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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Boot These Five Dumb Practices...

Here's the full piece and a listing of the 5:

E-mail: a tree's worst nightmare. In one particular case, I have more than 700 e-mails waiting to be entered into the electronic database. After entering them, I must print them all and place them in correspondence folders. This is in addition to more than 3,000 e-mails I've already processed over the case's three-year life.
--How 'bout just properly archiving/saving e-mail in their digital format??

Correspondence deja vu. I receive a letter by fax, enter it into the database and file a paper copy. Three days later, I receive by mail what appears to be a second copy of the same letter. But a good legal secretary never assumes two documents are identical just because they appear so at first glance. It takes a careful comparison to be sure.

If only I could have back all the time I've spent analyzing incoming mail to make sure it is, indeed, something we've already received by e-mail, fax or both. And this doesn't even count the time I spend sending my own lawyers' correspondence by two or three different means.
--I still see this one a good bit...I think the only time it's justified is there are some real estate contracts (I think the form contract that most Chicago Realtors use) where "notice" is only proper by fax if a copy of the letter is sent via first-class mail.

E-file, then refile. Opposing counsel e-files a lengthy brief and appendix with the court. Instantly, my lawyer and I receive an e-mail containing a link to the filed document, and I print the file-marked copy. But three days later, a 6-inch stack of paper arrives in the mail from opposing counsel -- the same brief and appendix, not file-marked. It's trash I can't throw away. Somehow, I have to shoehorn it into my bulging file cabinets.

The $2,000 typewriter. I'm asked to revise and prepare for filing a Microsoft Word document someone else created. Upon opening it, I find a hodgepodge of hard returns, tabs, page breaks, manual numbering and direct formatting. I feverishly rework the document, because I understand the pitfalls of treating Word like a typewriter, and I've seen the embarrassment that can result. Then, I pray the original typist doesn't work on the document again before it's safely filed with the court.

The paper chase. I send a lengthy document to the printer I share with eight other people. The phone rings, then one of my lawyers needs something, and I forget my print job. An hour later, I check the printer and my document has vanished. After a fruitless search of the piles of unclaimed print jobs littering the table, I give up and send my job again. This time, I rush to the printer to claim my pages before they can disappear, and I find them mysteriously reordered. The only way I can ensure they're in the correct sequence is by printing them a third time.

When will the bean counters realize shared printers are more costly, not less? Aside from the reams of wasted paper, the gallons of toner and the needless wear on printer components, there are the hours staff and lawyers spend printing everything multiple times and sifting through stacks of unclaimed pages.


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