Project Planning for Lawyers – Upping Your Game in a Chaotic World

In nearly two decades of practicing law, I have tried numerous systems to manage projects, stay on top of tasks, and delegate work to team members. The following is the simplest, most effective method I have discovered. For those of you who are Getting Things Done by David Allen enthusiasts, you will recognize his inspiration.

Master Task List

Writing all your tasks down to get them out of your head and stored in a reliable place is incredibly liberating. I have found that inputting all those tasks into a single list is a valuable habit to engage. Of course, half the battle is getting everything into a single list so you can decide what is the highest priority to tackle, which tasks you can delegate, and other ones that can be scheduled for a later date. I have also found that if you give in to the temptation to spread the list across multiple systems or people you are inviting anxiety about the list. So put them all in one place. Fight that temptation.

The list can be maintained in a simple spreadsheet or specialized software like Basecamp. We use proprietary project and task management software that integrates with our client and CRM systems. Because most of us work in a team environment, it is usually a best practice to designate an admin to maintain the list.

In addition to the name of the task, owner, and deadline, we have found tracking the following information to be helpful: task assignor, project manager, priority, client and matter, and practice area of the project. We also distinguish between deadlines (externally imposed obligations like a USPTO filing deadline or a court ordered date on a scheduling order) from a “next action,” which is what we call a task we wish to complete to move a project forward. Requiring the task assignor to include the deliverable requested (80% draft memo, key cases with passages highlighted, etc.) is also a valuable practice as it improves team communication.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep all tasks in a single list maintained by a reliable person or system.

Project List

Like a Master Task List, the Project List keeps track of all the various projects you either manage or have delegated. It also serves as a good reminder during the Weekly Review, and helps brainstorms next steps. For purposes of this system, I define a “project” to be anything requiring two or more next actions. A single task would be included in the Master Task List.

We track projects by client, matter, project manager, project team (people assigned to the project), and practice area. This allows for sorting and reporting in a variety of helpful manners. For example, I sort the overall Project List by practice area (litigation, trademarks, e-commerce) as well as by project manager. It is also important to distinguish between the projects you own as project manager, those you are assigned, and those you have delegated to others as that affects review and work flow.

Weekly Review

The Master Task List and Project List both should be updated dynamically throughout the week. I have found a few practices that dramatically increase efficiency. The first step is to periodically clear your head of all the tasks and things floating around. This includes emails, client requests, correspondence, etc. Basically, anything that needs attention and resides in your head needs to get out of your head and into the Master Task List. A daily clearing is helpful but not always practical. So I set aside time mid-week and as part of the Weekly Review. Second, I dedicate an hour or two per week to go over the Master Task List and Project List to ensure everything is updated. I have found doing this outside the office or on weekends is most effective because it requires uninterrupted focus. Finally, a weekly or bi-weekly project review session with the team is highly efficient in keeping everyone on the same page. For this session, we sort the Master Task List by project and we also separately review a list of tasks with upcoming due dates in chronological order.

Daily Focus

This last step is bonus points for any adoptee, and will really accelerate your performance. Like Texas Hold ‘Em, this step is simple to explain, but takes seemingly a lifetime to master. Based on the three above tools, you spend five minutes each morning planning the three most important, high-leverage actions to get done that day. Write them down to up your commitment, then create space in your day to give those three actions your highest priority. If you commit to that focus, you will achieve amazing results and start each day with a series of wins. The problem you will face is that the world (clients, opposing counsel, staff, even your own internal thoughts) does not share those priorities. This struggle largely controls your personal effectiveness, and is truly where rubber meets the road.

For more information and articles regarding law firm culture, please see our Culture Counts blog.

Write Your Own Business Letters and Contracts – Save a Fortune on Lawyers’ Fees

Small business owners can save a fortune in legal fees by searching online for boilerplate legal documents which cover anything from employment law to business letters, debt recovery to landlord and tenancy agreements for your property investments.

There are many free business letters and templates out there but do remember to read the document fully yourself before using it. You may need to adapt or remove some of the lines which don’t apply to your business or situation.

It can be intimidating to write a letter of complaint or send a reminder for a late-paying customer, but using a template can help you overcome the block of how to start your letter. A good letter template will be well structured and flexible enough that you can modify or remove portions to fit your circumstances.

For example in a sub-contracting agreement, it is important to be as specific as possible about the tasks or deliverables which the sub-contractor must deliver. In a supplier agreement be sure to check the penalties for late delivery are suitable for you or check how refunds for defective materials are handled. Especially useful template documents can be confidentiality agreements which you can produce easily prior to discussing a new project with a potential client or partner.

In complex scenarios you should consult qualified legal advice as the potential loss you can suffer from using an inappropriate template is more than the cost of the advice. Even in these cases, looking at template documents will help to familiarise you with the issues and parameters that you will be discussing with your lawyer, again helping you to target your lawyer’s high hourly rate more effectively.

Do remember also that verbal contracts are enforceable but it is always best to follow up a verbal agreement with a written document that clarifies what was discussed and what was agreed. Although this may seem cumbersome in the long run it keeps things clear and avoids potential misunderstandings later down the road.

Personal Injury Claims – A Road to Justice

Justice is the word that is associated with all the civilized nations of the world. It is made sure that the culprits and the guilty ones should pay for the wrong deeds they do to others. Law is the most important tool through which the deliverance of the justice is made possible. Personal injury claims are one such channel through which it is made possible. The claimants get the deserving compensation and the guilty ones have to pay for their deeds in form of monetary compensation. These cases are a very important art of the law proceedings all over the world where it is made sure that the victims should be compensated for their pains and the guilty ones should be penalized for their recklessness and neglect.

Personal injury claims involve the petition of those who become the unlucky victims of one or the other type of accident. These victims have to go through a physical injury, mental agony or property damage that are the resultant of that accident which has happened due to the recklessness of another person. These accidents can be the road accidents, the workplace injuries, the cases of falling due to slipping or tripping or the accidents involving the malpractice by any profession like medical malpractice. All these types of accident make a lot of victims turn into claimants seeking the compensation for their losses and pains.

There are specialist lawyers who are there to help these victims. They help these claimants from the basic step of determining the nature of the accident to the final step of getting the justice in form of the grant of the compensation. The specialist lawyers can be found related to the specific genre of the personal injury field. And it is always advised to get the consultancy from these lawyers as they guide the claimants in the best manner and they present the case in the favor of the claimant. There are those lawyers also who offer to file the cases on the no win no fee basis where the claimant has to pay not a penny in both cases- winning or losing.

Settlements are also a way to get the compensation claim and this refers to the off the court settlement between the claimant and the third party insurers. Otherwise, the case is sorted out in the court room. The claimant seeks the compensation for the pains and losses ha has suffered as a result of the accident and this counts a lot for him if he gets this monetary relief.

These personal injury claims are definitely an active channel through which it is made possible for the deserving claimants to be compensated via monetary relief.

The contents of the article are provided for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended for a legal advice.