BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

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TFALAWL

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BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby TFALAWL » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:04 am

Title says it all. First year at V-15. I struggle to do my best work during regular business hours because I keep getting hounded with emails. I've tried doing things like only checking my email every 20 minutes or so, but then people will still call me or come to my office.

Any tips on how to multi-task 1. staying up to the minute with email, while 2. being deeply focused on task at hand?

Thanks in advance.

h2go

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby h2go » Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:41 am

Skim and see whether it ACTUALLY needs a response immediately. If not, respond acknowledging you've seen and that you're on it. Make a note to remind you to come back to it later. This should only take 30 seconds.

masque du pantsu

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby masque du pantsu » Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:18 am

There's really no good answer for this. You have to just prioritize and do your best; as a first year it's hard, but knowing what tasks are "immediate" versus "not immediate" gets easier. Unfortunately, other things get harder!

You can read productivity advice on career websites and none of it applies to the life of a first year associate at a law firm. They say things like, "don't check your email constantly," "focus on your own tasks before moving on to email tasks", as if those two things are any different in our world. Sometimes the most important part of your job IS to be responsive.

And unfortunately sometimes the answer is that you have to stay late to actually finish your work because you've been distracted or on the phone all day. I'm a fourth year M&A associate and this is very often my situation.

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:21 am

"Will do"

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:43 am

TFALAWL wrote:Title says it all. First year at V-15. I struggle to do my best work during regular business hours because I keep getting hounded with emails. I've tried doing things like only checking my email every 20 minutes or so, but then people will still call me or come to my office.

Any tips on how to multi-task 1. staying up to the minute with email, while 2. being deeply focused on task at hand?

Thanks in advance.

One thing I do - have outlook automatically put shit in folders. Most of the emails are junk. Funnel all of the conflicts checks, departure and arrival memos, ISOs, etc. into a separate folder you can check at leisure. That way you at least filter to the stuff that actually requires your attention.

It's a half answer, but it can at least keep you from looking over at your email screen every three seconds for every conflict check.

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unlicensedpotato

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby unlicensedpotato » Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:28 am

masque du pantsu wrote:
And unfortunately sometimes the answer is that you have to stay late to actually finish your work because you've been distracted or on the phone all day. I'm a fourth year M&A associate and this is very often my situation.

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elendinel

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby elendinel » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:50 am

I echo the advice above; make filters to organize your emails before you get to them, so you can know right off the bat how many emails are actually likely to be important. For example I'll sort emails by client/matter, then by the sender (did the partner send it, did my assistant send it, did the client send it, etc.). if something's not attached to a client, I probably don't have to drop everything to read it. If a client sent me an email directly asking about something, I should respond ASAP.

Then get in the habit of sending off quick emails acknowledging you got the person's email. A partner asks you to take care of something? "Got it/Will do." A client is asking you for information you don't have time to give them? "Hi [client], got your email; will send you [info they asked for] shortly." Save email presets if it helps so that you can easily cut/paste/tweak emails when necessary. The more responsive you are the less people will call/come over to you to follow-up, saving you time. Eventually you'll get the hang of it.

And you'll have to accept that you'll have to stay past regular business hours to get caught up with all your emails/all the work you didn't get to because you were getting caught up in emails. There's no strategy or solution that will save you from having to do this semi-regularly.

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Lacepiece23

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby Lacepiece23 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:03 pm

I just plan to do my work when I know the e-mails aren't coming. If I have a huge brief due, I'll like write the majority of it from 7-9 a.m. or after 4:30 p.m. when the partners for the most part stop e-mailing. And I'll have other tasks to do that are easier, and less focus intensive. I just basically never count on having my whole day to work on something and plan accordingly.

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby Pokemon » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:56 pm

Automatic filters are in my opinion a dangerous game to play for certain practices because of the email that accidentally goes in to wrong folder. Ok if most work is for one client, but often you are doing a bunch of work with different clients, and if in a transactional practice, you are sometimes working with same bankers on different transactions.

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:57 pm

Yeah no good way to deal with it imo, it's basically impossible to focus on a prolonged task for more than 20-30 minutes without someone emailing wanting an immediate response or calling and launching into some topic as if it's on the top of your mind. Work you have to focus on gets done late night.

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:28 pm

Pokemon wrote:Automatic filters are in my opinion a dangerous game to play for certain practices because of the email that accidentally goes in to wrong folder. Ok if most work is for one client, but often you are doing a bunch of work with different clients, and if in a transactional practice, you are sometimes working with same bankers on different transactions.

I mean - my recommendation for automatic filters was far more limited than the one following. Just clear out the clutter that you know isn't substantive to your day-to-day (conflicts, arrivals, ISOs, CLE stuff, bar association stuff, etc. which is probably 50-70% of email traffic). It doesn't *solve* the problem, but it certainly makes it more manageable.

I do that - but to illustrate how at times ineffective it is, I still have about 35? emails today that made it through the filter. 25 of them on one matter. It sucks. It happens. But at least I'm not looking up every time someone needs to see a draft Touhy request or something.

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby rpupkin » Tue Jul 18, 2017 3:29 pm

Pokemon wrote:Automatic filters are in my opinion a dangerous game to play for certain practices because of the email that accidentally goes in to wrong folder. Ok if most work is for one client, but often you are doing a bunch of work with different clients, and if in a transactional practice, you are sometimes working with same bankers on different transactions.

I'm in litigation and I agree that automatic filters are not the way to go. I learned of the dangers of automatic filters in a previous career. It's probably better, on balance, to let everything go into your Inbox and then for you to delete/filter as appropriate.

OP: This is one of those things that you'll get better at handling with experience. I had the same problem as you when I was a junior associate. Like so many things involving the practice of law, you get more efficient with time. You'll get a better sense of which emails you can ignore. You'll figure out which partners want you to respond to their emails immediately, versus which ones are fine with you taking your time. Similarly, you'll figure out which partners expect a simple acknowledgement ("will do"), versus which partners might want a little more detail in a response.

Also, although you need to be sensitive to the expectations of the lawyers you work with, I'm not sure it's necessarily a mistake to go through periods where you check email just once every 15-20 minutes. You mention that you'll sometimes get a call or a visit if you don't immediately respond to an email, but isn't that a good thing? It's basically a signaling mechanism to let you know that something is truly urgent.

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elendinel

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Re: BigLaw: Focusing in spite of email waves

Postby elendinel » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:01 pm

Pokemon wrote:Automatic filters are in my opinion a dangerous game to play for certain practices because of the email that accidentally goes in to wrong folder. Ok if most work is for one client, but often you are doing a bunch of work with different clients, and if in a transactional practice, you are sometimes working with same bankers on different transactions.


Ehhh, I work on a lot of matters/clients at once at once and haven't had issues (I can only remember maybe 3 times where an email got moved to the wrong folder in the past 6 years or so); the key is to understand how the sorting algorithm for your software works.

If you don't understand how the filters work/don't have time to set up good filters, I'd agree the worst time to find that out would be when you're getting several emails from a couple clients, though, so a lot of figuring out what to do will involve figuring out what works best for you and optimizing that strategy.



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