The choice is yours—do you need change? Want change? Want it badly? Ok, then...come clean with yourself. Take the first steps TODAY to break the cycle. Make a plan with a schedule and let at least one other reliable person know of your commitment. Ongoing discussion with your confidante will ensure that this is not just another daydream.
How do you keep from falling back into old patterns?
Chronic procrastinators oftentimes need to focus on routine support systems like:
- Calendaring systems: Pick one and use it routinely.
- Coordinating with other members of the legal team:
- Surround yourself with a great team; delegate clearly.
- Reciprocate; be sure your team can count on you.
- Talk to your superiors; better to warn them of problems sooner than later.
- If you are solo, talk to a trusted colleague, taking care not to break client confidentiality.
- Take a time management course.
- Select cases and clients you know you can handle.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Don’t kid yourself into thinking that as long as you are working efficiently on some other file, the one you are avoiding can wait.
- Tell your logical self frequently that procrastination only compounds problems and heightens stress.
How do you jump back into files that have lingered?
- Start today; it’s your only viable choice.
- Focus on objectives, not obstacles.
- With your case list in hand, identify why you avoid a particular case. Do you:
- Dislike the client?
- Doubt your ability to deliver a solution?
- Smell a potential conflict of interest?
- Fear you already gave the client bad advice?
- Come clean with your legal team; tell your supervising attorney or partner what the problem is and ask for input and support.
- Contact your client; recognize that he or she would rather hear from you sooner than later.
- Don’t waste your client’s time with excuses. Quickly apologize and cut to the timeframe and results you seek. Let the client update you on any new information.
Why look for a solution?
- Stress bleeds into all aspects of your life: your clients; legal team; friends and family.
- Guilt and shame are worthless if they do not spur change.
- Routine procrastination negatively affects your reputation, as well as the firm’s.
- “Failure to communicate” is a leading cause of disciplinary actions and malpractice suits.
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How do you overcome procrastination?
- Admit your habit, forgive yourself, and be confident that you will change.
- List the files you avoid; create a timeframe for elimination of the backlog; chip away at the list every day.
- Dig in: spend the first hour of your day on the file you most want to avoid.
The Pa. Rules of Professional Conduct
Read the Rules of Professional Conduct (and Comments), especially those addressing obligations of diligence and communications. The statements after the rule numbers below simply offer the essence of the rule and comment.
- Rule 1.4 (a)(3): Keep your client reasonably informed about the status of the matter he or she placed in your hands.
- Comment 1 to Rule 1.3: Pursue Client matters despite personal inconvenience; be dedicated and zealous.
- Comment 2 to Rule 1.3: Control your workload; take only what you can handle competently.
- Comment 3 to Rule 1.3: Procrastination is widely resented, and causes needless client anxiety.
- Comment 4 to Rule 1.3: Carry your case to conclusion.