It is all about procedures

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

No matter what you use to manage your practice, whether a case management product like Time Matters or simply Outlook (or Evolution, or whatever) and the file manager, the efficacy of the system depends on good procedures. No software eliminates the need for good procedures. However, modern technology, especially in a paperless law office, means adhering to procedures may be far less onerous than it used to be.

The most important procedures revolve around making sure it is easy to find all contacts, appointments, tasks, e-mails, and documents associated with a case.

Case management software does this by letting the user associate each item with the case. For example, when you open an e-mail in Time Matters, you select the appropriate case–called a matter–and save the e-mail (it is a bit more laborious than that, especially given the time it takes TM to save anything). You can find the e-mail again by opening up the matter form and selecting the appropriate tab.

Without case management software, there does not need to be a case or matter form. The case is an abstract, ad hoc thing that you create by typing it into your indexed search utility. For example, if I want to find everything related to the John Doe case, I would type “Doe” into the search box, and everything would pop up. Everything that has the word “Doe” somewhere in the document, that is. So the only procedure you need to have is to make sure your case name–or an important part of it, whether client’s last name or file number–appears in everything relevant. Whenever I create an e-mail, task, or appointment, I include [Doe] in the subject line. When I create a contact related to the Doe case, I put John Doe’s name and file number in the notes. When I scan a document, my ScanSnap S1500 document scanner automatically recognizes text on the first page of the scanned document, which invariably has the name of my client. Those documents are also saved in the client’s case file on my computer, so I can find them manually that way, as well.

There are other ways to do this, but adding the client’s name to everything is just good procedure, anyway, something I did long before I concerned myself with case management.

So follow procedures. Without them, anything you use to keep track of your practice is essentially useless. You can use case management software or you can use indexed search. Whatever you use, use good and appropriate procedures.

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