Having grown up with 11 siblings in a very busy household, it was the norm to have our dining room table piled high with processed laundered clothing. My mother worked full time. There was precious little time to sort each item, fold it, and place it in our drawers. Instead, when the Maytag™ was finished drying the clothes, mom would pile them on top of the table. You were left to your own devices to find your underwear, socks, pants and shirts as they would be in there somewhere.
It was a mad rush in the early morning before school to find clean clothes. Of course, as a child who only changed clothes when I felt I really had to, the socks I wore for several days eventually got to be stiff, finally deposited in the Maytag monster, and exchanged for a new pair. But they would never be found in my dresser drawer neatly folded and paired up. No, they would be in the dining room on the table, piled high with the other laundry.
Fortunately, ALL the socks were always separated from the rest of the laundry on the table and placed in a paper grocery bag and they were ALL MIXED TOGETHER. As a child, I didn’t know what possessed my parents to purchase socks that were all different colors, but my guess is that there were discount bulk packages and they did this to save money. If my memory serves me well, there were NO duplicate pairs. So imagine trying to find one pair of socks out of 300 that were all mixed together and do that when you were running late for school! And, anyone who does laundry knows that dryers EAT SOCKS. Many socks were all alone without a mate. As a child, I never saw fit to plan ahead and sort the socks the night before I needed them. No, it only became apparent that I needed socks when I picked them up and they were so stiff in the toes that even I didn’t want to wear them again.
So, you would have to turn the sack upside down and dump the contents on the floor next to the table. You got down on your knees and prayed to the “sock gods”. You picked one or two colors and began madly working through the pile while one of your siblings are doing the same thing. Socks are flying everywhere until, eureka, you find the match (or even a close match). You run upstairs to finish getting dressed and run out the door to school so you are not late. What was left behind is a pile of multicolored socks which my mother returned to the paper bag for another day. Many days I would go to school with mismatched socks or socks with holes in them. As a Catholic in grade school, we had to go to mass every school day. We kneeled to receive communion leaving our mismatched socks exposed at our ankles for all to see. It is a wonder that we were never teased about it.
My wife has commented to our friends, on more than one occasion, that she finds it very interesting and strange how I insist that all my socks be exactly the same brand and color so that matching them is a mindless exercise. Now, do you know why?
Are you dealing with a sock bag in your practice? Too many attorneys have the equivalent of sock bags all over their offices. Students in my Solo By Design™ class visit attorneys in their offices all over the United States. A common theme they report, concerning many of the established attorneys is that they still use paper files. Students comment on how they have files on top of their desks. They have files on top of the office furniture. They have files on the floor at their feet and everywhere else. My students are aghast at the chaos in those offices and wonder how anyone can find anything in those disorganized piles of files. Of course, the attorney operating in that environment will tell you that he or she knows exactly where to find every file as the piles are sorted by subject matter and piled according the last file to be acted upon. They may be right, but all that paper can only be accessed by one person at a time. Only one person knows where information can be found, and if something happens to the principal either temporarily or permanently, it becomes a tactical nightmare trying to pick up where the attorney with the “key” to the organization is gone or unavailable.
Avoid the sack of Socks In Your Practice!
First, just deal with as few “colors” as possible. Limit your scope of representation by defining your practice with no more than two or three areas of practice. This increases your efficiency in so many ways. Staying current with your area of practice is far more doable. Marketing can be targeted with greater focus on client’s unique needs. Define yourself as the solution to meet those unique needs. This limits the number of courts, judges and attorneys who are associated with your practice. You need fewer practice aids and resources to be on tap than if you are a general practitioner. Narrow your focus and finding your way with greater efficiency will be the result. You can rapidly pair your skills with your clients needs for a more perfect match. Less diversity means greater simplicity.
Second, go paperless. The money you will save in paper, ink, storage and ease of access will make you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Today there are high speed and very efficient scanners which are not that expensive and can scan materials so that they can be searched using conversational search terms. They can be accessed from anywhere if connected to the cloud. Multiple individuals can find them and access them all at the same time. You can’t do that with paper. And storage and preservation of paper files is costly and risky. This takes them out of the ‘bag’ and puts them “neatly folded and accessible in your drawer”.
Third, get organized using time-management techniques. There are numerous systems available and multiple resources that you can use to bring you into the 21st century. There are apps, downloadable software, cloud services and paper based planners that you can access. For more details about how to set up a time management system see my blog time-management-forget-about-it-part-ii Using those techniques, you will not be searching for clean “socks” on an emergency basis. Planning and organizing makes all the difference and allows you to sleep at night not worrying about finding “socks” at the last minute before trial.