Practice Pointer: Controlling Chaos
by JoAnne Musick
If your practice is like mine, chaos can easily take over. Each client’s question is the most important question in the world…to him. Sure it’s important to you as well, from a representation perspective, but you must manage the chaos before it takes over.
Do you really need to read every email as it comes in? Not likely. Turn off email alerts on your phone! Every alert draws your attention away from the task at hand. Minimize the alerts and minimize the distractions. Email can be a priority, but set a time for it to be the priority rather than all day and all night.
Follow a calendar: paper or electronic. Make sure every appointment and appearance is recorded. Schedule time for emails. Schedule time for phone calls. Schedule time for research and case review. The more you schedule the more you realize just how busy you are and how productive you can be.
Paper is just fine. Create a file for every client. Keep track of everything you do. Make notes about conversations with prosecutors and clients. Keep a running list of things to do. Follow a checklist to make sure you aren’t forgetting something. Do you need a paperless office? Maybe, maybe not. If you have time, scan everything. Get a Dropbox or similar online storage and place only current files in it. Then you will have access from your smartphone or tablet anywhere, anytime. Once a file is closed, consider scanning its entire contents for storage. Electronic storage is must easier than warehouse space; just make sure you have adequate backup systems in place so you don’t lose your electronic file.
Face the Music
Clients get mad. Clients get aggravated. Clients blame you when they don’t get the plea offer they want. Instead of becoming defensive or avoiding, call the client or schedule a meeting. Review the process and options. Before speaking though, give the client an opportunity to talk or even vent. Sometimes they just want to be heard.
Make a List
Keeping a “to do” list is simple and effective. It can be written or electronic. I’m currently using Evernote to keep a master list of general items plus categorized lists for specific projects. Having a list helps you set goals for getting tasks done and helps you visualize the priorities. Anything not done today gets done tomorrow!