Whether you use alternate fee structures or hourly billing, you have to keep tabs on your cases. Not only do you need to track what you did on a case, but why you did it.

Every case has different facts

Most lawyers focus on a small area of law, which gives them more expertise and a comfort level when handling those types of cases. Every case, however, has a unique set of facts.

For the most part, overall case strategy remains the same, but how you get from point a to point z can be different. Keeping careful notes makes sure you will always get to point z, regardless of what road you take.

Map your overall strategy

If you usually work in a certain area of law, you probably know how you want each case to end. It does not hurt, however, to spend some time mapping out how you plan to achieve your objective.

If you map out your strategy at the beginning of case, you can help make sure that you hit all of the right checkpoints along the way. Even if you change strategies, careful notes will help you stay on course.

Keep track of “why” along with with “what”

If you are keeping track of what you did, be sure to write down why you did it. Many cases take a year or two to resolve and can go months without anything changing. When you pick up a file after a month of inactivity, you might not remember why you changed strategy mid-stream or why you took an action earlier or later than you usually do.

If you write it down, you can avoid second-guessing your decisions and stay the course. Otherwise, you might find yourself halfway into a case and wondering how you got there. Writing down that you did something is worthless when you cannot remember why you did it. Careful notes will avoid that problem.


  1. Avatar Aaron Hall, business attorney says:

    Do you have an example that might help illustrate how you use this idea?

  2. Avatar Greta Kirkland says:

    That’s my question. Do you keep a file in Word for each case, or do you have something online like Evernote or Backpack? For those of us who don’t have access to the fancy case management software.

  3. Avatar Randall Ryder says:

    Good question. I still use a daily workplan, which shows all of my cases and upcoming dates and tasks that need to get done. My workplan, however, does not usually provide the “why” component.

    Now that we use Clio, I’m using the notes function almost every time something happens on that case (separate from timekeeping). If you do not use practice management software, you could easily make a word document for every case. Frankly, that is probably the easiest way to collect all your thoughts for one file.

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