Paralegals – How to Organize a File


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Being organized is one of the things paralegals are called upon to do well.  We have to be able to find all things at a moment’s notice.  So to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place is a must for all of us.  In the  February Newsletter  I am starting a “Being and Staying Organized” series so make sure you sign up for more tips and tricks.

Most offices where you will be working or are currently working, have file cabinets labeled from A – Z along a wall in the hallway or sometimes inside a file room.  I even worked in an office where each paralegal kept a file cabinet in his/her own office with the files they handled.  The file cabinets are filled to the brim with large files which are also known as red wells,  in alphabetical order, by client name.  This is usually consistent across the industry and good thing too, because it makes it easy for everyone to know how to find the files and most of the time, unless the filing gets backed up, how to find the documents needed within a particular file.

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A red well is a large cardboard folder/pocket where you keep all the STUFF that goes along with a particular subject matter.  Think of a folder that you carry with you in school where you store all the syllabus and documents you receive from the professor.  When you open up a red well, you should be able to quickly find all the paper which relates to the subject matter you’re working on…. In the case of a paralegal in a law firm the red well should contain all the documents relating to a particular client.  Making sure these “pockets” the red wells stay organized and up to date is your job in most law firms.  A great way to ensure you are not going to get a call on your day off when your attorney or the paralegal taking over for you while you’re on vacation need to find something is to keep these files up to date and organized.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are things that never change from file to file.  Meaning that no matter where you’re working or what type of law you practice, there are things that you will always be able to find in a file.  However, there are nuances about filing systems that each law firm will have and to which you will have to adapt but those will be, or at least should be, part of your on-boarding and therefore nothing for you to have to worry about right now.

A typical file will have the following contents:

1. Correspondence folder
2. Notes folder
3. Memos folder

Then, depending on the type of law you practice, there will be other folders with which you will have to be familiar.    For example if you practice litigation you will need a pleadings folder, a motions folder.  Personally I like to have a folder for each motion – I will explain this in detail during my upcoming Paralegal Master Class  in a few short months.  For now feel free to subscribe to the Newsletter and I’ll make sure you get all the updates regarding the newsletter and my upcoming Paralegal Master Class.

Let’s put aside the type of law you practice and let’s instead look at the typical file, which is half the battle.

Correspondence Folder

I like to keep this file in chronological order starting at the bottom.  Eventually, you will probably have more than one correspondence folder so I like to number them “Correspondence 1 (date from – date to)” and then start a “Correspondence 2 (also with the dates).”  This helps me make sure that when I’m looking for something within a particular date range, I don’t have to pull all the files out of the red wells.  I can go to the one that I’m looking for and search in there.  Also, the reason I like to keep the oldest correspondence at the bottom is because more often than not the stuff you will be looking for is not going to be super old so it’s just easier to flip through less pages.

So what do I consider correspondence?  Anything that is a communication from one party to another.  Not sure letters from the client to you or from the experts or the court.  I consider anything that communicates one party’s actions to another party to be communication.  See my February Newsletter for reasons further tips.

The Notes Folder

This folder is pretty self explanatory.  Here you should keep anything that relates to any notes you take.  Who knows, you may be reviewing a report from an expert and find something that you think may lead you to something you want to add to an interrogatory question. Write it down and put it in the notes folder.  Make sure you add the date on the note and, again, file everything in chronological order.  Maybe even put a little tab sticking out so you can be reminded when drafting your interrogatories.

Did you just sit down with the lawyer to talk through some ideas and strategies about this particular file?  Make sure that once you get back to your desk you take out your notes and clean them up and insert them in the notes file, again with the date so you can be reminded.  I also use these notes to create my to-do lists on the various files.

Did you just get a call from an expert or from a witness and wrote down some notes?  Make sure you insert the date and put in the notes file…. You get the idea….. Any time you create a note, make sure you add the date and put it in the notes file.

See my February Newsletter for more information and tips on Notes Files

Memos Folder

Sometimes things that we do generate memos. For example, if you attend a deposition with the lawyer you will probably be asked to summarize your thoughts and what happened in the deposition so that the lawyer can get a view from a different perspective.  Most of the time that’s why paralegals attend depositions.  As someone who does not have to be asking the questions, the paralegal is able to see things that lawyers may not see because they are busy asking the questions and trying to follow up with another question.

