Is “organized chaos” really a thing? Not in a law office, where being organized is considered critical for conducting business in an efficient, ethical, and productive manner. Another plus to being organized – if you create and maintain a clutter-free environment, it will likely improve the quality of your work, along with your mood.
Here’s how to reduce clutter and organize your law office:
The first thing you’ll need to do is collect the supplies you’ll need to complete the job. Some things that will likely come in handy include:
- Large garbage can
- An assortment of different colored folders
- Writing instruments, including markers
- File organizers
- Paper towels
- Window cleaner
- Cardboard boxes
Once you’ve gathered all the supplies you’ll need to complete the job, determine which area you’ll attack first – the surface of your desk, the drawers, or the file cabinets. Use the cardboard boxes either to stash the items you’re keeping or the ones you plan to purge.
De-clutter and purge
Before you start organizing, you’ll need to cut the clutter. Begin with one section of the office and work your way through each area until you’ve purged everything that is unneeded, unnecessary, or just plain in the way. Apply the “one-touch rule “to purging: pick something up, decide whether to keep it, throw it away, or store it, and then just do it. Don’t put the item down just to pick it up again later.
Make a plan
Now that you’ve thrown away everything you don’t need, you’ll need to organize everything that’s left. The key to having a uniformly organized law office is to create and then follow a standard set of rules consistently. Your plan will be tailored to your law firm and the type of law practiced there, but will likely include developing and adhering to some sort of filing system that is consistent throughout the office. Keep paper files secure in locked file cabinets, and virtual ones accessible only with a password.
In the law office, both closed and open storage space is necessary to make certain items easily accessible while protecting the confidentiality of others. Vertical storage units usually provide the most actual storage space, and all furniture should be functional and serve a purpose. Besides physical storage, consider what many legal professionals consider to be the safest, most secure, and easily accessible storage solution for law firms – a private cloud.
Unfortunately, your work is not quite done, and never will be. To keep your newly organized space neat, you’ll need to engage in some routine activities every day, week, and year:
- Daily maintenance. Take just a few minutes each day to perform regular maintenance to your workspace. Use this time to defrag your computer and put any loose documents on your desktop or in your computer’s “my documents” folder into their proper place. Transfer all sticky notes, stray business cards, and other notes to a central location and throw all junk mail and unnecessary clutter away. Perform filing each day so you are not wasting time looking for documents that are still in your filing basket.
- Weekly maintenance. You’ll also need to set up a weekly system to catch up with anything you may have missed during your daily maintenance sessions. Each week, you should:
- Check your bulletin board and purge old items
- Water your plants (throwing out the dead or terminally-ill ones)
- Clean your computer screen, keyboard, phone, and anything frequently used.
- Throw away old magazines and newspapers – if it’s been a week and you haven’t even looked at it, it’s probably safe to toss.
- Back up your computer files.
- Take an inventory of your office supplies, and make note of anything you are running short on.
- Annual maintenance. Once a year, you need to rid yourself of old or unnecessary files, employee communications, shipping documents, and other outdated items. Then plan for the future by making a list of any large purchases you think the firm might need to make moving forward, and calendar important dates that you will need to remember in the coming year.
Despite the ongoing effort involved in keeping your office organized, getting and keeping the disorder under control is easier than you may think.
Do you know of other ways to reduce the clutter that accumulates in the law office? Tell us about them in the comments!