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!



An In-House Paralegal….

I am often asked about the differences between being an in-house paralegal and a paralegal in a private law office.  One of the main difference is the fact that the client is the firm.  The lawyers in a corporation represent the firm.  This is actually a difficult concept to get used to.

As in-house paralegals, most of our work is pretty mundane.  There isn’t a lot of variety.  Most of our day is spent either responding to subpoenas, demands for documents, third party request, request for financial information from the various government entities, responding to tax levies, etc.  The work is varied but it tends to be routine.  There is the occasional exciting case but that is not not the norm.

As in any law office each paralegal has one or two specialities.  Some handle all the government subpoeanas, some handle third party subpoenas or demand for documents (most of you are very familiar with these…. these are the requests that you send us when you are getting discovery together for your cases).   As I have mentioned earlier, as in-house paralegals we (I’m an in-house paralegal) are hired by the firm and therefore the firm is our one and only client.  When the legal department receives a request for the government (SEC, FBI, etc…) obviously, we want to cooperate as best as we can and as expediently as possible.  The paralegal in this position is normally the one who has the most tight deadlines as obviously the government is working on time sensitive matters.  Normally, these requests are very routine but there is the occasional time when we, the paralegals, are asked for information that we may have never heard of or are not even sure they exist.  In these particular cases we can go outside of the legal department and find someone in the business (one of the other employees of the firm) who can explain what a particular report is and how we can get it.  We have to be careful as to not share the content of the government request because, remember, the client is the firm and we are still bound by attorney client privilege.  Under no circumstances should you ever get another employee, a business, involved in a conversation with a requesting party.

Operational people can be very technical and some have a hard time explaining what things are and how they work to someone who does not know the systems.  To make matters even more complicated, outside parties often do not know what it is that they are looking for and therefore, cannot formulate the questions or the requests in a manner that we understand what they are looking for.

In an in-house department we are a team and that is what I try to instill in my paralegal team.  Use everything at your disposal when you are responding to any type of request.  Use the knowledge of other paralegals before you go outside of the department where, without meaning to, you may say something you are not supposed to be saying or share some information that you are not allowed to reveal.  If the above fails, then I suggest you go to the requesting party.  Try to find out what it is that they are looking for.  Sometimes, if you know what the case is about you can make suggestions as to what types of information would best assist the requesting party.  Sometimes the requesting party may be asking for something that at first glance looks really easy to produce.  However, when you really think about it, it may take days, sometimes even months to be able to create a report that would extract the information being requested.  However, there may be something else that could respond to the question just the same without wasting so many hours of manual work.

Moral of this story:  Use your team.  Share your story.  Be aware that different people working on different issues may have another perspective which may help you produce the desired results.

Paralegal or Inspector Poirot????

Being a paralegal is almost like being a private investigator.  You know those murder mystery books we all love to read?  Agatha Christie, Scott Turow, James Patterson… etc.

Ok, so maybe I’m not going to be chasing after a murderer or a drug dealer or in a jail cell interrogating a criminal.  But I am going to be getting to the bottom of other issues.

As a personal injury paralegal, my job was to get to the bottom of why the plaintiff was so hurt and was the plaintiff really as hurt as he/she made it out to be.  Yeah, I get it, reading medical record after medical record is not very glamorous but your diligent work can make or break the case.  Most of the time it’s just going to be a boring exercise of figuring out what is actually ailing the plaintiff and sitting on the floor of your cubicle or office going through box after box or file after file of medical records.  However, there is that one time when the review of a hospital record can produce the adrenaline rush of a murder case.

A long time ago…. Gosh, it really feels like an eternity ago.  In my past life as a personal injury paralegal I received a case where a plaintiff had gotten rear-ended.  The complaint alleged that plaintiff was not able to work and could not even walk up a flight of stairs without pain and getting short of breath.  Due to the pain plaintiff claimed he was not able to exercise and therefore gained weight and all the maladies that come from being extremely obese.  Plaintiff alleged that following the accident he had developed high blood pressure, asthma as well as other accident related pains.

I began my investigation by requesting medical records from the hospital where the plaintiff had been taken immediately following the accident.  Those medical records revealed that at the time of the accident the plaintiff was already heavy and a 2 pack a day smoker.  I also found out that plaintiff had been seen at the emergency room prior to that date following a previous auto accident and all the complaints were the same at that time.

Needless to say, this became my favorite case for a while.  I could not wait to receive the next medical record or schedule plaintiff’s deposition.  I knew this case inside and out.  I became a true Erin Brockovich, or so it felt hahaha.

I guess my point is, you never know when one of your “boring” cases can turn out to be the new Agatha Christie best seller so you better review all documents as if all cases have best-selling author potential.

Hope you’re having a great weekend.

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Clio – Practice Management at your Fingertips

This past Summer I was asked to review Clio, a web-based practice management.  I have to admit that at first I was a bit skeptical about doing this.  Not only because I had never heard of Clio before but also because I do not want my blog to turn into an “endorsement” blog.  I’ve always been of the opinion that not all systems are the same to everyone and my opinion may skew people’s opinion of what it is that they actually need for their practice.  However, I’m glad I decided to review this particular product.

