Generally speaking, the practice of law is a fast-paced undertaking. Lawyers are constantly bombarded with information. And because every minute has actual assigned value, it seems necessary to almost breathlessly fill every second with client work. But even lawyers find their pace eased a bit in the summer months, as the days lengthen and opponents and colleagues, judges and clerks, and even clients, take some vacation time and bask in the glow of the warm sun.
There are no better conditions for addressing some of those important but never urgent tasks that always are lurking at the end of your to-do list.
Start by taking stock of that email inbox. Set aside a couple of mornings to clear and organize your email. Get a cup of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage, warm up your carpal tunnel ligaments, and start clearing. Consider changing your settings so that the oldest emails come up first, or all of the unread ones, and then, like when cleaning out a closet of old clothes, be quick and ruthless.
Open each message and quickly decide what needs to be done with it. If it belongs in a client or matter file, either move it to that file in your case management system or forward it to your assistant for proper handling. If it requires some other action related to a particular client or matter (oh, so that’s what your opponent was talking about in his most recent nasty-gram asking why you hadn’t yet returned the copies of the lease agreement…), take the action right then if possible or calendar the task for some time in the next three days.
Regarding all those articles and newsletters and updates you’ve been intending to read: now is the time. Pick a cozy spot on your back balcony on a slow summer Friday or weekend and dive in. Touch them once. Scan what you want, read more thoroughly what you want, and then discard or file into an appropriate electronic filing cabinet, and move on. Delete anything that you can’t muster the energy to read; if you aren’t interested enough to read it now, you won’t get to it later.
Next, fix at least one thing in the office that drives you crazy but you’ve been putting up with because you haven’t had the time or inclination to fix it. Tighten the loose doorknob on the cabinet in the coffee area. Replace the chipped coffee mug. Put some WD-40 on that squeaky guest chair that everyone hates.
Finally, clean up your physical space. Yes, the night cleaning crew empties the wastebaskets, cleans the bathrooms, and vacuums, but when was the last time you moved the files off of the floor and the credenza and dusted them—the files and the surfaces? Pull the knick-knacks off the shelf and give them a once-over, reminding yourself why you put them there in the first place. You might be surprised at how motivating a shiny and tidy space can be.