Paralegals-Feeling Buried Alive? Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload

Practice Management Advice from an Expert
2 billion email users worldwide send 294 billion emails daily; that works out to 2.8 million per second. Everyone will agree that they are sending and receiving their “fair” share; some more than others. But what does that mean in concrete terms?
Buried Alive? Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload
Article written by Tracy Parks, Principal and founder of Simplicated, LLC. She is a productivity consultant; coach, speaker and trainer, helping businesses and professionals streamline management of email, tasks information and meetings and optimize workflow practices.

The average business professional will spend about 3 hours each day processing email, reading and writing about 30,000 emails each year.
Indeed some of us feel buried alive.

Recently a client of mine, CEO of a 300+ organization shared he had “solved his email problem”, and, of course, I replied “tell me more”. He shared that during a 30 day trip abroad he asked his administrative assistant to only allow “truly pertinent” email to flow his direction. Upon his return, 400+ emails that did not move his way during the month remained in his inbox. He removed those from the inbox and placed them in a folder. Sixty days later he had the time to review these messages, sorting them by sender. He noted there were one or two messages that contained information of pertinence, but, none that truly had bearing on his work or the job at hand in a critical way; “nothing had fallen through the cracks”.

I’m not suggesting that you ignore messages that come your way, and, the majority of us don’t have the support of a top notch admin that can “gate-keep” our inbox. I am suggesting a few tips to help master email overload:
First and foremost, keep in mind that every message in your inbox reflects some other person’s priorities and request for your time, but not necessarily your priorities. If you use the inbox as your task/priority list, you really are abdicating control to the initiators of email.
Why not jump back into the driver’s seat?

8 Best Practices for Processing Email:
  1. Start your day by checking your calendar and task list first; then dedicate the first 90 minutes of the day to your highest priority work.

  2. Process email 3-4 times per day with the intention of doing one of four things: filing the message for later reference, acting on the message if you can respond in two minutes or less, creating a next action for messages taking longer than a 2 minute response, and tossing the rest. Remember this approach as File, Act, and Toss; use it to process each and every incoming message.

  3. Email discipline requires an intuitive, manageable folder structure for filing messages, a dependable task system for managing tasks and priorities, and, the ability to ruthlessly toss the unnecessary. If you lack any of the above, I unabashedly suggest you connect with a productivity coach.

  4. Leverage the power of whatever email program you use. Learn techniques which allow you to instantly convert emails to tasks, appointments or contacts, to color code messages by sender, to filter high noise low value email messages into a folder that will by-pass your inbox and you can review later (think “CC’s, newsletters etc.). 

  5. Send email that is clear, concise and actionable. The quality of email you send has significant bearing on the quantity of email you receive. A long winded monologue of text means your message is likely to be overlooked; the reader will miss the action or initiate another email in your direction to ask for clarification. Craft an email using bullets, formatting and placing the “action” upfront. If it takes more than three minutes to read the message you are about to send; streamline the message.

  6. Send less email and you will receive less email. For every 5 emails you jettison into cyber space, you will receive 3 responses; much like a boom a- rang. Statistically if you eliminate 1 out of every 5 outgoing messages, you will experience a 10% reduction in incoming email volume. A little self-management is in order. Does everyone in your organization need to be included in the announcement that your left over birthday cake is in the 4th floor break room? How often do you default to replying to all? What about those “trivial” thank you messages, jokes and daily words of wisdom?

  7. Strengthen the subject line as it should be the headline of your communication and therefore should summarize the content to follow. Studies indicate that if you start by creating a clear subject line, the body of your message will be more concise.

  8. Utilize the correct communication tool and avoid the default to email. Pick up the phone, walk down the hall, or coordinate a conference call. Using email for a group discussion or in an attempt to reach consensus is a “time vampire”.

Be encouraged; email can be managed more effectively!
Yes, it will require some self-management.
Even a cultural shift in email is possible, and, again coaching, training and discussion within your team or organization is the starting point. The time you invest will pay for itself within weeks if not within a few days’.
The tips in this article can be implemented immediately, choose one or two and integrate them into your daily routine today!

Paralegal, E-Discovery, and Lit Support Students: Free Study Flash Cards from Quizlet

I love finding helpful tools for paralegals that will help them succeed.  I stumbled upon Quizlet the other day.  I had not been to the website in a very long time and honestly had forgotten about it.  It's a great tool to use when studying for tests or to up your game at your job and add to your knowledge base.  It's completely free to use. 

So, what is Quizlet? 

From the website: 

"Welcome to Quizlet, the world’s largest student and teacher online learning community. Every month, over 20 million active learners from 130 countries practice and master more than 140 million study sets of content on every conceivable subject and topic".

I found hundreds of quizzes related to paralegals, e-discovery, contract law and more.  I gave a few a try and found them helpful. I have shared a few links below, but be sure to do a search to see if there is a quiz to meet your specific needs.  You can even create your own quiz and share it with fellow students. 

