Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.

Announcement

Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.

How to handle huge case load

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • How to handle huge case load

    List, I'm new to GTD and am trying to integrate it into my life in the legal profession. We have in excess of 100 individual clients. At this point, I have maintained a "client list" calling it a project list. As each case is different in what is sought, not to mention the different deadlines in every file, this creates a challenge in and of itself. But the part of GTD that I'm having the hardest time getting my brain around deals with the weekly review. With over 100 different files, that's impossible. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks for any help!

  • #2
    Originally posted by warchief23 View Post
    List, I'm new to GTD and am trying to integrate it into my life in the legal profession. We have in excess of 100 individual clients. At this point, I have maintained a "client list" calling it a project list. As each case is different in what is sought, not to mention the different deadlines in every file, this creates a challenge in and of itself. But the part of GTD that I'm having the hardest time getting my brain around deals with the weekly review. With over 100 different files, that's impossible. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks for any help!
    You have 100 active cases? That sounds implausible.

    Comment


    • #3
      You handle that in a separate system

      I have a similar issue - I'm the manager of a section responsible for hundreds of developments. These are in various stages of pre-construction, construction, operation or decomissioning. Most of our work happens at the pre-construction phase but at any time, any of thousands of projects can become active.

      Clearly this cannot be reviewed on a weekly basis. This is handled by a separate filing/database system. However, the way I interact with that system can and should be part of my GTD routine.

      In my case (and I'm still fine-tuning and likely always will be) I keep a separate list of which projects I've assigned to which staff and the overview of the deliverable I'm waiting for from them. On my NA list or my calendar I will put "Review projects with A. Employee". If something lands on my plate (i.e., I get a letter to review and send out) I put that on my NA list. If there is a particular project that needs closer attention (it's political, the media are interested, there are financial implications, etc.) then I may put it on my Project list as: "Know current status of Project Y" while trying not to micromanage.

      Some of my staff have 70 - 100 active projects. But many (even most) of them at any given time are in someone else's court. So most of them are Waiting Fors. But they still have deadlines and may need follow up to get those others to provide the information.

      I hope some of that helps. If these are truly all yours, you do need to know what the next step is for each of your 100 projects. Ideally, during your weekly review you would look at the list of clients and be able to identify what you are to do or what you are waiting for on each one. If you can't do that, you would look into the file to make that note (or put review File Q on your NA list for later).

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by warchief23 View Post
        List, I'm new to GTD and am trying to integrate it into my life in the legal profession. We have in excess of 100 individual clients. At this point, I have maintained a "client list" calling it a project list. As each case is different in what is sought, not to mention the different deadlines in every file, this creates a challenge in and of itself. But the part of GTD that I'm having the hardest time getting my brain around deals with the weekly review. With over 100 different files, that's impossible. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks for any help!
        Projects have defined outcomes. Clients do not. Therefore clients are not projects. Even if they were, the weekly review is not a time for reviewing project support material per se. The weekly review is for reviewing projects, next actions, calendar, et cetera. The weekly review will generate next actions like "Review XXX case file before Thursday settlement meeting." Oh yeah, and the deadlines need to come out of the files and into your calendar (and probably into a separate list too).

        Comment


        • #5
          Keep in mind that the GTD system is for coordinating your work, your life. So how you structure your system needs to adapt around that, rather than the responsibilities of your team/firm. While these two thinks will heavily overlap, they are distinct.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by mattsykes View Post
            Keep in mind that the GTD system is for coordinating your work, your life. So how you structure your system needs to adapt around that, rather than the responsibilities of your team/firm. While these two thinks will heavily overlap, they are distinct.
            Exactly. Distinct they are, but they use the same word: project. A thing that is a project is always a project in a given framework. The companies planning and your GTD are different frameworks, hence different things get called: project.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
              Projects have defined outcomes. Clients do not. Therefore clients are not projects.
              I disagree. Clients are projects. The defined outcome is that the clients needs are met, the client is satisfied and services are paid for.

              I can understand the issue of not having time to review every project in the weekly review. What I like to practice is reviewing the project after I finish each action. For example, say you had to write a letter for client Bob. After you've finished the letter, scan the client's file then to see if there's anything else that needs to done, and update the project's NA right there and then before you put away the file.
              So by doing this you'll end up reviewing all the clients that you have done work on, and at the weekly review you only need to review the clients that haven't received any attention, or clients whose cases are so big and complex that you really want to review again on a weekly basis.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
                I disagree. Clients are projects. The defined outcome is that the clients needs are met, the client is satisfied and services are paid for.

