If your early legal career is a typical one, your office or cubicle will be your home away from home for some time. As soon as you’ve settled in, create a space that’s organized, comfortable, and familiar for you. This will make working in the space (or living in the space, as the case may be) much more palatable.
Weekly Clean Up
Organize your office today and spend 30 minutes every Friday morning thereafter, for the duration of your practice, maintaining your office. (For the most part, not much happens on Friday mornings anyway, and you’ll be thankful Monday morning when you return to a workable space.) This is a good idea not only because an organized office will reduce your risk of malpractice, but also because a neat, organized, inviting office suggests that you’re a neat, organized, inviting practitioner. More senior attorneys (and eventually clients) like this.
Organize your Supplies
Organize pens, notepads, and file folders in a purposeful way that works for you and that you will stick with going forward. Use one designated notepad and one designated file folder for each case, project, or deal you’re assigned to. Clearly mark each notepad and file folder with the case, project, or deal information it contains. While it’s tempting to combine these things (notepads in particular) for multiple cases, your organization will suffer from it.
And when a partner comes into your office and asks you to quickly look back at your notes on a particular assignment, you want to be able to do so without flipping haphazardly through all of the notepads piled on your desk like a lunatic.
File, Label, Repeat
Ask your administrative assistant for help to creating file folders with detailed labels and categories (i.e., research and working files, personal/firm information files, “chron” files). Place all hard copy documents in their appropriate files.
Below the Fold
Rather than have shoes and other personal items strewn about disastrously under your desk, use an empty bankers box as a designated shoe/personal items box. Keep this tucked away under your desk.
Finally, your office or cubicle space should reflect who you are–and it should resemble a space you would like to spend a significant amount of time in. Blank walls are uninviting. They also suggest that you don’t intend to be with your firm or office for the duration (this is generally not something you want to project, even if it’s true).
Demonstrate to the more senior attorneys in your office that you’re enthusiastic about your integration into the firm and intend to be there for some time by hanging up your framed diplomas and placing other personal items (photographs, artwork) on your desk or walls.
Building an organizational system and creating a familiar, but professional atmosphere from day one will ensure that, as your practice gets busier, your office will remain a comfortable, productive working space for you.
Want more inside tips on thriving in your legal practice? Check out Desiree’s book, Thrive – A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice.
What tips do you have for staying organized and on top of things?
This article was originally posted on House of Marbury.