June 2013 Bar Bulletin
 
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June 2013 Bar Bulletin

Get Going: Simple Tools To Keep Your Practice Organized and on Task

By Devon Thurtle Anderson

 

Having a busy law practice is a blessing, but it also comes with its drawbacks. Many times, both lawyers and staff find themselves with enough to do that they're not sure where to start. Even when the workflow is comfortable, projects can fall behind when tasks are not prioritized optimally.

Keeping oneself organized and on task can be enough of a challenge; add a staff of partners, associates, paralegals and assistants, and workflow management becomes a full-time job. In addition, the manager (who is usually the attorney responsible for the case) is in the uncomfortable position of becoming a micro-manager on the one hand or risking missed deadlines on the other.

While there is no replacement for in-person meetings to keep on top of matters, modern technology offers a number of solutions to help manage project coordination and workflow between and in conjunction with meetings. The ideal project management tool is not an individual to-do list, but a collaborative environment where information about project progress and critical paths is readily available to all team members.

This allows individual group members to understand how their own tasks fit into the big picture, in turn helping them to prioritize better and work more efficiently. Managers also benefit because bottlenecks and hurdles can be identified sooner rather than later; tasks can be assigned, reassigned, delegated, cancelled and updated with just a few clicks; and improved self-organization among employees means better overall case handling with less meddling.

Another benefit of a unified project management system for law offices - above and beyond what these systems offer other industries - is an additional tool to avoid situations that could lead to malpractice claims and disciplinary proceedings. As attorneys, RPC 5.1 and 5.3 make us potentially responsible for the actions of our partners, associates and staff. Unified project management systems allow attorneys to better manage and monitor cases without becoming an overbearing micro-manager of a boss.

There are a number of unified project management platforms for law firms of all shapes and sizes to consider. But before addressing those, rest assured that the phrase "unified project management platforms" is not nearly so technical or complicated as it may sound. These tools really are, in the most utilitarian sense, glorified to-do lists.

I'm quite confident that even the most technophobic attorneys can grasp the concept of adding to-do items to a list and then checking the items off when they're completed. Rather than posting this group to-do list on the break-room refrigerator, these lists are online in (usually) simple formats that even lawyers can understand.

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