                I can understand the issue of not having time to review every project in the weekly review. What I like to practice is reviewing the project after I finish each action. For example, say you had to write a letter for client Bob. After you've finished the letter, scan the client's file then to see if there's anything else that needs to done, and update the project's NA right there and then before you put away the file.
                So by doing this you'll end up reviewing all the clients that you have done work on, and at the weekly review you only need to review the clients that haven't received any attention, or clients whose cases are so big and complex that you really want to review again on a weekly basis.
                I respectfully disagree. Trials and other legal matters are projects, but I don't think clients should be. Suppose you are on retainer to someone who has multiple, independent legal issues: by defining the client as the project, you dilute the focus on outcome thinking for projects, and undermine the idea that a project has criteria by which it is considered completed. It seems to me that this case is not that different from using a CRM system as a gtd tool, or having direct reports or student advisees as projects; I've tried all of these, and they don't work for me. It seems to me that all of these are probably best handled as ad hoc lists, checklists of a sort. There are good electronic tools for CRM, for tracking students, and for legal practice management, and organizations and individuals should not have to duplicate their information in toto just to get work done.

                Comment


                • #9
                  This sounds like the right answer

                  Originally posted by SiobhanBR View Post
                  I have a similar issue - I'm the manager of a section responsible for hundreds of developments. These are in various stages of pre-construction, construction, operation or decomissioning. Most of our work happens at the pre-construction phase but at any time, any of thousands of projects can become active.

                  Clearly this cannot be reviewed on a weekly basis. This is handled by a separate filing/database system. However, the way I interact with that system can and should be part of my GTD routine.

                  In my case (and I'm still fine-tuning and likely always will be) I keep a separate list of which projects I've assigned to which staff and the overview of the deliverable I'm waiting for from them. On my NA list or my calendar I will put "Review projects with A. Employee". If something lands on my plate (i.e., I get a letter to review and send out) I put that on my NA list. If there is a particular project that needs closer attention (it's political, the media are interested, there are financial implications, etc.) then I may put it on my Project list as: "Know current status of Project Y" while trying not to micromanage.

                  Some of my staff have 70 - 100 active projects. But many (even most) of them at any given time are in someone else's court. So most of them are Waiting Fors. But they still have deadlines and may need follow up to get those others to provide the information.

                  I hope some of that helps. If these are truly all yours, you do need to know what the next step is for each of your 100 projects. Ideally, during your weekly review you would look at the list of clients and be able to identify what you are to do or what you are waiting for on each one. If you can't do that, you would look into the file to make that note (or put review File Q on your NA list for later).
                  I am not an attorney, but I graduated from law school and I have a lot of friends that are attorneys. They use an industry specific software program designed to meet the needs of attorneys. Missed deadlines are problematic (and perhaps, malpractice in the worst case), and managing the flow of the massive documentation and deadlines is complicated. They struggle with the systems they use, too.

                  I think SiobhanBR is right. You might use GTD to interact with a system designed to handle cases, like we use customer relationship management software in sales.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Execute or maintain a client.

                    Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
                    I respectfully disagree. Trials and other legal matters are projects, but I don't think clients should be. Suppose you are on retainer to someone who has multiple, independent legal issues: by defining the client as the project, you dilute the focus on outcome thinking for projects, and undermine the idea that a project has criteria by which it is considered completed.
                    I think it depends on the nature of your relationship with a client.

                    If it is just a "transaction" (just one legal case and goodbye) you can treat a client as a Project - "execute" him.

                    If you build a long-term "relation" you should treat your client as an Area of Focus - "maintain" him.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Professional practices and GTD

                      I've been a GTD evangelist since 1983, long before it had a name and it was basically David Allen carrying a torch and a Time/system paper planner (which is still part of my integrated digital/analog solution).

                      I am a CPA and a partner in a three office accounting firm that has thousands of clients, though my client responsibility is fractional in relation to that. Many law firms, regardless of size, have been ahead of accounting firms with respect to managing dockets (events with due dates) but lagging with respect to actual scheduling. That said, we use a combination of (primarily) digital and analog tools to manage workflow as well as personal productivity. While the critical elements are off the shelf (MS Outlook) and a cloud solution aimed at accounting firms (XCM), each professional and support staff must find a way to integrate these enterprise-driven solutions into their individual work styles and practice responsibilities.

                      My particular area of practice is forensic accounting so, like you, I am focused on case loads and the type and timing of work that is unique to litigation (as opposed to tax compliance). I also have some compliance responsibility for a limited group of clients. Bearing in mind that I have worked with GTD for a very long time, here is how I manage clients in my corner of the world:

                      First, I have 43 folders on the credenza behind my desk. They are always current, though on occasion I move items forward a day at a time (procrastination is not pretty).

                      Second, my ubiquitous capture tool when I am at my desk is Outlook and everything I determine falls to me for completion or a next step is immediately dropped in it as a task that, hopefully, has a due date. I ignore start dates for the most part. If I'm the least bit unsure as to a due date, that too is ignored as I review undated items during my weekly review (yes, I do one nearly every week). My away from desk (read: physically not at the keyboard because I may still be in the office or even sitting in a desk chair at my own desk)) capture tool is a BlackBerry with its backup being an iPhone (the former is the enterprise tool and the latter is my preference; thanks to ActiveSync, I have a great sense of security as a result of the data redundancy - did I mention I'm also our firm's CIO?).