When the company contacted me to test some products, I was given the choice of three products.   I picked Clio because it is compatible with the MAC and it did not require me to download anything onto my computer, which can take up a lot of memory.

Being that Clio is a web-based application the only thing you need in order to access this practice management system is an Internet connection.   As a paralegal that is always on the “go” this is an important aspect of any practice management I choose.  I like to know that no matter where I am, as long as I have an internet connection I am able to access my calendar, my billing, my to do lists and any documents I need on the go.

Considering that I am not very technologically inclined, I had no trouble getting started with the site.

It even felt like “second nature” to set up a client and/or matters.  Once your clients are set up the entire case is at your disposal.  When you click on a client or a matter name Clio puts the entire case at your fingertips.

Clio allows you keep a task list, a calendar and an agenda.  I was informed that Clio works with whatever calendar system you use (outlook or iCal).  If you are working on a document all you need to do in order to record your time is click on icon and the time automatically transfers to that matter as time being billed.  For someone who is used to recording the time on paper and then transferring everything to the time management system, this was great.

On the task list issue, Clio is also a “lifesaver.”  By allowing you to stay organized.  Clio will send you task reminders as emails.  No more sitting around in front of the computer before the start of the day trying to figure out what it is that you need to do first.  Clio knows and it will let you know!

There is a communications tab that allows you to record phone call notes.  The way I used it was more like a “diary.”  If a client called wanting to know what was going on in his/her particular case, all I had to do was open up communication under a particular client I had a “history” of the case in front of me and was better able to discuss it with the client without having to dig up the actual folder on my computer or even have to look up the actual paper file (which I still keep.  Trying to get out of that habit).

Clio has two pricing structures:  $49/month for attorneys and $25/month for non-attorneys.  It seems reasonable to me when you take into consideration that as soon as you get it you can begin using it.  There is no need spend hours downloading additional programs into your computer or learning a new system.  Clio is very use friendly.

In my opinion Clio would replace a billing system, a calendar system and all the spreadsheets (not to mention some of the post it notes) that I now call my case management system.

I really enjoyed “test driving” this system and would recommend it to my fellow.

But don’t take my word for it.  Clio makes it really easy to fall in love with it.  They offer a 30-day free trial and if you don’t like it you can cancel your subscription, no questions asked.  I encourage you to go to their website at Clio website and signing up for the free 30-day trial.

I want to point out that I am not being paid of this review and did not receive any incentives from the creators of Clio, monetary or otherwise.  The 30-day free trial is offered to everyone who wants to try out the site.

Elena Kagan – Thank you and Congratulations!!!!

Putting partisanship aside, this is a historical moment.  The confirmation of soon to be Justice Kagan means that for the first time the Court will have three women members.  If you think about that not very long ago women couldn’t even vote you will realize how far we have come.

I, for one, would like to take a little piece of my blog to thank Elena Kagan for opening yet another door for women.

I’m going to take this one head-on

Prominently displayed today in the New York Times, Global Business section is an article about outsourcing legal services to India Outsourcing to India Draws Western Lawyers. My questions is simply, why?  Why are we outsourcing our legal services to India or to any other country for that matter?  According to Mr. David B. Wilkins, the Director of Harvard Law School’s program on the legal profession “There is an increasing pressure by clients to reduce costs and increase efficiency.”  In my opinion, that is not a new concept.   Clients have always put pressure on law firms to cut costs and increase efficiency.  Granted, in today’s economy that pressure may be more intense but that is why we have paralegals.  Paralegals can do the jobs that are currently being outsourced to these other countries for a fraction of the price of what a lawyer charges.

According to the article, the attorneys working for outsourcing firms outside of the country are not allowed to give legal advice to clients in the West and the jobs that are being outsourced are those same jobs that a paralegal is trained to do, such as document reviews and deposition summaries.  Janine Dascenzo, associate general counsel at G.E., is quoted in the article as saying “You don’t need a $500-an-hour associate to do things like document review and basic due diligence,” with which I totally agree.  You do not need a lawyer to review documents, request records, review deposition transcripts, organize files, visit accident sites, collect evidence, perform basic due diligence, etc.

I wonder if the client is being given all the facts.  Is the client being given the choice of (1) having a paralegal, who has been trained in the West, trained to deal with our court system, who speaks the language and knows the culture and who is able to perform the same tasks being performed in India; or (2) does the client want to have his file and his information shipped to a foreign country where he does not know the culture nor person working on his/her file, the person working on file has no interest in him/her (the client) as a person, and perhaps no interest in the outcome of the case?  I wonder how many clients are being told these facts?  I wonder what choice they would make if they were being told these facts?

I don’t know about all of you.  I am very much in favor of thinking outside the box and perhaps my thinking outside the box is the reason I became a paralegal.  Efficient?  You want to keep it efficient?  Then I say you keep the work in the United States in the hands of a very competent paralegal who will perform the work very efficiently and cost effectively because he/she knows how to navigate the system and get answers for your clients.  Give us a chance, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what we can accomplish for you, your clients and the U.S. economy by allowing you to keep jobs in the US.

Just my thoughts.   Thank you for reading.

Other articles that mention the New York Times Article   Outsourcing:  Here Come the Expats