Clean Up Your Office to Make a Good First Impression

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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.

In today’s digital world, it seems as if the proliferation of e-mail has made face-face meetings a rare occurrence. When someone does come to your office, however, most attorneys still seem to feel that dressing your best is the only way to go to make a good impression.

Regardless of your dress code, take a few minutes to tidy up your office to make a good first impression.

Your office makes a big first impression

Years ago, when I was in law school I made a concerted effort to do informational interviews with attorneys in town. The two things I can still remember about all of them are: (1) which attorneys were nice and helpful; and (2) how clean every attorney’s office was.

Frankly, an office in disarray might make more of an impression than your personality, depending on the state of your office and your personality type. Think about it, if you meet with a nice/boring person who operates out of a pig sty, what will you remember more?

Stacks of files imply more than being busy

I know some attorneys who think that having stacks of files in their office will prove to clients how busy they are. That is definitely one interpretation. It can also imply that you are disorganized, poor at multitasking, and spend more time looking for the right file than actually working on the file.

There are plenty of reasons to go paperless—being able to easily maintain a cleaner office is one of them. It is impossible to create stacks of paper if you have a paperless office—unless you have a giant stack of paper that needs to be scanned.

How you maintain your office can indicate to clients how you run your practice. Physical chaos probably means you have a frenetic personality. Unless that is what you are trying to portray, spend a few minutes organizing your office before your next meeting.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peterandringa/356672744)

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  • This is a particularly important principle in an office made of mostly glass walls, such as my firm’s Orlando office. When a client approaches our receptionist, they can see into nearly every office and department. Our staff knows the importance of organization for efficiency, but a client’s good impression is becoming more and more of a factor as well.

  • Not only is it important for clients—but opposing counsel as well.

  • Randall this is solid advice. I’m not sure anyone sees a messy pile of papers and thinks anything but “disorganized”, “that’ll be MY file strewn all over the place”, or “completely out of touch with technology.” Some might even question the security or confidentiality of their matter. There’s just too many good, inexpensive options out there now to not at least be able to give the impression (!) that you’ve got everything totally under control.

    • Agreed—cleaning up your office is easy, especially with all of the current options to maintain a paperless (and clean) office.