Anything with write up for your lawyer’s review about the case you should date and include in the memo’s section.

When I drafted a summary of a medical record I would print out two copies and one copy would go into my memos folder and the other into a folder for that particular medical provider.

See my February Newsletter for more information and tips on the Memos file.

 

A Letter to My Subscribers


I wanted to take a bit of your time to tell you about myself.  I’ve been a paralegal for 20 years and have had this blog for a while.  TheParalegal, started as a means to share knowledge with new paralegals and attorneys about the paralegal profession. I really enjoy being a paralegal and am so proud of my chosen profession.  I hate it when it’s mischaracterized and want to dispel the myths.  I posted on and off for a few years, considered leaving the profession, considered alternatives to being what I feel is my calling and there were times I was not able to dedicate myself to the blog so there were months that I went without posting.  In those instances, when life got too busy or confusing, TheParalegal continued to grow,  I continued to get questions and receive emails from many of you. Fast forward to the present and “new year, new you” right? I decided to fully revive the blog and dedicate it to all the paralegals.

The goal in 2018 is to make the blog a resource for the professional paralegal and the lawyers who are willing to stand by us, to serve as a mentor, to serve as a friend…. In short, to serve.

In the short term, I am looking to start a FREE monthly newsletter and in the future I would love to write a book; a manual for the paralegal professional. I also want to start doing seminars and webinars. Along with these goals and my full time job I plan on being a super busy paralegal but I’m really looking forward to 2018. I’m attaching a link here and ask you that you please go and sign up to my email list. I promise I won’t spam you and I will certainly not sell your email address to anyone. I will use it to announce new things coming out on the blog, thank you gifts I may be giving and seminars and presentations I may be doing.

Again, thank you so much for taking the time. I look forward to connecting and exchanging tips and tricks.

Please… one more favor.  If you can please subscribe to the mailing list you will be advised of all “coming attractions.”  I will not spam you or sell your email to any third parties.  Thank you so much! Looking forward to a great 2018.

Ana

How To Plan Your Day and Be Organized


This is how I do it!!!!!

Who knew that it would take me so long to figure out how to get some control of my days. I say some because complete control of my day when there are so many moving parts is but a dream. No sooner do I think I have some control and everything is going smoothly when …. Well you know….. For some time I considered and even attempted to use two planners. For me this was more trouble that it was worth it. For you it may work and if you want to test it and need some help, let me know I will give you templates and show you how I organized my work planner. As I said, for me two planners are not a solution. After, all, I am one person, I have one life therefore I need one planner. Carrying two planners around or having to sync two planners became a hassle. Things started falling through the cracks. I found found myself playing catch up all the time because I hadn’t checked one planner against the other.

Fast forward a few planners and planner a few planner hacks and this is how I plan my days today ….. happy to report it’s been working. I will say that I’m still working through some project management issues and testing applications for project management but for my day to day planning and organizing I use my Filofax Malden in purple.

I only keep monthly pages (month on two pages) and daily pages (day on two pages).  I carry the full year in my monthly pages because I use that for forward planning but I only carry the current month on my daily pages for now.  Depending on where I land for the project management issue that may be changing…. Stay tuned for further developments.   My daily pages are my EVERYTHING. I plan on those, I track on those and sometimes I journal on those (short one liners) or at least I make sure I write down one thing for which I’m thankful that day. I keep both work and personal schedules and plans on the daily pages but keep them separate by designating one side of my right page for work and one side of the same page for personal. When I open the daily page I can see all my to-do’s for both aspect of my life … Same person, same life, different hats!

Color Coding

I thought about color coding the various aspects of my life.  One color for business and a different color for personal.  Although that achieved the goal I was looking for and, in fact, was one step closer to planner peace and making me more organized and productive. That too, was annoying and in a way almost the same as having to carry two planners. The only difference was that, instead of two planners I was having to carry a whole bunch of pens which made me nuts. There are days when I don’t carry a purse.   My planner is with me all the time, it’s also my wallet. I carry with me a black pen and a green pen (I’ll explain the green pen a little later).

