I liken my first few months articling to my time surfing in Australia. I get the same pangs of excitement and nervous energy waiting for new assignments to come in as I do sitting on my board in a calm ocean, waiting for a set of waves to roll in. Every wave, like every assignment, is different, with its own set of challenges. You just don’t know what you’ll get until it arrives. That being said, you never want to be getting in the water without stacking the odds in your favour to make sure that you are able to perform confidently in the moment.
"You need a workflow tracking system that can save you from drowning in files."
You select the right gear and track the water conditions ahead of time so you are sure to take on waves that you can handle. Taking on new assignments is no different. You need a workflow tracking system that can save you from drowning in files.
At MB, we are very lucky to be given a high level of responsibility and even full carriage of our own files. While we have a great support network, through our Ottawa and Toronto offices, we are expected to keep on top of things, and when asked to take on an assignment, we’re all too familiar with assigning lawyers’ four magical words, “Do you have capacity?” Finding a tracking/tickler system has been key for me or I would be taking on more (or less) than I can handle. At each moment, I need to know each of my assignment’s outstanding tasks, its deadline as well as priority amongst other assignments. Keeping track would be daunting without a solid system in place.
Tried & True
Using Outlook’s calendar to manage assignment deadlines has been great, but for anything more than that, I needed to find an additional system. In my first week of articling, I prepared for the inevitable rush of assignments by testing various tracking systems. I tested out firm systems used by various lawyers and students from the Ottawa and Toronto offices including spreadsheets, tickler apps, scheduling apps and Outlook’s task manager. At one point I felt like the Rain Man of file management, and it got too complicated. So I simplified my approach and reverted to a ‘system’ I used during law school. It is a combination of the firm’s Practice Manager, my Outlook Calendar and some written lists.
Catching a wave (aka new file), can be daunting, but if prepared, you will be able to handle what’s to come with confidence. As it approaches, take a deep breath; find your courage, commit, and find the sweet spot for what inevitably will be the ride of your life. To quote one of the greats, Michael Angelo (the Ninja Turtle) “Cowabunga!”