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Calling all Attys - need help

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  • Calling all Attys - need help

    Okay, I am really having a hard time grasping how to make this work with the type of work I do (real estate law). It seems that each thing I am asked to do entails so many different "next actions" that I feel like I could spend my entire day making lists. For example just had an e-mail exchange with a partner. The result of which requires me to: review loan docs, review lease; review complaint; draft letter to tenant; prepare outline of loan requirements for partner; meet with partner next day to discuss the above. Do I have to add each of these items to a separate next action list? I am more inclined to just say "Respond to Partner X re: Y client Lease and Loan issues". I know that is not really the point, however.
    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    Well, you really can't do all of them at the same time can you?
    I'd say you have several N/A's, each has a unique context, and at least a couple of them involve "Waiting For"s once you've completed those initial N/A's. Isn't it prudent to get the N/A's that will generate "Waiting For"s out of the way in order to get the ball rolling on things that might stop dead in the water if you don't get timely responses?

    Finally, "Meet with partner next day" technically isn't a N/A (although, "email partner to schedule meeting next day" might be)

    Comment


    • #3
      It's true that there are a lot of small tasks associated with almost every conversation, but I find that once I got used to jotting it down, I found a great relief in having a "complete inventory."

      If you are a software user (Outlook, for example), a "review client materials" macro might make your life easier. You could set it up to create all the new tasks usually associated with this type of work, and then just hit a button each time to add your N/As.

      If you're not a software person, checklists might really help in that instance. I only suggest this method because I know real estate law typically has similar "projects" for each client.

      Good luck!

      Comment


      • #4
        MollyLolly,

        Also from the software side, take a look at The MasterList here http://www.themasterlist.com

        I'm not an Attorney, but this program was initially developed with Attorneys in mind.

        I have started using it, and it supports GTD fairly well. I'm still figuring out the best way to use it for me though, so I can't really give a full review on it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Molly:
          As an attorney (complex mass torts) I understand where you're coming from.

          However, I would characterize "respond to Partner X re: . . . " as a project, and then take the time to list the discrete NA's.

          The whole point is that, if your NA was "respond to Partner X", everytime you saw that on your list, you'd have to internally recollect "oh yeah, that involves reviewing loan docs, reviewing lease; reviewing complaint; draftingletter to tenant; preparing outline of loan requirements." And that recollection takes alot of energy and time and the nagging fear that you might just forget one of those things creates a good deal of constant low-level anxiety.

          GTD simply suggests that it takes less time and energy to write those things out on a NA list once, than having to remember them everytime you sit down to work on "responding to Partner X"

          Comment


          • #6
            Molly, I'm an estate planning attorney, and end up with similar issues.

            What I would do is something in between what everybody else said.

            Think of all the subtasks for that client, from the client's point of view. Some are related to one goal or outcome, some are completely separate.

            Like for example, I am working on a sale transaction where I have to draft a pile of different sale-related documents, work out of the appropriate date of value for the appraiser to use and get the appraiser going, and draft trusts to be used in the sale transaction (which will be sent to the client separately from the sale documents). I also have to do that client's revocable trust.

            For me, I would have the following next actions:

            1. Draft revocable trust. That stands on its own, totally unrelated.
            2. Draft irrevocable trusts for sale. Although it is related to the sale, it can go forward or get stalled out somewhat independently of the other items, and it has a different goal. The goal is to get sent to the client for review, and it will go separately from the sale docs.
            3. Draft sale docs. Even though this may take 40 hours to draft, and have lots of smaller components, I don't break it up, there's no point. I just work on it and plug away when I can. The next step (give to partner to review) won't happen until ALL the sale docs are drafted, so there's really no point of having a separate NA for each doc, unless I want a way to track which ones I have already drafted or delegated to be drafted or whatever.
            4. Appraiser stuff. Although this is also related to teh sale, it is sort of a separate side track to the document preparation. At different points in time, this NA will be titled:

            "Smith: Appraisal: Draft Request for Proposal";
            Smith: Appraisal: (wf bids back);
            Smith: Appraisal: review bids;
            Smith: Appraisal: figure out valuation date;
            Smith: Appraisal:review appraisal; Smith: Appraisal: (wf revisions by appraiser) etc.

            I just keep changing the title of the NA as it winds its way through the system. (And in the note portion of the NA, I keep a few notes on status so I can CYA later or find my place if I forget what's going on.

            So think about how the various pieces are related on a timeline, and which ones are closely related versus only slightly related. I'm assuming the letter to tenant is about the complaint, so those would go together; you can't draft the letter until you understand what the complaint is about. Rather than putting 'Draft letter to tenant" on your @waitingfor list, I would put it in the note section of "review complaint." Your NA would be:

            CLIENTNAME: Complaint re smelly dumpster - review complaint.

            And in the note section:
            12/20: PartnerX assigned to me. Need to review complaint. Then, need to draft letter to client.
            12/21: gave draft letter to partner X.

