Inspired by the latest Netflix binge craze, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” millions of Americans are decluttering. In the series, organizing expert Kondo travels to homes of stressed-out Americans to help them discard items that no longer spark joy and organize their living spaces in a meaningful way. Kondo contends that having little time or energy to organize can lead to anxiety and tension. As she explains in her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing: “In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in.”
While Kondo’s main focus is on the home, offices are equally susceptible to clutter and poor organization which can lead to low morale, inefficiency and, in many cases, profit loss. In law firms, there is all too often an abundance of both digital and paper clutter. So how does one begin to tidy up?
A cornerstone of the KonMari method is to gather all similar items and place them together for inspection – only then do we realize the full magnitude of what we have. In this spirit, consider the following:
How many programs does your firm use in day-to-day operations?
If you are like most, your browser’s bookmark bar is jam packed with all of these tools. Take a few minutes to make a list of all of your monthly and annual online subscriptions. It’s not uncommon to find firms that utilize over 10 different platforms to manage a single case. From legal billing and accounting, to calendaring, document management and even email, each of these systems must be individually managed and reconciled for accuracy. The end result can be a tangled web of digital data leading to inefficiency, errors and countless headaches.
In looking to simplify, Kondo would ask if each of these platforms sparks joy. Now, that might be a stretch for legal technology; you should, however, ask whether the software helps you do your job efficiently. If it requires clunky integrations or error-prone workarounds, the answer is no, which means it’s time to get rid of it.
Does your inbox feel overwhelming?
Attorneys and legal support staff in busy practices can easily receive hundreds of emails a day. Without the right tools, the end result is an overwhelming, cluttered inbox that is downright chaotic. Do you have 87 folders in Outlook to organize matter-related emails? Do you find yourself stuck on internal threads with hundreds of replies for a single project? If you answered “yes” to either, it’s time to declutter.
Thankfully, there are platforms that allow you to easily assign an email to a specific case, so you don’t have to rely on an outdated folder system. In considering your options, look for a case management platform which has a truly native email client, not one where an email integration was tacked on. Integrations can present their own unique challenges, like having to forward emails to a specific email address for every matter, just so the messages appear in the software.
Are client files making your office a paper jungle?
We hear from many attorneys who still rely on paper files because they haven’t adopted a document management system which works for everyone. The right software should allow you to organize files by matter, apply tags which help you locate a document within seconds and a way for you to securely send files to your clients, opposing counsel and external support staff.
Is your desk covered in Post-it notes?
Post-it notes have been hailed as one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth centuries, and while they can be helpful for a quick reminder, they aren’t without risk. They can easily be misplaced or ignored (which is why we often see desks and files with dozens of them), and ultimately become a source of clutter. To help eliminate these notes, think about how you’re using them and how you might digitize them. If you prefer handwritten notes, no problem – take them, but then be sure to scan the files at the end of each day. If you use them for reminders or for your daily to-do lists, consider a case management system that allows you to create digital tasks and automatically reminds you via text, email or pop-up notification.
Are your drawers, briefcase and wallet filled with business cards?
Long gone are the days of the rolodex and, with its demise, business cards are largely left without a home in most firms. The end result? Card clutter. Thankfully, there is an easy solution to help you tidy up. Enter the business card scanner. There are many mobile apps that can do this for you, but look for one that seamlessly integrates with your contact database. Ideally, your legal practice management software should offer this functionality so you don’t create more digital clutter that lives in yet another platform.
While it may seem like a heavy lift at first, you too can conquer your firm’s clutter. By taking inventory of your software and assessing your processes, you’ll be able to identify your pain-points and inefficiencies. Any software or process which fails to help you efficiently serve your clients needs to be reconsidered.
You can reduce redundancies, minimize your risk of errors and streamline your work, by using a complete, end-to-end, legal practice management platform like CARET Legal. Many of our clients will tell you that it is one legal technology solution that does indeed spark joy.