I cannot take credit for my current method of planning.  I did not come up with it.   Maryanne Moll is the genius behind my planner peace situation and if you have a few minutes I suggest you go check out her channel on YouTube and her store on Etsy.

So… How do I plan?

Every night I sit with my planner and look at what I accomplished that day and move the things that didn’t get done to the next day. I also keep a running list of things I want to do on that particular week and when during this review I take those into consideration.  If I think I can fit more to-do’s on my next day schedule, I add them.  If not, then i don’t.  I am the boss of my life and I get to decide what I can accomplish.  All the entries done at this time are done in my normal black ink.  The pen I use every day…… It’s a fountain pen and I love it (minus the black fingers once in a while).  As each task is accomplished (on a good day most will be) I cross it off with green ink (which is the other pen I carry around with me). I also use the green pen to add any new tasks that get thrown at me in the middle of the day (we all have those).

Why the two colors? Well, you know those days when you feel like nothing at the top of your list got done and at the end of the day you’re wondering why you’re so tired but got nothing accomplished? Well, the different color allows me to see what was done that I had not counted on having to get done. It also allows me to remember tasks done, no matter how small, when management feels that I need to explain my existence. …. For some of you would imagine will help you with your billable and non-billable time. Hmmmm imagine you use black for non-billable and green for billable time…… Let me think about that for a minute.

During this nightly review I also fill in the left side of the planner.  The portion dedicated to tracking.  I don’t 100% believe that trackers are absolutely necessary, but I am a nerd and I enjoy looking back on my days and see things like; what made me happy (my gratitude), my mood, my steps, the weather…… it helps me connect the dots and to me life is all about connecting the dots. Sometimes, things that don’t make sense on that day will make sense when you have a full picture. Like, why didn’t I get much done that day…… Ohhhh yeah, I had a headache because it rained for three days in a row and I just wasn’t in a good mood.  Who knows….. all the dorky stuff that makes me who I am.

If you look at the top middle of the page you see something that looks like a Chronodex (a time tracker). I don’t have to bill my time …. Yeah, I know!!!!!! #blessed.  But I’m seriously not bragging. Entering time is not as bad as we feel it is. Come join me in my facebook group and join our chat.  I’m working on a few goodies that will help you slay the billable time monster. I have a plan to get training videos and templates on how to bill your time stress free….. but I digress. At night I go through the tracker side, fill in and color all the things that happened during the day.

The outside ring and second ring stand for the location, where was I? (home, office, outside, etc.). The larger outside ring is reserved for where I plan to be…. The second ring is reserved for where I actually was. The first ring gets colored in the night before while I’m doing my planning and the second ring gets colored in at the end of the day when I review the day and plan for the next day.  The third and fourth rings (the inside rings) are reserved for activities.  What did I plan to do at that time and what I actually did. Was I in a meting? Was I working on the blog? Was I working on the book? Was I with a friend or spending time with my husband or doing house work?  I know this sounds crazy and you may be thinking ain’t nobody got time for that but it actually helps me figure out how long it takes me to accomplish tasks.  It’s also a great way to relax for me for to fill in little squares with color.  Like I said, this is not something that I think you MUST do to stay organized but for me, it works and it makes me happy.

For example, if I tell someone I can do something in 1 hour and it actually takes me two do it.  I know that the next time I’m asked to do that same task I can better assess how long it will take me to do and, not only can I manage my time better but I can also give the lawyer assigning work to me a better understanding of how long it takes to do something and aren’t just guessing.  I’m a firm believer in under promise and over deliver…. This little hack helps me keep in line with my goals and keeps me productive through out the day.

For paralegals or anyone who has to bill time, being and staying organized is extremely important.  If you can go through your day knowing what you’re going to work on next and how long it will take you.  You can schedule your day in ways to take advantage of your best time of day.  You can feel more in control of your time and achieve more productivity without stressing yourself out…. and who doesn’t want that?

Do you plan your day?  What methods or hacks do you use to stay organized?  leave me a note.  I’d love to hear from you!

