So, you’ve just enjoyed the festive holidays and now it’s time to return to the office.
If you’re anything like me, I suffer from serious post-holiday depression. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. However, the post-holiday depression definitely gets me thinking about why I did a law degree. In the days leading up to work, my mind wonders off and I think of becoming an actor, a singer, a dancer. I even contemplate a career in landscaping!
However, there is an upside to getting back into the office soon after the holidays. It’s the perfect time to get yourself organised and prepared for the year ahead. The amount of productive work that can be achieved in January is highly underestimated.
My snapshot of January is this: a lot of solicitors, clients and Judges, take the opportunity to have time off during January. Law offices reopen at various times throughout January, some open early and others midway through January. The Court registries are generally closed until the second week of January. All this results in:
- matters not making much progress during January;
- matters not being able to be listed with the Court until early February; and
- the office being, overall, quieter with less phone calls and enquiries.
The practice I work for opens in the first working days of January. In the past I have struggled to get back into it, however, I have learnt to use my time wisely during January, irrespective of all the holiday posts filling up my Instagram feed!
1. Clear out your inbox as much as possible
There is nothing worse than letting your inbox get out of control. Lawyers send and receive many emails over the course of a day. Leading up to Christmas, it gets busier. The number of emails probably increases by 30% (in my view).
Having too many emails in your inbox is a huge risk from a practice perspective. It is easy for something to be missed. If a deadline or time limit is missed, this could be a costly mistake for your employer should a claim be made.
We operate with an electronic system at our practice. As vigilant as I try to be with dragging the incoming emails into our electronic system, there are times where it snowballs. The trick is to keep on top of it (I know it’s easier said than done!).
Use your first days in January to clean out your inbox and mail box generally.
- If you have an electronic system, drag any emails out of your inbox and into your file. Don’t delete any emails that are affiliated to a file (no matter how small). Make sure those emails are dragged onto the file too.
- If you operate with hard files, print out your emails and correspondence and spike them onto the relevant tab.
- Delete unnecessary emails. By this I mean, internal emails within the office and pointless emails (advertising, notifications, newsletters). If you need to save something from one of these emails, bookmark a page in your web browser or save the email to a favourite or personal file. The goal is to reduce the number of emails in your inbox as much as possible.
- Delete all your draft and sent items. We forget how many draft and sent items we accumulate during the year. No doubt, it can get up to the thousands.
Trust me, there is no better feeling than knowing you have an organised and up-to-date inbox.
2. Put a time limit on those dormant enquiries
We all have them; enquiries we’ve been nursing until they become a file. However, depending on the nature of the enquiry, leaving it dormant poses a risk from a practice perspective. For example, in the area of law I practice in, an enquiry in relation to the preparation of a Will is a significant risk, if left dormant.
I appreciate there is always going to be difficulties when dealing with dormant enquiries, especially if the enquirer is not ready to proceed. However, it is our responsibility as practitioners to ensure we are following up our enquiries on a regular basis, and covering ourselves through the nursing period should the enquirer chose not to proceed.
Use January to go through all your enquiries and follow them up. Take the opportunity to:
- Call your enquirers. Speak to the ones you can and leave messages for the ones you can’t reach. I always choose to follow up with a phone call first as it has a personal touch.
- Email your enquirers. Whether you were able to reach your enquirer by phone or not, always follow up with an email immediately following the phone call.
- For those enquiries that have been outstanding for too long, prepare formal letters to them notifying that you have not heard from them. Remember to include a date by which you will close their enquiry should you not hear from them.
By following up all your enquiries, it’s going to make you feel like you have everything up to date. Also, it’s a way of indirectly advertising yourself to your potential client – by showing that you acknowledge their enquiry and are giving it priority.
3. Get blogging
Legal blogs are a huge resource to the public. There is no better time than the first week of January to get a few draft blogs ready for publishing.
In the past, people have been limited to the legal advice they receive from their local solicitor. However, the evolution of the internet now allows people to educate themselves to a greater extent. Furthermore, people are able to research a practitioner they believe is suited to their particular matter.
I blog on a regular basis on Wills Estates Probate Lawyers Blog, which focuses on the area I practice in, wills and estates.
- Blogging is an important marketing technique in today’s world. An online presence is an important part of obtaining new work. Whether you start a blog for yourself, or you encourage your practice to start a blog, January is the perfect time to get this process started.
- Blog about the area of law you practice in most. I am a believer that people judge your expertise based on your presentation online. They can identify themselves whether you have the skills to handle their matter or not. Therefore, if you practice in commercial law, and write a blog in relation to a criminal law matter, make sure you are able to “talk the talk”.
- Blog basic – people don’t understand legal speak, nor do they want to. If you are blogging or publishing content, remember the KISS policy, “keep it simple stupid”.
I hope everyone enjoyed their festive holidays. Happy January!
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