1. Have a Central Location for All Important Things
Some call this a command center. If you have daily use items, this is the place for it. The command center is the hub for all you will need to do your job efficiently.
A good hub will keep you on task with calendars, to-do lists, and unfinished projects. You can make this space where you keep your keys, phone, and extra notepads.
2. Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro Method is a strategy to keep you focused on a given task. It uses intervals of work and rests to help you complete projects more efficiently. The are several apps created around this method.
3. Have a Dedicated Work Area
Having a dedicated work area will help your brain switch into work mode. Nothing is worse than needing to meet an important deadline but being unable to focus. This space will help you focus longer and keep non-work related clutter out of the way.
Also, this helps you relax faster when it's time to relax.
4. Work Batching - Make a List, Check It Twice
A to-do list is an invaluable tool for a paralegal. To accomplish large tasks at a busy firm, break it down into pieces. If you can find the parts of the project that can be done together you can improve efficiency.
Always stay on top of your to-do lists. You don't want to go your whole day and discover you've completed every task except the most important.
5. Get the Filing Done Immediately
Don't let your paperwork pile up. The most invaluable paralegals are ones that produce needed documents quickly. You can't do this if your papers are piled up on your desk or shoved in a binder.
This also goes for electronic files. Don't leave files attached to emails without a proper home.
6. Use a Calendar
The legal profession is replete with time-sensitive matters. Use a calendar to stay up on important dates. Post this calendar in plain view.
Planning ahead minimizes the chances of a crisis. The longer you work with a firm, the better you will be at anticipating deadlines. Write everything down and recheck dates.
7. Don't Place Things on an Attorney's Desk
Attorney's have legal secretaries to alleviate their caseload. So busy in fact that their desks often turn into paperwork blackholes. Many "lost" documents end up on their desk beneath a stack of binders.
If you need your supervising lawyer to review something, have them do it in front of you. Otherwise, keep the document until they have the time to review it and you are sure to get it back.
8. Deadlines for Time Management
You should set personal deadlines along with job-imposed ones. Also, stay on to of retention and destruction dates. This will help you stay organized.
Retention dates are the amount of time you should hold onto a particular file. These are usually legally imposed. Destruction dates are the dates that you no longer have to keep a file. Be aware of destruction guidelines for confidential documents.
Create a system around when and where you retain your files and how they are destroyed.
9. Label Like a Mad Man
You want to create a system for filing and retrieving important information. Use dividers, binders, specialty folders, and label makers to improve efficiency.
Create labels for legal, medical, and tax documents. Also, keep a record of people your firm needs to stay in touch with.
Your computer should be just as organized. A digital device decreases the chances of random discovery. Don't leave it to chance. Label it and file it.
10. Make It Easy to Access
This principle goes right along with labeling and filing. If you need the name of a client in court, it won't do any good to have it back at the office. Have everything you need, when and where you need it.
This holds true for things in your office. Don't get up five times an hour to grab something from the corner of the room. Considering proximity will help you be more time efficient.
11. Have a Dedicated Space for Everything
'Everything in its place' is not only a mantra of savvy housewives. It will save precious time. Having a dedicated area for everything will eliminate impending clutter. Have a space for your daily task items, your keys, cell phone, coat, etc.
12. Gather All Needed Information in Advance
For every project you take on, make sure to get all necessary information up front. Keep a notepad on you for all tasks an attorney assigns you. Write everything down and don't be afraid to ask thorough questions. Find out how this new project stacks up in importance against others.
13. Befriend Court and Service Staff
Kindness is the cheapest tool you can find. In a pinch, court clerks and receptionists will be your best friends. Their work can help prevent a crisis in filing and meeting deadlines.
14. Be Honest
If there is a task you can't perform, let your attorney know.
You don't have to turn them down outright. Remind them of the task you are working on and it's priority deadline. Often they are so busy, they forget the deadlines of other projects. Keep them on task with your own precise calendar.
15. Proof Read
Reread every document and email before you send it out. You don't want to run the risk of relaying false or incorrect information because of a typo.
16. Read Everything That Crosses Your Desk
If it hits your desk, read it. Even if it's your attorney's holiday shopping list. This will keep you aware of what and where documents are.
17. Use a Blue Pen
Many court filings have to be original documents. A blue pen is an immediate way to tell if a form is an original or a copy.
18. Assume Nothing, Confirm Everything
If you are unsure if a document was filed or its deadline, find out. Confirm names, addresses, locations, and dates to ensure the accuracy of your work.
19. Use Concentration Tools
There are several concentration tools available online. Some word processors have a study mode that reduces the screen to the current document only. This feature is also available from several internet browsers.
Newer cell phones also have a do not disturb feature. This can help your screen calls and allow only certain people through.
These tools will help you stay focused and get done faster.
20. Ask How You Can Help
To offer the most value, ask how you can help. This way, your bosses will get what they want without months of repeating themselves. It also cuts down on the chances you will make costly mistakes.
21. Stay Updated on System Changes
If the courthouse changes filing procedures, you need to be aware of that. System changes vital to the completion of your projects will have a huge impact on your business.
22. Take Good Notes
Not just good, but great. They should be legible, neat, and concise. You want a third party to be able to read and understand them easily. Using tools like Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, and Simplenote allow you to have a copy of your notes on you at all times.
23. Copy Efficient Behaviour
Monkey see monkey do.
If you see another paralegal that's seriously got their stuff together, copy them. Ask for tips and implement them. A closed mouth doesn't eat. Be looking to improve your process at every turn.
24. Try Meditation
Meditation is organization for the brain. It controls the constant flow of thoughts to allow you to think clearly. It is used by CEOs and business owners alike.
Just 15 minutes is all it takes to be effective. You can start with 5 to 10 minutes a day to build up your endurance.
25. Set Reminders
When creating to-do lists and calendars, set reminders for due dates. You want to be able to see it near you and have it with you. Most phones come with a standard calendar app that allows you to set event reminders.
26. Sync Your Devices
A smartphone is a pivotable productivity tool when used correctly. Sync your devices together. This way, when you set a reminder it will also work on your computer and smartwatch.
27. Eliminate All Clutter
Eliminate clutter as soon as it enters your workspace. Remember that the best cure for a messy desk is prevention. Have regular decluttering/purge sessions.
A messy desk leads to lost paperwork, lost time, and missed deadlines. When every aspect of your job is time-sensitive, you can't afford to be rummaging through piles of paper.
The Best Organizational Tools
As a paralegal, you are one of the best organizational tools in a law firm. The help legal secretaries offer allows a lawyer to focus on the case in front of them. A well-focused attorney wins cases.
For essential legal organization tools check here.