As I sit and write this column it is a warm 11 degrees in Victoria and the flowers are starting to bloom. While I realize that my colleagues in many parts of the country are still buried in snow, our thoughts on the west coast are starting to turn to spring. At this time of year I engage in an annual exercise that began when I ran my small law office and continues to this day with my consulting firm. That practice is spring-cleaning and it is a simple process that I recommend to all of my clients. While each firm and lawyer will have different specific issues that they should be addressing at this time of year, below is a list of six basic steps that any lawyer can take to develop a sense of a fresh start this spring.
- Organize your E-mail – For some this will be the easiest task on the list and for others one of the most difficult depending on the attention that you pay to organizing your e-mail throughout the year. At a minimum, organizing your e-mail will mean cleaning out your in box and filing your e-mails in an appropriate folder. You may also wish to take further steps however, such as establishing filters that automatically organize incoming messages into the appropriate folder for future reference.
- Organize your Paper – For the purposes of this list I will assume that all of your client files are properly organized and stored. If they are not then this should be your number one priority! Paper tends to build up in other ways than just client files however, and many small firms that I have visited recently are awash in random piles of paper. Take some time to sort through your paper and put the shredder and recycling bin to work.
- Organize your Electronic Files – Putting aside the many data security issues that can arise from disorganized electronic files, electronic clutter is in my opinion one of the worst offenders for increasing residual stress levels. Staring at a messy computer desktop each day or spending wasted time trying to find a certain saved file can certainly be avoided through some basic organization. Tackle your personal computers first and then move to any network or shared storage that you may have in your office.
- Update your Physical Space – For most of us, the office is where we spend the majority of our waking hours and yet lawyers tend to ignore the importance of updating their physical space at work. Retire that frayed chair, get a new piece of art and/or put a fresh coat of paint on the walls. If these steps sound too drastic for you at this time at least make sure that the photos on your desk have been changed and updated within the last few years.
- Clean up your client list – Spring is the perfect time to connect with your client list. Figure out who your best clients are and take them out for lunch. More importantly, figure out who your worst clients are and free them up to seek their legal services elsewhere.
- Develop a Strategic Plan – Out of all of the steps listed, developing a strategic plan is perhaps the most important. If I had to take a guess however, I would imagine that this would be the task on the list that most will choose to ignore. Many small firm clients that I have worked have expressed that they feel that a strategic plan would be a waste of time for a firm of their size and/or that they are too busy dealing with immediate priorities to develop such a plan. In reality however, a good strategic plan is invaluable to businesses of any size and is of great assistance in clarifying direction so that you do not spend the rest of your working life dealing with immediate priorities only to find out that you have not developed your practice in the direction that you wanted to. Strategic plans do not have to take an inordinate amount of time to develop and they do not have to become unwieldy documents that nobody uses. For some basic tips on developing a simple strategic plan stay tuned to my next post or send me an e-mail.