Observant little ...

I don't understand the answer, but I may have some ideas on the question...

File management (a rant)

In the last couple of weeks I've taken over files from a couple of other people. And I keep on coming across this thorny issue - no matter how good you are at getting to a successful result for your client, if someone else can't pick up your file and see exactly what happened, when and why, your reputation within your workplace will never be good.

I mean, think about it - you are never going to be in the office every time something comes up on one of your files. Especially in litigation, there are days when you will be in court or in negotiations or a meeting (not to mention when you're sick or on holidays) and someone else will have to pick up your file and work out the answer to a question being asked.

And then there's the question of a paper trail. We're lawyers mate! Paper trails are essential! Sure, you may have an A+ memory and can recall phone conversations you had 6 months ago or even longer, but how is that going to help the next person who is trying to work on that file.

One of the files I'm currently working on is a complete mess. The guy who was handling it before me didn't print emails for the file, didn't make a note of his phone conversations, and didn't have the stuff that he had put on the file in chronological order. So I've just spent the better part of the day pulling the file apart, chasing details of the emails/phone calls/conferences that I know exist, but aren't on the file, and then putting it all back together again. Very frustrating.

Especially for someone like me who has excellent file management skills. I'm one of those people who doesn't pick up the phone without having a pen in my hand and any letters/emails etc that come in go immediately onto the file. I think it comes from my potty-training when I was an article clerk. From day one, I was working on the more complicated files belonging to the managing partner (along with my own simpler files), so I always had to document what I'd done since I only met with him once a week and the rest of the time, he had to know what was going on by reviewing the file. So working from a file where nothing is documented (and no hand over can be so detailed that it covers every nitty gritty issue that will come up) is driving me up the wall!

And of course, it means that I'm on the phone to this guy every other day because of something else that he hasn't mentioned that there is no record of on the file. Maybe he does it this way so that he feels important and needed, but personally, I prefer to have uninterupted off time than to create chaos so they can't survive without me (I was once told "never be so unreplaceable that you can't be promoted" and I believe in that!).

And I must do it well - I've only ever been called at home during a break twice. I've changed job about 5 times and always managed to do a sufficiently accurate changeover that the person coming into the job didn't have to contact me at all. And I went overseas for 7 months without a single query having to come my way.

Sure, I still get people calling me or coming to see me about files I did years ago in the hopes that I might remember what they are after without them having to go through the file, but it's always on the file if they need it.

It's really not that difficult!

Listening to: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief


Blogger Lushlife said...

I admit my admin skills are not that great.After years in government where you have to be your own secretary sometimes I get too busy to actually file right away but when I pass over the file for someone to take over I try to put myself in their shoes and I have everything in chronological order, file notes of telephone conversations etc, bring ups etc. I don't think I have ever been chased up about my legal work but when I work on legislation which takes years and years and years - things happen that are not necessarily documented except that a section mysteriously appears in some legislation during the process. I always worry when I change jobs whether or not my name is going to be taken in vain while I am away. I think because I worry about it I try my best not to let it happen.

8:32 pm  
Blogger OLS said...

I am bad at putting stuff on the file spike straight away, but I put everything loosely on the file straight away. It's rare that I work on a file without having it on my desk, and if something comes in that I don't have to deal with straight away, it still goes onto the file pretty quickly. Phone notes don't leave the pad until they're chucked on the file and emails are put on the file as I come back into my office after collecting them from the printer.

I think working without a secretary is good for my files in that sense, because I don't collect stuff to be filed, I just chuck it straight onto the file (or into the sling if the file is missing for some reason, so it goes onto the file the next time I put the file away).

I've noticed that I am freakishly organised in comparison to most lawyers, I just have trouble understanding why it's so hard for the others. It must just be a personality thing.

I know what you're getting at in terms of legislation though. A lot of that stuff just seems to be in your head until the legislation is drafted and someone says "where did that come from?"


12:33 pm  

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