How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

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How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:01 pm

I just finished my stub year and I seem to be having a huge challenge with staying organized. I don't mean that my office is dirty or files are out of control; it's more to do with staying on top of the seemingly endless amounts of small shit that come across my desk (in addition to the big projects).

For instance, a partner emailed me last week and said to "file document x." I was crazy busy with something else, probably read the email and just glossed over it, and the partner just came in here and chewed my ass out bigly. Said things like "you need to figure out what the hell you're doing," "get your head out of your ass," etc.

I get his point, but I'll note that this was just a stipulated entry. We didn't miss any deadline or anything, so I guess that's why I didn't get fired on the spot.

Anyway, I feel like I just need to improve my organization. Keeping track of emails, to-dos, file deadlines, it's all just so overwhelming and I can't let stuff like this slip through the cracks anymore because I think I'm already on thin ice.

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jkpolk

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby jkpolk » Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:29 pm

Get a legal notepad and put it on your desk. Write each thing you have to do on that notepad immediately when you learn of the thing (even things like "return email to Fred"). Cross things off the notepad when you finish them. Try to prioritize the things on the notepad which require the most immediate attention.

The first thing I think whenever I get an e-mail, after thinking "fuck not another goddamn e-mail," is "does this e-mail have any action items for my list." Especially e-mails from people I'm working with and/or for.

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby mjb447 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:36 pm

jkpolk wrote:Get a legal notepad and put it on your desk. Write each thing you have to do on that notepad immediately when you learn of the thing (even things like "return email to Fred"). Cross things off the notepad when you finish them. Try to prioritize the things on the notepad which require the most immediate attention.

I agree with this. You need to start a master list of everything you have to do, write down anything that you don't immediately complete, and review the list once or twice a day. (It's arguably more important to have the trivial nonsense on the list - you may not forget about a big ongoing project, but you'll forget to do small stuff.) If you have to look too many places for your tasks, you'll probably end up overlooking something.

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Lincoln

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby Lincoln » Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:37 pm

I had a whiteboard in my office where I did exactly what jkpok suggests. The whiteboard was a mess but it was an easy way to get a reminder.

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby SFSpartan » Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:54 pm

If your firm's internal email is Outlook, you can use flags to manage deadlines. I flag any email with an action item on it, and set a response time. This helps me manage my deadlines and keep individual action items straight when shit's flying. I also keep a whiteboard in my office - I use that to track things that I haven't started, have started, and have sent to a partner for review (but which haven't been sent to the client).

Overall, I prefer the flag system, as it allows me to keep my shit straight, even if I'm working remotely. Will note, though, that I'm corporate, so my deliverables probably happen over a smaller timeframe than yours, which makes the flags easier to keep track of.

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Prana-9

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby Prana-9 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 5:22 pm

Agree about the list.

Was this the first time you missed a filing or the like? Seems like partner overreacted.

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby Civilservant » Wed Jan 25, 2017 5:33 pm

I second the Outlook recommendations. There is a lot of cool things you can do with Outlook. You can set up rules to route your emails wherever you want them to go, flags to manage priority, etc etc.

I have a three tier system, Outlook, Windows Sticky Notes (just an always on list of tasks on your main screen), and Excel. I will dump my matters into a spreadsheet, updating periodically what happens next and due dates. If all else fails, my secretary pings my phone and computer for important reminders.

Organization is a huge part of practice, and we all have our own system.

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 25, 2017 5:36 pm

Prana-9 wrote:Agree about the list.

Was this the first time you missed a filing or the like? Seems like partner overreacted.

I've actually had a good relationship with this partner. He thinks I'm a great writer and has already let me draft dispositive motions and the like.

My issue really arises when I'm actually in control of a file. In other words, I seem to be good with individual assignments, but terrible at following up/taking responsibility over future things with the file.

I guess I'm honestly just shocked at how much stuff there is to do. Not in terms of time spent, but the amount of things--appointments, meetings, telephone conferences, assignments, deadlines, recording time, checking dockets, responding to emails etc.--all on top of maintaining and keeping a file moving through the system. It just seems overwhelming thus far.

