Tools of the Trade

Maximum Productivity for Paralegals
guest author: Jenna Prosceno

The ability to produce product in a certain, and often limited, time-frame is a skill. Just like all skills, productivity can be learned and perfected through practice.

  1. Organize your workspace - Disorganization is the number one reason for loss of productivity.  First and foremost, organize your desk. Have a place for everything, and everything in its place. If you are right handed, then organize your tools from right to left. Do the opposite if you are left handed. The closest drawer to your writing hand should be your "quick quick" drawer. In this drawer should be necessary items that you use multiple times during the day; i.e. stapler, tape, paper clips. The rest of the drawers should be organized according to their importance and frequency of use.
  1. Keep your workspace clear - Clear your space of everything that isn't inspirational or necessary. Have an inbox of assignments that are being worked on for that day only. Once tasks are completed re-file the file. Should the task not be completed, have a designated drawer or filing cabinet for work in progress. This helps other staff members save time by not having to dig through a stack of folders on your desk, as well as keep contents of files out of the way to ensure that documents do not become co-mingled with other files.
  1. Work on one task at a time, and work through to completion - Despite popular belief, too much multi-tasking is counterproductive. Even if all projects being worked on at the same time do get completed, odds are the work is incomplete or a detail was missed. This will ultimately waste either your time later, or someone else's and most definitely the bottom line.
  1. Make a daily list - Beginning with the most difficult to the least. This way your tasks are completed, your day gets progressively easier rather the other way around. Any task not completed by the end of the day goes on the beginning of the next day's list.  Dedicate one day a week to tidy up any lose ends that got pushed to the wayside. Friday's are usually good for this!
  1. Break down large tasks - For large tasks that will take longer to complete, break up the work into manageable work tables. For instance, if there are 50 pages of discovery to answer and it needs to be complete in a week, it may suit to work on 10 pages a day, etc.  This way, you are not using one entire day to just one file, and other tasks can be completed on schedule.
  1. Use your time on hold - Telephone hold times are inevitable. This time is best used doing something mundane that is more physical then mental. You can use the time to straighten the documents inside of the file folder, tidy your "quick quick" drawer, or load staples into your stapler. There are always things that need to be done, but are small enough not to warrant a designated time to do them.
  1. Have an "Action" file - Both a physical file, as well as for your email. Send items there and tackle them in order of importance. Send anything else to folders designated to be complete by the end of the week, another for at your leisure, and one for future reference. Go through the last two files at least once a month.
  1. Leave as much detail on a voicemail as ethically possible - Ask your question leaving all pertinent information so that the responder can have all information that you are requesting at the ready when they call you back. This tactic cuts down on or eliminates phone tag, and the responder can reply to your voicemail or secretary with their answer/needs should you be un-reachable.
  1. Repeat - When your attorney gives you a project but no deadline, ask for one. When they give it to you, respond with their answer: "So that I may mark my calendar accordingly, you would like this assignment completed and returned to you in three days, correct?" This keeps communication open and flowing.
  1. Inventory your work practices often - Part of productivity is being very honest with ourselves about our work habits.  At least once a year, ask yourself: Are your current work habits working for you? Have office dynamics changed and you need to "upgrade" your personal system? Have your responsibilities changed? If so, did you change your work habits to compliment the new situation? Self-evaluation helps us grow as professionals and it should be done often.

 

Jenna Prosceno is a Delaware certified paralegal with Daniel D. Martin & Associates, where her main areas of specialization are personal injury, contract and tort law. Ms. Prosceno's job responsibilities are case management, discovery, research, and firm and office management. She conducts medical research, legal and factual research, and client interviews. Ms. Prosceno prepares trial notebooks, and demand and settlement documents. She coordinates and manages document production, gathers and reviews medical records, maintains general client contracts, and handles all aspects of the case from initial client contract to trial preparation and participation. Ms. Prosceno graduated from Delaware Technical and Community College, and the University of Delaware.

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