HOW TO DEAL WITH OFFICE OVERWHELM

By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga

As a busy mama and lawyer, there is always so much to do and so little time to do it. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done. Overwhelm can strike at any moment, whether we are working or getting ready for bed. Some women attorneys report that they are sometimes awoken from sleep worrying about all that needs to get done. 

The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, try some of these tips:


1. Do a Case Review

When panic strikes and I feel like I am behind in work in some way, I immediately run a case report and do a self-case review. (I cannot more strongly emphasize the need for case management software, which I discuss here.) I run through every case that is open to check what needs to get done. I highlight every case that needs to be worked on and make a list of all of the tasks that I need to complete. 

This is my number one go-to when I feel overwhelmed. Now, when that anxious feeling creeps in, I immediately jump on my computer and get to reviewing my cases. It has always, yes always (I know the word “always” is a hard one to say as an attorney), calmed me down and made me realize that I am in a much better place than I thought I was. 


2. Prioritize

After doing a case review, determine which tasks need to be completed right away. There are always going to be things on the “to do” list, however some are more urgent than others. Remember to include small tasks that have been pushed aside a few times in the past when urgent matters took precedence and sprinkle them among the pressing items that you need to complete. 


3. Delegate

It is very likely that you are doing at least one thing a day that someone else can and should do for you. Ask yourself throughout the day, “Is this something that someone else could do?” If the answer is yes, either delegate the task immediately or begin to figure out how you can consistently delegate that task in the future. 

For example, in my office we send FYI Letters (check out our U Visa Client Letters) to clients about each step of their cases. It is a template letter where only the address and names need to be updated. Sometimes it is tempting to do it “just to get it done.” However, it is not just updating the template. The letter has to be printed, signed, and scanned. The envelope needs to be addressed, stamped, and placed into the mail. When you look at all of the steps, you can see that it is time consuming! This is especially true because oftentimes there is an issue: the printer or the scanner doesn’t respond right away, you can’t find the stamps, the client moved and for some reason the address hasn’t been updated in your system, etc. Doing tasks that someone else can do eats away from more pressing items in the office that only you can handle. 


4. Decline Difficult Clients

Most attorneys can tell which clients will be difficult right from the beginning. It is best to decline those cases right from the get-go. The amount of time and energy will be disproportionate to the amount of money that you will earn from working on the case. It is a good idea to determine if you are taking on the wrong clients for the practice that you would like to have. (check out this article about working with the wrong clients

If you are currently dealing with difficult clients, check out some tips here.


5. Turn off your phone

In our office we have recently created a no cell phone policy. We were all getting distracted by the beeps and light ups of notifications, text messages, emails, and more, and even the smallest pop up on the screen can break concentration. In order to move quickly through a task, you need to get focused and move the distractions out of the way. We have a drawer that we have designated for cell phones and everyone gets to pull his or her phone out once every two hours for 5 minutes. 

Since I have a 1-year-old I don’t want my phone to be completely off, so I keep the ringer on, but put it in the drawer. I have found that having the ringer on makes me check my phone less than having it on vibrate because there’s no need to “double check” to make sure nothing has come through. 

How do you deal with overwhelm in your law practice? Leave a comment below!


About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:

Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.