Here are a few links to get you started:

Paralegals Making a Difference: 6 Ways Your Paralegal Career Can Impact the World

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead
Business_Team_AdobeStock_52072109.pngOne measure of success is the ability to do meaningful work with a lasting impact. A paralegal career gives countless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of many people. The role of the paralegal in the legal field often directly intersects with individual lives, local communities, and even the future direction of the law.
When we think of paralegals who changed the world, most people are familiar with the work of Erin Brockovich in spearing the effort to help those affected by contaminated water, or the whistleblowing activities of Merrell Williams in bringing down the deceptive practices of the Tobacco industry. Yet, the day to day work of countless, unsung heroes is a common theme in the paralegal profession.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), expresses a commitment to the involvement of paralegals in pro bono work, as “paralegals can benefit the community, the private bar, the judiciary, and the paralegal profession by volunteering their time, abilities, and skills as trained legal professionals.”[i]
The NFPA hosts an annual Pro Bono conference and an award is given to a paralegal for Pro Bono involvement. During the 2011 conference, NFPA recognized the work of paralegals in “Innocence Projects” across the country, whose aim is to provide legal representation for people wrongfully convicted of crimes[ii].
A multitude of organizations rely on the pro-bono and paid advocacy work of paralegals addressing a variety of social issues, such as the needs of children, families, the elderly, the military, immigrants, and even international causes. In addition, nonprofit legal firms often hire paralegals to do advocacy work on behalf of disadvantaged populations.
In their day to day work, paralegals develop an intimate and personal view of the legal challenges. This is a valuable tool to the lawyers they serve, and their clients, because it gives a more intimate, human view of the law.
A recent article, “Paralegal Superstars: An Ode to the Unsung Heroes of Law” in The National Law Review likens paralegals to the backbone of a law firm; their detailed work keeps the cog of many firms running smoothly. Bermudez speaks of the personal connection many paralegals develop to their clients’ lives:
In some cases, you will literally and metaphorically hold a client’s hand through a case. . . By the nature of their work, paralegals have extended contact with clients. In some cases, you will be intimately familiar with a client’s personal life. You might have to deal with a client going through a difficult time in their life. Family law paralegals, for example, will guide a client through often distressing divorce and custody proceedings. You will help people draft wills, get compensation for their injuries, or file an immigration application. Some paralegals help the most vulnerable people in our society find justice. -Eddy Bermudez, May 7, 2017.[iii]
There are a variety of opportunities for paralegals to make a difference in their communities, both as volunteers and as employed activists.
Here are 6 examples of the grass-roots work paralegals do:
1. Pro Bono work. Supporting Pro Bon work gives back to local communities in immeasurable ways, and at the same time, is a valuable career tool. According to Adam Friedl, of Pro Bono Net in NAFPA’s 2014 annual conference webinar, the demand for paralegals in Pro Bono work is on the rise, and this opportunity provides valuable growth in professional development.[iv] In addition, the NAFPA instituted a guideline in their Codes of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, that paralegals should aspire to contribute 24 hours to community service work annually.[v] Volunteering under the direction of a lawyer, might afford ways to build substantive skills such as negotiation, give exposure to new experiences like jury trial, or provide ways to build your resume in particular fields.[vi] Friedl adds that when considering employment and the opportunity to do pro bono work, paralegals might consider the size of the firm, ways to present opportunities to in-house legal teams, or their unique skills, such as a second language.
2. Serving as Paralegal Community Advocates – Paralegals play vital roles in advancing community initiatives through their work in supporting advocacy projects. For instance, the Equal Justice Center in Dallas, Texas, a “non-profit law firm and systemic justice organization that represents low-wage working men and women who are exploited in the workplace. . .” hires paralegals to create outreach strategies, assist lawyers with discovery and investigations, as well as interact with communities to build relationships with disadvantaged or immigrant populations[vii]. The work paralegals do is often at the frontlines of advocacy efforts, and is an important part of legal social justice efforts.
3. Directly provide relief to their local communities. Paralegals can volunteer their time during national disasters by supporting organizations such as the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center. This organization serves the important role of linking communities facing unexpected circumstances to legal organizations, enabling families to normalize their lives again.[viii]
4. Paralegals can often have extended opportunities to serve causes they care about.Paralegals might help specific populations, such as those who serve our nation. For example, the Wills for Local Heroes program started after September 11, 2001, provides free estate planning to first responders, a large percentage of whom often do not prepare wills in advance[ix]. A variety of other initiatives, such as the Military Pro-Bono Project assists junior-enlisted, active-duty personnel with civil legal issues, many whom may be serving abroad in zones of conflict while addressing legal concerns[x]. Other organizations address the needs of veterans, caregivers, and military families, as well as a broad range of groups that give back to society without asking for anything in return.
5. Paralegals can have direct influence on changes in their profession. Some paralegals take it upon themselves to change rules or access to opportunities in the paralegal domain, affecting the future of the profession. One such paralegal is Charlene Sabini, who embarked on a mission to persuade her local Bar Association in Oregon to extend ‘affiliated membership’ to non-lawyer support professionals, allowing them greater access to educational opportunities, invitations to events, and greater visibility in the legal community[xi]. She shares her experience in her article, “Making a Difference 101”:
“The growth of the legal assistant/paralegal profession is now, in some firms, greater than merely a secretarial slot. We are no longer simply assistants to a profession—we are a profession unto ourselves. . .””[xii]
6. Paralegals act as change agents on a global level. According to Stanford Graduate School of Business, paralegals have affected wide-reaching changes by empowering marginalized groups with legal resources and advocating for people in historically difficult periods, such as during apartheid and conflict in Sierra Leone.[xiii] U.S. Non-Profit organizations such as the Open Society Justice Initiative work with Community-based paralegals in other countries, to support human rights initiatives and the rule of law[xiv]. Although, paralegals cannot directly perform some of this work in the US, they can volunteer time to organizations and initiatives that do so.
The paralegal profession is rewarding in that it provides individuals diverse opportunities to do work related to specific causes close to their heart, where they wish to make an enduring impression.

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