In my youth, I spent hours in front of the television playing video games. From Atari to Xbox, I loved every minute of every system. Although I’m older, I haven’t quite kicked the video game habit, and don’t plan on it. Luckily, video games aren’t a total waste of time for me. They are a good rainy day activity for me and my girlfriend, who plays Diablo II while I play Skyrim. And, more importantly, video games taught me several things I can apply to my law practice.

Save Early, Save Often

Yesterday I was exploring an old Dwemer ruin in Skyrim when I stepped on a trap and got killed instantly. Ridiculous. Expletives abounded. But more annoyingly, I hadn’t saved in about twenty-five minutes. I was less than pleased. Of course, it was partially my own fault since I didn’t have the auto save feature turned on.

I’m sure many of you have run into similar experiences. You’re working on a brief, do something wrong, and Microsoft Word crashes. You lose the last forty-five minutes’ worth of work, which you’ve already billed for. That’s why it’s critical to save your document as soon as you start it, and save again at regular intervals. Because it’s 2012, you should be using AutoRecover to avoid this problem. In fact, you should combine Auto Recover with Dropbox for even more security. I recently made the change to Dropbox and the change has already saved me a couple of times.

The Value of Experience

Often times while playing a video game, I will find myself in a situation that is much harder than it’s supposed to be. The current feat will seem insurmountable. Try as I might, I just keep losing. But it’s usually because I’ve ventured further than the game intended. I’m fighting level 40 enemies when I’m only a level 10.

Similarly, one isn’t qualified right out of law school to do…much. Law school does not prepare most of us for whatever practice area we will eventually find ourselves in. This lack of proper training creates a paradox for the new lawyer. The only way to prepare is experience. But to get experience in say, taking depositions, you have to take depositions. That means there will be things you do that you’ve never done before. In my opinion, that’s OK. There’s a first time for everything.

But just because you’re taking your first deposition doesn’t mean you need to go in blind. This is where having a mentor is helpful. You can lean on a mentor’s experience to support your own lack of hard won expertise. Continuing with the deposition example, you can talk to your mentor about common deposition pitfalls and things to watch out for. If they’re really nice, a mentor may even let you sit in on a deposition to see how it’s done. In larger firms, this is commonplace. But for those of us in solo practices or small firms, getting this kind of experience takes some legwork.

Keep Everything

I’m not saying this video is about me, but it could be. The same is true in pretty much any game, not just Skyrim. I keep it all. Like he says in the video, it’s “loot.” Why would I throw it out?

Hopefully you haven’t been looting and plundering opposing counsel’s office. Even without doing that, you’ve probably amassed a lot of information in your practice. Good cases on certain points, a template for a brief that’s easy to use, quotes you really like, people’s contact information, and so forth. My personal approach is to never throw this stuff away. Unfortunately, the more information I collect, the harder it is to organize this information. Coupled with my digital anal-retentiveness, this sometimes becomes a problem.

My solution is to keep everything organized by client, no matter what. Then I keep a few word documents on frequent standards (sufficiency of evidence, standards of review, etc.) that I can recycle as necessary. When I need something, I just search for it. I’ve found I don’t need to cut and paste things into a brief repository since desktop search is so robust these days.

That being said, I could use a search feature for my Skyrim inventory.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdharrison/2419891172/)