            (When Partner X loses the letter and comes down the hall to yell at you for not doing it, you can easily point out that you gave him the letter on 12/21, rather than fumbling around looking foolish because you can't remember whether or not you gave it to him (I'm always forgetting stuff like that). Sometimes this can backfire, obviously! But more often than not, they're impressed that you're organized.

            Hope this helps and didn't put you to sleep - sorry to be long winded!
            Taxgeek

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks and Follow up questions

              Thanks for all of the input. Your comments are all very helpful.

              Here is my follow-up question(s): It seems that the natural work flow for me is to work on a project basis. Not to work on a NA basis (i.e., not to sit down and make all my phone calls, etc.). So I sit down at my desk to work on Client X's stuff because it is the most critical or the next highest priority. That may entail several different types of NAs (as in my example: reviewing, drafting, conferring, etc.). Therefore it would seem cumbersome to sit down to work on Client X's project and then have to scan several different lists to know what the NA is (e.g., @waiting for, @review; @computer, etc). Thus, I can see the benefit of a modified GTD approach described by Esquire (where you simply list the next actions under the particular client project. But I don't know if I am missing the point of the whole GTD approach or perhaps not fully understanding the way the NA lists function.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think that the main beef of GTD is changing perspective and giving working by context a try. I don't find it to be the most natural thing either, especially since I am at my desk all day most days with access to my computer, e-mail and phone. But on days that I travel, I start to really see the beauty of GTD. If I can keep that perspective when I'm in my office, I think I can get a lot done.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Most of my projects are related to particular clients, so I organize by client. A client may have multiple projects (e.g., will, real estate transaction). In most cases, I would jot down all of these next actions and assign them to the appropriate project unless they were all something I had to work on today. If I knew I had to do them all today, then I would just jot them down on a piece of paper and work off of that list. If something didn't get done by the end of the day, I would add it to my next action list or at least throw it in my inbox for processing the next morning. I would put the meeting with the partner on my calendar for the next day (in the agreed upon time slot or as an untimed event if the time is not set). In the note section of the event, I would put the agenda to be discussed during the meeting.

                  As for listing things by context versus listing things by project, ideally you would want to be able to do both. If you are working on Outlook, for example, you can assign both a context category and a project category. Then when you are working on a project, you can filter to see all next actions for a particular project. If you have fifteen minutes to spare before a meeting and are not sure what to do, you can switch over and filter things by context. For example, you can list all your calls and review your list to see if there are any quick telephone calls you can make.

                  I use the pigpog method, so it's very easy for me to see all of my next actions for a project. For the most part, my very next action is in the task header and other next actions are in the note section. The task is then categorized by the context of the next action listed in the header. For a few projects, I list multiple next actions on my contexts lists, but I am always careful to mark the additional next actions so I never delete my primary project task.

                  Like you, I generally work on multiple next actions for a particular project, but there are definitely times when I am more in a mood to make telephone calls or do some legal research. In this situation, it is helpful to be able to view the tasks by context.

                  It's true that GTD requires spending time working on your lists. But as you implement your system, the input should be fairly quick, and consistent review will ensure that these items do not get overlooked. It would only take me three or four minutes to input the items you discussed with the partner. If they are worth doing and you have committed to doing them, then they are worth tracking in GTD.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Thanks and Follow up questions

                    Originally posted by MollyLolly
                    Thanks for all of the input. Your comments are all very helpful.

                    Here is my follow-up question(s): It seems that the natural work flow for me is to work on a project basis. Not to work on a NA basis (i.e., not to sit down and make all my phone calls, etc.). So I sit down at my desk to work on Client X's stuff because it is the most critical or the next highest priority. That may entail several different types of NAs (as in my example: reviewing, drafting, conferring, etc.). Therefore it would seem cumbersome to sit down to work on Client X's project and then have to scan several different lists to know what the NA is (e.g., @waiting for, @review; @computer, etc). Thus, I can see the benefit of a modified GTD approach described by Esquire (where you simply list the next actions under the particular client project. But I don't know if I am missing the point of the whole GTD approach or perhaps not fully understanding the way the NA lists function.
                    Molly using your approach above, the way I would do this in Ecco Pro is to have one view where you would place all of your Next Actions, which are date stamped automatically as you enter them. As you do your review of your In Box, you would assign your tasks to the appropriate client folder. I would create a notepad in Ecco Pro called Clients, that could be filtered to show anything that has yet to be completed, or is overdue. It would be your choice. As you work through the issues for that particular client you would mark those tasks as completed and they would drop from view. They would still be in the Client folder, but would be filtered from view.

                    At some point you will want to archive everything completed for a client, which can easily be accomplished in Ecco Pro. If you would like me to draft a template for your review, I would be more than happy to give it a shot. Just drop me an email.

                    Comment

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