Become a member of the Solo & Small Firm Section and take part in the Law Practice Management and Technology for the Small Firm seminar on June 22 for half off the registration price. Topics include the paperless office, cybersecurity and marketing. A networking lunch is included. Membership in the Section is just $20 and includes access to the Section’s popular listserv. For information on how to join the Section, go to www.scbar.org/solo or contact Emily Worley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Register for the conference (live or webcast) online.
Posts published in “Time Management & Organization”
With warmer days approaching, April is the perfect time to clean and work on office organization.
Here are seven tips to help you declutter your office in honor of National Records and Information Management month.
- Start small. Don’t look at the overall big picture. Instead, divide your office into areas or stations (Example: mail station, printing station, filing station, etc.) and look at organizing one area at a time. An office area might be as small as a drawer, bookshelf, or corner.
- Start with you. Before you touch anything: think about what environments, what scenarios, what systems make you the most productive. For example, establish an environment that mimics those thoughts.
- Three-Part Declutter system. A system can start with a To-Go pile (donate, trash, return), a Keep pile (frequently used items), and a Put Away pile (files, etc.). Physically place items in each pile and move items to the appropriate location. If the new location involves an area you haven’t organized, place to the side until you can get to it, but set yourself a deadline so you won’t procrastinate.
- Time to Spring Clean. Clean all surfaces including drawers, keyboards, computer vents, monitors, phone, mouse, light fixtures, blinds, window sills, baseboards, chairs, office accessories, floors, ceiling fans, desks, countertops, etc. In addition, untangle wires and cords, purchase a new battery backup surge protector for all equipment, and install open shelves in areas where you need more storage but not more clutter.
- Purge, purge, purge. If you haven’t thought about this already, consider donating excess or unused office supplies. Throw out broken items, manuals you can find online, and old magazines or catalogs.
- Your Work Area.
- Place the most frequently used items on your desktop.
- Use drawer organizers to place desk accessories and keep supplies discoverable in drawers.
- Label and organize supplies keeping only what you expect to use in the next year.
- Use systems such as colors, numbers, and the alphabet to help you sort and organize items quickly.
- Reach Out for Resources.
The holiday season should be relaxing, worry-free and most of all, safe. That's why it is a good idea to prepare your office before you close for the holidays. Below are a few tips from the Practice Management Assistance Program to help you get started.
Several Weeks Prior to the Holiday
- If at all possible, ask another lawyer to be your back up or successor in case of emergencies. You can execute an authorization and consent to enter the law firm offices or adapt the Bar’s “Agreement to Close a Law Practice” to formalize your agreement with the emergency attorney. The agreement includes Power of Attorney language and a section on specific powers granted to the backup lawyer. (The Bar strongly recommends solos have a full agreement regardless of whether you are going on vacation. Also, you can designate a successor on the Bar’s website.) When you are out of the office for vacation or other reasons, and you are unable to find another lawyer to be your backup, you may choose to entrust a trusted staff member or family member. (The book, “Being Prepared: A Lawyer’s Guide for Dealing with Disability or Unexpected Events” by Cohen and Cohen is recommended for forms and checklists.)
- Let your backup know how to reach you and set expectations as to what constitutes an emergency warranting your intervention.
- Prepare an envelope to be opened by your backup with information to be used in emergencies. Include crucial passwords, the key to your mailbox, locked office/file cabinets, and information about bank accounts/trusts. Put this envelope in a safe location or give to your backup.
- Plan your schedule carefully. Share your plans with coworkers or with your successor. Make sure any office personnel have all the information they need to assist clients and reach you.
- Notify current clients in writing of your holiday schedule and emergency contact person.
- Post a holiday office hours schedule in your office, on your website, or in your email signature line so clients know in advance when you plan to be closed.
- Request protection from all courts you may be called before while you are away.
- Set clear goals for what you need to accomplish before you leave and what remains unfinished for when you return.
- Make sure security software and backups are working properly.
One Week Prior to the Holiday
- Review all client files and prepare a client summary of each matter.
- Attempt to resolve any potential issues or questions with clients or other counsel early. Talk to your back up lawyer about on-going matters and any potential problems to be aware of.
- Monitor your email inbox and physical mail and categorize high priority messages.
- Set automatic payments for operating expenses if necessary.
- Send outstanding invoices.
- Test your data backups and make sure all your data is backed up to an external location.
- Check physical locks to all windows, doors, access points.
- Test locks to client files, file closets, and office.
- Clean off your desk.
Last Day at Work
- Set an out of office greeting on voicemail and email. Include contact information for your emergency contact.
- Remove perishable food items from refrigerator and cabinets.
- Organize desk and prepare a checklist so you’ll know what you need to do when you return.
- Remind staff where you would like your mail and messages to go while you are out.
- Be sure your back up lawyer has all the information they need before you leave.
- Remind staff to set out of office greetings if they are on vacation too.
- Lock up client files, file closets, and your office
When You Return from Holiday
- Turn off holiday voicemail greeting/email out of office (if not automatic).
- Talk to your back-up lawyer to determine if you need to resolve any issues.
- Meet with staff to see what issues have come up while they were out and work to answer questions, solve problems, and delegate.
- Set aside 1-2 hours to sort through urgent messages, priorities, etc.
- Return calls and emails promptly and open snail mail and respond.
Contact email@example.com with any questions or if you need additional assistance.
Are you a good time manager? If you are thinking “no,” then you are not alone. Here are 14 tips to help you manage your time better:
- Carry a schedule or find a good calendar app for your phone. Record all thoughts and activities for the week.
- Write a to-do checklist. Break down tasks into categories like URGENT, TODAY, THIS WEEK, THIS MONTH, THIS YEAR. Spend time first thing in the morning to plan your day.
- Assign every activity or task with an appointment time. Leave enough time for interruptions.
- Eat a frog. Whatever is your most dreaded task of the day, do that one first.
- Learn to say no to commitments you do not care about or don’t have time for.
- Purchase your favorite case management software and put it to work for you.
- Put up a “do not disturb” sign when you have to get work done.
- Close out of email and place your phone on mute. Make appointment times during the day to answer email and phone calls (9 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m.). Think of those as people walking into your office without an appointment.
- Cut your smartphone on silent or if the option is available, set your phone to automatically send out a text message or voicemail to texters/callers when you are unavailable.
- Avoid social media websites. Make appointments to check those during the morning or evening.
- Set a timer or your stopwatch to challenge yourself to do a certain task in a certain amount of time.
- Ask your staff to follow these tips for their own schedules and encourage them to meet these goals.
- Review what you did not get done and reevaluate your checklist.
- Remember Rome was not conquered in a day.
Check out these helpful website tips to help you manage your time wisely:
- Time Management Tips for Entrepreneurs (Lifehack)
- 5 Time Management Tips for Lawyers (Law Technology Today)
- Tomatoes Time Management is a Super Customizable Pomodoro Timer for Mac (Lifehacker)
- The Best to Do Apps (Techlicious)
Also, stop by the Lending Library to check out the latest resources in time management plus much more! Visit the Lending Library page online or stop by the South Carolina Bar main building located at 950 Taylor Street, Columbia, SC and browse our collection.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. We're here to help you with resources to manage your practice!