XoXo

 

Sale Wednesday – Check out these great items on sale this week


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Sometimes I’m happy to just surf the net and find great deals on work clothes.  I don’t necessarily need anything but you might and if I can help you I’m going to totally try.  Here are some things I found which will help you look like the professional you are and still allow you to enjoy that great much deserved vacation you have been dreaming and planing on.

This Honor Floral-print organza skirt is so pretty and feminine.  Originally the price of this skirt was $795 but this week it’s been marked down to $398.  I know it’s a steep price but that quite the markdown don’t you think?  I think if you pair this skirt with a simple white blouse or a sweater set (make sure it’s a Summer weight set) you can get a lot of mileage from it.  Wear it with some nice casual sandals for an afternoon out with the girls or with a nice pair of pumps (nude would be best) for the office.  Who said feminine has no place in the office?  They lied……. go for it.

Jackets can turn a casual outfit into a work outfit.  Sometimes they can turn a very classic work appropriate outfit into a going out outfit.  We all need these.  Remember that night you were supposed to meet your girlfriends for a drink after work?  You wore a nice pair of slacks or that great black pencil skirt that is not too sexy but not so matron either.  You had on the perfect pair of red (not too red) heels.  It’s 6:30 and you are ready for that drink……. what do you wear?  how about this Diane von Furstenberg Vint jacket.  This jacket can make any casual outfit have that something extra that will take it from office to evening out.  Honestly, I think this jacket could also go well with a pair of jeans and a great pair of sandals (heels or flats).

I know, I know it’s really hot now but we all know that sooner or later we will be wishing we had as many layers between us and the snow as possible.  In the midst of my summer crazed shopping I came across this AllSaints Klein Shearling Parka, the discount is tremendous and and you can get an even bigger discount if you use Coupon Code SUMMER.

And what about in the Fall when it feels like it’s going to just keep raining and we will need to somehow build out own arc in order to stay afloat.  Being a commuter I swear by my rain boots.  I like my hunters but I have been eyeing these Burberry Clemence Check Canvas Rain Boots.  There is nothing more classy than the fabric of anything Burberry.  Although not on sale the shipping is free with the Coupon Code FREESHIP.

Speaking on Hunters…. remember how I said I loved my hunters …. up there…. remember?  Well, guess what I found?  Here Hunter Back Adjustable Rain Boots I can promise you that these are going to last you a lifetime.  You will be trying to ruin them so you can justify getting a new pair in a few years.  I have a pair in green and have been eyeing the black (goes with more stuff).  They are also not on sale but the shipping is free with Coupon Code  FREESHIP.

Back to Summer.  I really enjoy the way red makes me feel.  Every time I wear red I feel like I can take on the world.  This dress combines the strength of the color and the softness of being a woman…… You can wow them with your smarts when they least expect you to.  J.Crew Crepe short-sleeve dress.  The dress is already on sale but you will get an additional 40% off if you use the Coupon Code SHOPMORE.

Last but not least, how about a dress with a punch.  A very different color.  I happen to like green and when I have a tan for some reason the light greens or some people would call them lime greens bring out the tan.  I want to accentuate the great color I have been able to get without frying out in the sun.  I have to tell you that I always wear SPF 30 or above and don’t sit out in the sun for more than 30 minutes at a time.  Anyway, let’s talk dresses…… Lauren Ralph Lauren Belted Dress this is a great color.  On those days when you want to look more conservative, put on a blazer and you’re good to go.  This dress is already on sale from $149.00 to $44.70…. Not too bad right?

I hope you enjoy the sales and I promise to keep my eyes opened for more if they come across my inbox.  I will totally let you know.

See you all soon.

Ana

 

Art from www.trooloo.com

I work from home — Yes, operative word…. WORK.


