OTHER ESSENTIAL CHECKLISTS: DEALING WITH THOSE "FISH FILES"
Earlier posts looked at the essential checklists prepared by delegates at the “how to get sued” conference. Missing from those checklists was any discussion of one real problem for practitioners that can often lead to problems – the “fish file”. That is the file that you spend a long time trying to avoid, and starts to smell. It is an issue I addressed when I had a guest lecture spot in Kerry Underwood’s “Underwood on Jackson” tour in Sheffield on Friday.
Everyone agreed that they had, at least, one file which had a force field around it, preventing them from approaching it and carrying on the necessary work. (Some people even looked these files into cases – called their “naughty files” – locked away so no-one could look at them while they were on holiday).
ANGLING FOR AN ANSWER
We have looked at this issue before in Surviving Mitchell 16: overcoming procrastionation. That links through to much useful information on the subject, particularly from the United States, where this is recognised as a major issue and potential source of stress and mental health problems.
Rather than teams deal with different issues each addressed the same two issues (1) fish files; (2) “defensive litigation”. The teams were:
1. Cutting Edge.
2. Kerry’ Heroes.
3. M.U.D. (this was an acronym based on items in the room, I can only remember that the last word was “decanter”).
THE LIST: THE COMBINED EFFORT OF ALL THE TEAMS
1. If you are stuck ask for help. Get a second opinion.
2. The firm should carry out regular file reviews.
3. Delegate the work if necessary (but don’t “dump” it on junior colleagues”).
4. If you are avoiding a file, make an appointment with yourself specifically to do that task.
5. Segment the work into pieces.
6. Have an office “swop-shop” where files can be exchanged if necessary.
7. Ensure that there is an open culture in the office where problem files can be discussed.
8. Make an appointment with the client (it was felt that this could encourage action and also give rise to encouragement and inspiration).
9. Go to counsel [I should explain that a number of my colleagues were also taking part, I accept their vested interest].
10. Deal with matters when you are at your best.
11. Ensure that everyone has a manageable case load.
OTHER ESSENTIAL CHECKLISTS
There are a large number of checklists/guides in the earlier blog post on this issue. Also take a look at The Daily Record: tips for lawyers to avoid procrastination.
1. Recognising you have a problem is a major part of the battle.
2. “Fashion a starting point”. Start on a simple administrative task on the file and work from there.
3. Create a sense of urgency – or delegate the file.
4. Break the work down into segments.
5. Reward yourself when the work is done.