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Get Your Diary and Calendar Organised

The busy life of a lawyer places many demands on their time.  One has to keep track of court appearances, client appointments, deadlines, and telephone calls, to name a few.  Without a system to organise all these items and more, life can become hectic and disorganised quite easily.  There is little time left to do your personal errands and spend time with your family and friends.
 
Effective organisation can help you gain time for yourself and keep all your work organised and flowing.  To do this, you need a good diarising system, good organisation of your files, and sequencing of your work priority.  This is where having a personal diary and shared calendar system comes in.  Though of course, you have to discipline yourself to use these systems and stick to them.
 
You should start by setting up a list of your files and update the list periodically.  You can then transpose that list of files and upcoming matters into one main calendar with all matters docketed by date and time.  You also need to have a reminder notice in advance of the due date so you can prepare prior to the deadline.  As an aside, you may even consider having a dedicated update sheet within the physical copies of the files as well.  The update sheet should contain:
 
  1. the name of the file;
  2. important dates;
  3. particulars of the important dates; and
  4. next steps to follow up on those particulars.
 
In multi-lawyer offices, it is helpful to have a centralised calendar docket so that all the individual items for each lawyer are listed and circulated on a periodic basis.  There is always the difficulty of where to keep the calendar so that both you and your support staff share the information.  This is not a problem if the information is on a computer.
 
Online shared calendar solutions such as Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook are especially helpful in maintaining shared information.  It allows team members to be aware of each other’s schedules with a touch of a button and allows for better time management when it is necessary to work together.  Updates are instantaneous and available in real time.
 
Although one main calendar should contain all the information, it would be helpful to have a personal diary.  There are a number of different daily planners or diaries available through commercial vendors.  The important thing is to get one that works for you.  It may take some adjustment and refinement but once implemented, it should be followed through.
 
Keeping a diary and/or calendar helps you to achieve your priorities, manage your daily schedule and make more time for yourself.  Consider setting aside blocks of time in your diary and calendar to focus on:
 
  • Effective planning and scheduling of matters to take control of your work;
  • Delegating tasks to and communicating with your support staff;
  • Managing information overload (including the deluge of email); and
  • Eliminating clutter in your office for better peace of mind.
 
Setting aside blocks of time in your diary to handle these things will help improve your productivity and overall mood. 
 
Time is money for any law firm, particularly for a sole practitioner.  As a provider of legal services, your law firm will come with mostly fixed costs.  If you can keep a high rate of billability and utilisation of your firm’s resources and time, your law practice will be able to maintain a healthy cash flow.  Let it slip too low, and your practice starts bleeding cash instead.
 
With the right management of your time and diary, a law practice can dramatically improve its revenue.  Effective time management boosts a law practice's revenue in several ways, including:
 
  • Billing more of the time you spend on client work;
  • Scheduling the right resources for the work;
  • Charging the appropriate rate in all instances; and
  • Scoping and pricing matters more appropriately.
 
In conclusion, the importance of keeping a diary cannot be understated.  Many may argue that it would be nigh on impossible to act as a lawyer without keeping a diary, especially when you need to juggle more than one matter at a time.  Making proper use of a diary would greatly ease the task of managing your work and ultimately enable you to do and achieve the things you find most important.