bottom of your desk drawer. You’ve probably heard of the life-changing magic of tidying up: Remember, it applies to your office, too.
2. Next, go through your desk drawers the same you’d go through your closet.
Donate or toss anything you haven’t used in a year.Throw away those grimy rubber bands and the white-out that’s no longer liquefied. Give away the unopened package of highlighters you don’t remember buying. Recycle that pile of old holiday cards at the bottom of your desk drawer. You’ve probably heard of the life-changing magic of tidying up: Remember, it applies to your office, too.
3. Now that you have a decluttered area for your computer, take a crack at organizing everything that lives in there.
Make sure all those digital files are in the correct folders. Go through your email inbox—delete all junk mail and anything that’s irrelevant, then put everything else into their appropriate folders. Don’t have email folders? Make them. Finally, make sure your client contact information is all on your computer in an organized, easy-to-find fashion.
4. Once you’re finished with the computer, move on to your phone.
The smartphone is handy for many reasons, but for an attorney, there are a few functions that are especially helpful. The first is the calendar: Keeping on top of court dates and client meetings is incredibly important, and mobile calendars can make it easier. Whichever calendar app you use (either the one that comes standard on your phone or a downloaded app), take a few minutes to make sure it’s up to date. If you realize you don’t love your calendar, do some research to find one you do like. Then, just like you organized your contacts on your desktop or laptop, make sure all your clients are programmed into your phone, complete with phone number, physical address and email address. You never know when you’re going to need to get in touch with a client. Finally, do a sweep through your phone and spring clean your apps. Delete anything you don’t use. It’ll save your battery and your sanity.
5. Hop on that decluttered computer or phone and go to your firm’s website.
Take a step back and look at it from a client’s perspective. How does it look? Does it communicate everything you want it to? If it’s been awhile since you’ve updated your website, this may be the perfect time to do a little refresh. If anything looks or reads as dated, change it up. Whether you take care of your website on your own or use a professional, make the effort to keep your site fresh and engaging.
6. Remember to-do lists?
Now is a great time to reintroduce them to your life and your law practice. Whether it’s on your phone, computer, or a tablet, make a list of everything you need to do, be it today, tomorrow, this week, or this month. There’s something about seeing everything written in front of you that makes you feel organized and in charge. Maybe even commit to making to-do lists at the beginning of each day—there’s nothing as rewarding as crossing items off a list.
7. Make yourself a cup of coffee.
Better yet, go down the street and buy yourself a cup of coffee. You deserve it—getting organized is a lot of work.
Organization isn’t magic, but it will help you do your job to the very best of your ability. After all, it’s difficult to work on cases if you can’t find the files. Happy spring cleaning!