Ever walk into a hardware store and ask for a specific little washer? In seconds, you are led to a cataloged, organized bin of tiny drawers with every weight and size of washer in the world. Imagine being led to a giant box full of loose washers? How useful would THAT be?
Not at all.
If your general office space is a mess—unorganized and cluttered, you are going to find it challenging to get things done, much less grow. Finding data is impossible in this environment and the message it sends your staff and more importantly, your clients, is that you just don’t care.
Solving this problem as a part of your law firm management quest is not negotiable, and going paperless is not going to solve it. Storing files electronically will be the same situation, just virtual. If you are a mess with your paper files, you are going to be a mess with your paperless files. If you are going to run an efficient, well-oiled, well-organized machine, you need to have an organized, structured rules system of how your office operates and how paper goes in your office.
Here are some basic rules about filing systems.
- Identify the filing cabinet.
- Have a sign-in, sign-out file so that when someone takes a file, they must sign it out. If someone is looking for that file, you know whom to look for to get it.
- Assign the task to someone to monitor the files at the end of the week.
My Grandmother always told me: “Honey, everything has a home, and you have to put your stuff back in its home. Your shoes should go in the closet, and your clothes should go on a hanger.” If you are not doing that stuff with your files and you are the biggest offender of that, everyone is going to follow suit.
Check YOUR habits. If you’ve got 25 files open on your desk, it means you aren’t focused and are breaking the rules. You can’t work on 25 files at once. Work on a file, bring it to a close and then make the notes you have to; but then put the file down and delegate to your assistant to put it away.
If you fail to follow the rules, your office staff isn’t going to follow the rules either. This isn’t a complicated rule, but it’s an important one. If you are doing everything right yet are getting this part wrong, it’s going to break the ability of you AND your staff to work at the optimum level. Get organized! It’s a primary function of management.
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