Lawyers have a lot on their plates every day — managing casework, keeping track of details, and working with strict deadlines. In a fast-paced, competitive law firm, these tasks come with even greater demand and higher stakes.
While a lawyer’s professional life may always be busy, organizational skills can go a long way in streamlining the process and ensuring vital tasks aren’t missed or forgotten. Good organization practices can also help manage lawyer burnout by making projects or tasks feel less overwhelming.
Organization for lawyers isn’t just about keeping a tidy desk and color-coded file folders — it’s about the skill sets to prioritize tasks and manage time effectively.
Importance of Organization for Lawyers
While organizational skills are necessary for many professions, they’re critical to a lawyer’s success. Lawyers and legal staff have to keep up with deadlines, prioritize tasks of high importance, manage resources, and stay focused, often in the face of incredible stress.
Improving your organizational skills has many benefits. You’ll perform better in your day-to-day work — with lower stress levels — and have the resources to progress more in your career. You can open the opportunity to work on more projects without sacrificing your existing workload, accelerating your career development.
Why Do Lawyers Struggle with Organization?
Lawyers are often depicted as busy legal professionals, always on the go and balancing conflicting tasks. Even with the rise of law firm software and more remote work, some lawyers still find themselves struggling to get organized and improve productivity.
The legal profession is a competitive, demanding environment that involves a lot of time investment, especially early on. Law school may not focus on skills like time management and organization, so new lawyers learn from their mentors — often adopting traditional habits that may deplete productivity.
For example, working with manual processes, tracking deadlines on a notepad, and recording billable hours on a sticky note are error-prone and chaotic organizational methods that can lead to problems in the future.
How Technology Supports the Organization Process
Law practice management software like PracticePanther helps your firm stay organized by keeping your information centralized and standardizing your processes. With full case management software, legal billing software, task management, and a native legal calendaring system — it’s easy to keep track of the inner workings of your firm.
With automated workflows, you can create workflow templates to standardize routine case projects — complete with tasks and notes that are pertinent to your practice area. Tasks can be assigned to each staff member automatically, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
For organization and time management, you have access to PracticePanther’s robust legal calendaring software to stay on top of intake meetings, appointments, and court dates. Use custom tags to filter the calendar to view the most important deadlines or events, based on the parameters you set. You can also assign individual tasks to staff with custom user groups to streamline task delegation.
Instead of relying on paper processes, organize your files and documents directly in PracticePanther. Whether you’re in the office or on your way to a meeting — the cloud-based software makes your important documents accessible from anywhere.
5 Tips for Lawyer Organization
Ready to get more organized? Here are some tips:
1. Assess Current Processes
Everyone has their own version of organization, but it’s not always effective. Take a good, hard look at your current processes and consider what’s working well and what could be improved. Simple steps, such as decluttering your desk or tidying up your email inbox, are just part of the process. Take it a step further by timing how long it takes you to complete a routine task, like client intake or preparing an invoice. Identify and take note of any bottlenecks or items that may delay work progression.
2. Identify Areas for Improvement
Now that you have a clear picture of your current organization, consider what areas could use better processes. For example, if you’re still tracking your billable hours with sticky notes, you could save a lot of time (and reduce your mistakes or lost hours) by switching to a legal practice management software platform.
3. Understand Time Management
Time management is a vital skill for lawyers, but it can be tricky for lawyers to navigate when their task lists get out of control. There are many ways to approach time management, but one that’s quite effective is the Eisenhower Matrix. This method organizes your tasks into four separate quadrants for important vs. unimportant tasks and urgent vs. non-urgent tasks.
The urgent tasks are the ones that need to be done immediately, and the important tasks are the ones that contribute to your long-term goals. If a task is urgent and important, do it right away. If a task is important but not urgent, complete it after the high-priority work is done. The remaining tasks should be delegated or eliminated, if possible.
4. Limit Distractions
Some distractions are inevitable, but you can remove some unnecessary distractions to get more time in your day. For example, your phone and computer notifications for email or social media pull your focus from the task. Each time that happens, you waste valuable moments getting back into what you were doing. It may not seem like much, but over the course of days, weeks, and months, it can add up to a lot of wasted time.
Set specific time blocks during the day to check and respond to calls and emails. This way, your clients get the responsiveness they want and you have dedicated time to focus on communication without disrupting your regular workflow.
5. Improve Communication
Clear communication is one of the most important aspects of the attorney-client relationship. When you’re disorganized, it can be easy to overlook client communication or have delayed response times. This could lead to less quality legal services which can impact client retention.
Blocking time to devote to client communications is a good way to ensure you give your clients the attention they deserve while managing your administrative work. PracticePanther offers a customizable client portal to offer on-demand access to clients without having to pick up the phone. Add invoices, documents, and files, and enable online payments. Clients can even send you messages and review past correspondence.
Outlook on Staying Organized as a Lawyer
Sharpening your organization skills can have positive effects on your firm in terms of the quality of services you provide and overall productivity. With the support of law practice management software, you can easily stay on top of your tasks and deadlines, keep better communication with clients, and experience less stress and overwhelm in your day.
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