                      Third, like David, I like printouts of key reference material I may want to access when I am in-transit. The minimum I print before leaving the office each day is Tasks, four weeks of weekly calendars and case/client status reports. Though I am fully mobile (iPad, Macbook Air, Dropbox, Citrix remote access, MiFi) I also tend to print copies of any other relevant documents that I may have to share when I am out (not everyone, especially airline gate agents, can accomodate digital images). All of this is reduced to 70% and dropped into a Time/system binder (think 5.5x8.5"). I have rarely been at a loss when I'm "armed" this way.

                      Fourth, when we do a client intake, my assistant has templates that are immediately executed in Outlook, all of which drop calendar-critical due dates and the relevant completion dates (in advance of the due date to allow time for my review and corrections) into my electronic folders and those of our group. As an attorney, you know that the matter drives the calendar (discovery, disclosure, etc.), so this process varies as to the template, but not the process, depending on the nature of the engagement (litigation, pre-litigation, thinking about litigation, fraud, bankruptcy, divorce, consulting, teaching, etc.). The only template she doesn't initiate is the one I use for teaching and training engagements (I speak and teach around the country) because those processes, other than her involvement in scheduling the actual events, are too critical for me to effectively delegate (yet). These template-driven events all show up for both staff and me and are foundational to our weekly staff meetings and my weekly reviews.

                      I just realized that this response is longer than I intended. I am available offline if you would like to discuss this. I hope this was helpful.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        An Attorney's Thoughts...

                        Originally posted by ero213 View Post
                        You have 100 active cases? That sounds implausible.
                        Depending on the type of attorney that he is, having 100 active files (cases or clients) is not uncommon.
                        When I practiced criminal defense work (not all of us are Robert Shapiro and work on a criminal case for 2 years), I had well over 100 active criminal cases at any given time. When I had a significant divorce/family law practice, I could not handle more than 75 active cases, due to the litigation requirements.
                        Personally, I have transitioned to a transactional lawyer, dealing with real estate, probate/elder law, and small business and transactional law. I conduct over 110 closings per month, and I have about 25-30 estate planning and probate files, and about 10-15 business representation files.

                        Originally posted by iannarino View Post
                        They use an industry specific software program designed to meet the needs of attorneys. Missed deadlines are problematic (and perhaps, malpractice in the worst case), and managing the flow of the massive documentation and deadlines is complicated. They struggle with the systems they use, too.
                        The problem with industry specific software is that not all attorneys practice the same way. I have tried all of the industry staples (Amicus, PCLaw, Needles, Juris)... their canned inability to deal with multiple inputs is what led me to GTD. With GTD, you can focus on what works for you. As long as you have the workflow and a trusted system with the safeguards (particularly a tickler system), you don't need to pay $1500 for a canned piece of "legal" software.

                        Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
                        Projects have defined outcomes. Clients do not. Therefore clients are not projects.
                        Depending on each client's needs, I don't necessarily agree that clients are not projects. I think some clients are projects to some people. I think that some cases/files are projects.

                        Everyone would set their GTD system related to this differently. Personally, I can tell you that I have tried, unsuccessfully, on several occasions, to set up systems like this:
                        Client = Project - FAILED.
                        Case = Project - FAILED.
                        File = Project - FAILED.

                        What has worked for me is by taking David's step of "defining work" to an extreme. I establish outcomes, and those are my projects. For instance...

                        ABC Trucking comes in to see me in order to open a new office in TN. This would consist of several "projects". 1) form an LLC, 2)purchase a competitor's business, 3) purchase land for an office, 4) form a contract with a builder to build their office, and 5) general corporate matters.

                        My projects would be as follows:
                        1) Form LLC for ABC Trucking
                        2) Purchase XYZ Trucking for ABC Trucking
                        3) Purchase Lot 13 for ABC Trucking
                        4) Establish contract with Elite Contracting for ABC Trucking
                        5) ABC Trucking, LLC - General Corporate

                        Each one of those projects has tasks that I can define and delegate, do or defer (the three D's). I can use Omnifocus (insert your searchable database here) to search for anything related to ABC Trucking, so I can see it all together, for the purpose of a client overview. Each of the tasks within the projects have contexts and are ready for the three D's.

                        As to "ABC Trucking, LLC - General Corporate", it is a project of its own, because it usually just involves following up -- client relations, letters reminding of tax season, letters re: annual reports, etc.

                        If you need or want a GTD Partner to bounce ideas off of, I am available at al-AT-alfrazier.com.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Exactly what I'm struggling with

                          I'm a newbie to this but my passion to succeed is high! This thread is very helpful and exactly what I am looking for as I try to determine exactly how to figure out what next actions are versus projects.

                          I am a higher ed administrator and have to process student requests for the U.S. immigration service. Our student numbers have went through the roof and beyond the capacity of my memory five years ago. I think GTD is the answer for this.

                          I've been sorting things by what the student is requesting but I think I like the idea of having each student be a project. The outcome would be successfully producing whatever they are asking for within the requisite processing time (the student's expections of the timeline as well as my offices). I've listened to and watched hours of the GTD archives and I'm slowly starting to understand.

                          If you have any suggestions of resources that you think might help me, please let me know by emailing me directly.

                          Sincerely,
                          Alison

                          Comment

                          Working...
                          X