With that in mind, I appreciate the advice thus far, but what about more global things? Keeping track of deadlines/files/where things are going?

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2014

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby 2014 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 6:39 pm

If something can be knocked out in <10 minutes you should nearly ALWAYS do it first and immediately. Doesn't matter how much someone is up your ass about that big memo or your summary of case law or whatever, they will never notice the difference between it taking you 6.7 and 6.8 hours to do, but everyone will notice if you just don't do things they ask you to.

Being able to quickly shift focus is probably one of the best skills you can have at the job. Being able to set aside time to exclusively work on one project is a unicorn that everyone would love but no one gets. There's always something that crops up and it only gets harder to reserve time every month you are at it.

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 25, 2017 6:52 pm

2014 wrote:If something can be knocked out in <10 minutes you should nearly ALWAYS do it first and immediately. Doesn't matter how much someone is up your ass about that big memo or your summary of case law or whatever, they will never notice the difference between it taking you 6.7 and 6.8 hours to do, but everyone will notice if you just don't do things they ask you to.

Being able to quickly shift focus is probably one of the best skills you can have at the job. Being able to set aside time to exclusively work on one project is a unicorn that everyone would love but no one gets. There's always something that crops up and it only gets harder to reserve time every month you are at it.


This X 100. midlevel associate here. There is nothing more annoying than sending a junior a 10 minute task and them taking more than 7 hours to get back to you saying they were busy. unless you have one of those really really crazy days (which happens but rare where something is ACTUALLY urgent) you should just do it and get it off your plate. and both seniors you are working with will think youre a rock star because as stated above, he wont know it should have taken you only 6.7 hours instead of 6.8

also, before I go home for the day, I go down every email in my inbox to make sure I didn't miss anything. takes about 5 min, but has saved me a number of times.

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zot1

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby zot1 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 7:03 pm

To-do list.

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby tyroneslothrop1 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:10 pm

"Todoist" is a website where you can keep a list. I have it bookmarked. Like using a notepad but just digital.

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:03 pm

Not at a firm, but just going to bitch briefly that I find task managers like Remember the Milk or Things really helpful for keeping track of multiple projects, but of course I can't use them because SECURITY and NOT APPROVED and blah blah blah. But if you can use them, they can be digital to-do lists that can be sorted by due date, project (case), where you need to be to do the task (computer/phone/whatever).

Otherwise I agree with a to-do list. I try to have a master list and then write a daily one from the master so I'm thinking purposefully about what needs to get done on a given day, rather than what needs to get done, period. Also, if something has a hard deadline it gets put in my outlook as well (yay redundancies).

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby Pokemon » Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:58 pm

Agreed with all of the above. I have a list that I update everyday unless I am quiet. I put deal name and what i need to currently do on that deal. As I do them I cross them off and as new thing pop up I add them up. Next morning I re-write the list since it becomes a mess between the thingsI added and things I remove, unless it is a quiet period and not much has changed.

Being responsive and not missing stuff is probably more important for a junior than actual legal work product, since no one will trust you anyway with that, but people will trust you with the day to day of being organized and responsive.

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Re: How Do You Stay Organized/On Top of Everything?

Postby andythefir » Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:17 am

As a state DA, you get 100+ cases assigned to you, and only you, on your first day. It's super overwhelming, especially when you're fresh out of law school. But you helpfully have 2-3 dockets per week, where they call 10-20 of your cases to plea, have a pre-trial conference, or even just check out the status of the cases. Those dockets force you to at least check out some of your cases in a systematic way. Depending on what kind of tasks you have, it might be helpful to have some sort of thorough way to check some portion of your tasks/cases/projects regularly to make sure you're on top of all of them.

When I didn't have crushing caseloads I would also do internal audits of my own cases from time to time. Depending on your supervision structure, it might be smart to write on the file "conducted audit on file on 1/25" as a way to give your supervisors reassurance that you're on top of your assignments.

I'm also a big believer in whiteboards. They help you write out all the things and see them all at once, and you can update in real time to reflect exactly where you are.



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