Checklists every lawyer needs

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In his article in Lawyers USAJim Calloway observes that while most lawyers use lists and checklists in their practice, they don’t use them enough.

I agree.

Checklists can make you a better lawyer and make you more money. Checklists help lawyers

  • Avoid mistakes
  • Save time
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Impress clients
  • Train temps/new hires, open a new office
  • Increase profits

Every practice should have these checklists:

  • How to open a new file (what goes in the file (and where), letters to send, what to give new client to take home, what to send them, what to calendar, etc.; your intake form is a checklist of information to ask the client)
  • How to close a file (final letters/documents, what to remove/give to client, what to scan, archiving, storage, destruct date)
  • Handling leads/inquiries (what to say, what to do, what to offer, what to send, what to track)
  • How to prepare documents (complaints, responses, motions; trusts, agreements, letters, etc.)

If you handle litigation, you need checklists for:

  • Issues/causes of action
  • Possible defenses
  • Preparation of Complaint/Response
  • Discovery (each element)
  • Trial (pre-trial motions, other motions, evidence, witnesses, jury instructions, closing argument)
  • Post-trial (motions, appeals, judgement, liens, bonds, collection)
  • Settlement

For a transactional practice:

  • Information to request
  • Documents to request
  • Documents to prepare
  • Filing/registration fees
  • Timeline
  • Letters to clients
  • Letters to others

As you can see, this is a very broad list, a place to start. Start with the easy and obvious; add more later. Eventually, you  should have checklists for every aspect of your practice.

An additional benefit of creating checklists is that in the process of creating and updating them, you learn so much about what you and how you can do it better. Checklists will never replace you–your experience, your intuition, your quick thinking–but they can make your job a lot easier.

What checklists do you use in your practice? How have they helped you? What checklists will you put on your “to do” list?

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