I Am a Recovering Packrat!
Our firm (me?) has retained files dating back to 1968. I have about 20 years of magazines that I never look back at. My non-lawyer son once asked me if I wanted to keep a telephone pink slip that was five years old. I had three work offices piled high with stuff I was saving to get to later. In addition to my “real” office, which I never used, I kept my computer in the library and a separate financial office. At home, I still have several pairs of bellbottoms—remember them? Obviously, I found it difficult to throw things out. You get the picture. Is there a more classic definition of a packrat? I expect there are other lawyers like me (you know who you are).
We had a firm meeting at the close of 2006. One of the topics of discussion was the state of my offices. We all agreed that this situation was in crisis. But how could I give up my habits of many years? Fortunately, my wife Gail and I were going to St. Thomas on business for two weeks at the beginning of January. The short-term solution was that the folks in my office would do the dirty work.
When I returned, guess what? The library was clean. My computer was now in my “real” office. All of the valuable things plus all of the junk that I had accumulated were now safely in boxes, some 18 of them.
I now meet clients in my “real” office, filled with impressive memorabilia. The computer is used there also. The library is usable by everyone in our firm. I’ve started trying to dispose of things at home. The question: Is our firm better off? Am I better off? Did I start better habits?
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this experience:
• Do it now! Read that document or letter and don’t save it for later because you’ll never get around to it.
• Organize, organize, organize. Clean up your desk at least once a week if not more often. Make a note on your computer to do this. Enlist your assistant to remind you.
• Make sure you have a file system and make sure someone files frequently. Loose papers destroy order.
• Utilize your computer to leave reminder notes and update your software if necessary with new programs.
Will my packrat recovery continue or will I have a relapse to my old habits? Stay tuned.