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AS A MATTER OF FACT……… I AM……….  Just because I get up later than normal and have time to actually sit at the kitchen table (ohhh yeah look at that!!! we have one of those) catching up on social networks, newspapers, magazines while enjoying a cup of coffee still wearing a tank top and a pair or shorts and have no make up on does not mean that I’m going to sit here and slack all day.  Just because the day is beautiful outside and the pool seems so inviting does not mean that I’m going to run upstairs after my cup of coffee and get ready for a swim.  What it means is:

I am more Productive

Normally I get up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for work.  Run into the closet and just put on the outfit I picked out the night before.  I cannot give myself the luxury of changing my mind.  All my minutes are counted.  I run to the bathroom and brush my teeth (shower was accomplished the night before), wash my face and run back outside of the bathroom for the makeup.  I sit at my vanity and apply foundation (these days CC cream) and a quick swipe of eyeliner and mascara.  I’m done…. can’t fuss with anything else or I’ll be late.  Run back into the bathroom, brush my hair and put it up in a pony tail (everyday hairstyle).  Run downstairs to the kitchen and our some coffee into my travel mug while at the same time I say good-bye to Adele (the poodle) and promise to be home soon to play with her.  I must be out the door by 5:30 or I will miss my buss (5:50 a.m. bus).  I have learned to be very precise in all my moves.  There isn’t one spare minute in the morning routine.

When I work from home, I get up around 6:00 or 6:30 a.m. and go downstairs still in my tank top and shorts, feed the dog and pour a cup of coffee.  I take my coffee and my iPad and go outside on the deck or sit at the kitchen table and read the morning news or my email while I actually savor the coffee.  Yum!!!!.  I have time to talk to my husband and actually find out what time he will be home.  I don’t have to text him later.  Once he’s out the door I go upstairs and start my morning routine.  I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to wear, although I do not hang around in my PJs all day.  I brush my teeth, wash my face, put my hair in a pony tail and go into my office to turn the computer on and log on to the office.

On a day I have to commute I’m at the office at 7:30 (yes 1.5 hour commute) but it really depends on the traffic.  Sometimes it could be closer to 8:00 a.m., on my way from the bus to the office I stop to grab some more coffee and some breakfast so by the time I get in it’s probably a little before 8:00 a.m and I’m already stressed out because the bagel guy took too long……. ugh!!!! on the days that I am working from home, I walk into my office around 7:45 a.m. and start reading my email.  I respond to what I need to respond and then take a few minutes to go outside with the dog so she leaves me alone during my conference calls.

By the time 8:30 rolls around I am sitting at my computer working.  I am able to do everything I do at the office.  I log on remotely and it’s like I’m sitting at my desk in the office.  Because I have done things at my own pace and was not rushing to get anywhere I am relaxed and I can start working immediately.

I work straight through until about 12:00 p.m. at which time …. OMG I’m starving.  I’m not sure how people can wait until 1:00 to eat.  by 12 I’m ready to eat my arm.  So I run downstairs and grab something to eat.  I take the dog outside and within 10 minutes I’m back inside.  Because there is no one to talk to I come right back up stairs and sit at my computer with my food.  I don’t mind eating at my desk when I’m home.  I continue working through the afternoon only taking one or two breaks to get water and take the dog out again.

When I work in the office there are always people stopping by my desk.  My day is constantly being interrupted by a variety of distractions, I tend to get hungry in the middle of the afternoon, which does not happen when I’m home….. There’s no snack time when I’m home.

I have set up my office at home in a way that I can see outside but am not distracted by the comings and goings of the neighbors, I have a comfortable desk and a great large monitor on my computer.  This week, while I’m on vacation I’m going to set up a double screen so I can run my reports the same way I do at the office.  I have a printer, a scanner, paper, pens and all the things I have at work.  My phone calls, I take them on my cell phone while wearing headphones so it’s no different than being in the office.

I can work until 7 or 8 sometimes and not be distracted.  I can continue to work until wee hours of the night if that’s what’s required …. thank God it hasn’t been in a long long long time.

I would say that if you are going to work from home you must make sure that it suits your lifestyle.  I don’t have children so they are not going to be making noise and wanting me to go play when I should be on a conference call.  If you have children it’s probably a good idea to get a nanny to entertain the kids while you work.  You have to be disciplined.  Because you’re at home and there are so many other things that need to be done sometimes you have to fight the urge of going to wash the dishes or start dusting to get a leg up on the weekend… or start doing the laundry so you don’t have to be stuck inside on Saturday or Sunday…. You know, there are a million things that need to get done when I work from home that are not getting done because I am WORKING from home.

I suggest you get a space that is dedicated for work related matters.  I only work and pay bills in my office.  There is no television, no radio (except the computer sometimes) and no other distractions.  There is a door I can shut. So if it happens to be a day when my husband stays home I can close the door and I am not disturbed by him.

It’s easy to over compensate.  In the beginning I felt that I needed to offer an explanation as to why I was working from home and how hard I was working.  You don’t owe anyone an explanation and if your boss is ok with the arrangement then it’s no one else’s business.  Do not feel like you have to work more or longer than anyone else.  Make sure your work is done well and that your boss is satisfied with the arrangement.

Tell me, would you consider working from home?  Why or why not?

Thanks

 

 

So, what’s been going on?


It feels like forever since I’ve been here.  There has been so much going on which should not be an excuse but…. since this is my blog I’ll make it an excuse just so I can feel better about not being here :).

I want to thank all of you who have stuck around waiting for the next post and I promise that this time it will be coming very shortly.  I’m working on doing some software reviews and will be doing some reviews of Apps on the iPad.  I may even review some fun apps just because I can.

Seriously, though.  I have been really busy at the office and even though I probably could have found the time to post here, I have to admit that I am so tired by the time I get home that I am not able to think of anything to talk to you about.  We have had a few paralegals leave to pursue other opportunities and for a while there we were trying to hire as well as keep up with the influx of work.  It looks like we’re ok now and my head is finally above water.

It has been a really busy couple of months in the financial industry.  1) a lot of the laws that were passed due to the financial “fiasco” have come to fruition this year, so we are being bombarded with regulations and audits; 2) Because the economy is bound to get better (keeping my fingers crossed) we are positioning ourselves to take advantage of the upturn as soon as it happens and this leads me to why the past 4 months have been feeling like I was run over by a Mac Truck.

An opportunity presented itself for me to take on a new type of work.  Currently, along with being the paralegal supervisor and the lead paralegal on all regulatory matters I have also developed a new role as a corporate and foreign registration compliance paralegal.  The position never existed at the firm and I have been lucky enough to make it into what I want.  Although I’m having a really good time with it and learning a lot, I am exhausted by the time I get home.  There are a lot of things to learn and plans to put into practice.  I am hoping to be able to write a couple of posts about it but still don’t know exactly how to do that.

Anyway, I just really wanted to say hello to all of you and thank you for sticking around.  Please feel free to come by and kick my tired butt so I get on here, Facebook and Twitter more often.  After all, I really do enjoy talking to you all and should make the time to do it.

For now, I’m going to have some dinner and I will try to work on a post for next time.

Ana

Paralegals and the Economy


I recently twitted that I may be gone for a while.  I said that although I love being a paralegal, currently I do not enjoy the circumstances under which I am a paralegal.

The economy is taking a toll on all of us.  We are all overworked and understaffed and for a paralegal supervisor this has got to be one of the most stressful situations.  The work seems to be coming in at a heavier pace than before, but I cannot increase my paralegal staff nor can I approve overtime.  So in a land of “something’s gotta give” I think that was the day I stood on the edge of quitting.

I didn’t quit.  I truly enjoy being a paralegal and as in all things I take the good with the bad.  But the bad is really starting to piss me off, for lack of a better description.  I’m here and I’m still a paralegal supervisor for the firm I have been with the past 5 years.  However, this does not mean that I’m happy about it the current situation.

I am going to spend the next few weeks or maybe months trying to figure out how to make things work with my ever shrinking paralegal department and attorneys who do not want to give up their work in fear of not being seen as needed members of the law department.  I will continue to post and, actually, I am in the process of picking up on my YouTube Channel where I left off.  I have also promised a series of articles about different types of laws where paralegals make a big difference and am working on a few of those posts.

Please, don’t give up on me.  We all go through some touchy times and this was my time.

Look for me on my next post, like me on FaceBook and Follow me on Twitter…. Ohhhh yeah and now I have a Google+ account too.  I’m just all over the place.