Organize Your Legal Office For Success

Whether you?re a solo law practice or whether you work within a larger firm, getting and staying organized could lead you toward higher productivity and more billable hours.

Time is in short supply for lawyers, paralegals, and court reporters. You continually have client demands on the books, and you may feel pressure to bring in more clients and up their billable hours, but how do you do that when you?re already feeling overwhelmed and overbooked?

Organizational skills and organizing your law office will:

  1. Feel more in control
  2. Find needed information more quickly
  3. Clear your head
  4. Offer a better first impression for prospective clients and colleagues
  5. Amp up your productivity. You may find you have more time for yourself because you?re better organized at the office.

What can you do to become better organized?

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week; how you use those hours will either lead to a feeling of accomplishment or a feeling of overwhelm, for different cases like criminal cases or accidents and getting help from resources as can also be helpful for this.

Productivity as not as much about managing time as it is managing tasks and your schedule.

Organize your desk. A CNN Money survey found ?the average person loses an hour a day because of disorganization.? Can you afford to lose that daily hour?

Consider the items you use on a regular basis and place those items within reach. Limit the number of personal items on your desk, they will eventually overwhelm your workspace. File items you don?t use regularly. Make certain your desk chair, monitor and keyboard are ergonomically aligned; feeling better will help productivity.

Your desk is your command center. It should be up to flow smoothly and to help you work more productively.

Do a thorough clean-up. Before you organize your desktop, open all the desk drawers, cubbies and file cabinets and determine if what?s in there is necessary to your practice. Make three piles ? trash, file, recycle ? and use only these piles.

Recycle and discard virtual clutter. What does your computer desktop look like? Do you have thousands of unread emails? Take time and put those items into folders. Clear up that area of your workspace because having a cluttered virtual desktop is as overwhelming as is physical desktop clutter.

Don?t open an email or touch a piece of incoming paper without having an action plan. Act upon each email or document. Whether that action is to delegate it, take your own action upon it or to trash it, if you touch it you have committed to an action.

Personal productivity. Plan the next day before you leave the office. If you have your to-dos, appointments and other task items written down, you can jump right into work when you walk into the office the following day. Writing down your to-dos and tasks and tracking client projects keeps you focused on helps you meet deadlines you?ve set.

Enhanced productivity isn?t all about adding more billable hours to your week, it is as much about gaining balance in your work and your professional life as it is about billable hours.

If you?re a Phoenix court reporter or attorney wondering how to get more organized to enhance your productivity, we?d love to hear from you on what methods you use to organize your legal office for success.

time for what matters most

In today?s busy and complicated world, it?s easy to get caught up in technology, political debate, or personal drama that surrounds us. It?s overwhelming and for some professionals, makes us feel like what we do doesn?t matter. Let me tell you that whether you?re an attorney, Phoenix court reporter, or other profession, if you?re passionate about what you do, you and your work matter.

How do we make time for what matters most?

For years I?ve said that I want to give back to the community but I couldn?t find the time. Shame on me because once I made it a priority to help others a few good things started happening.

How did I find the time? I found it simply by putting away my phone, turning off the television, and blocking my calendar for what matters most – volunteer work and spending time with loved ones. For me, it was really about reflecting on what I wanted and taking steps to make it happen.

It has been quite freeing.

As I made time for others, I met like-minded people and built a new circle of contacts. I was also able to cut ties with people, organizations, or events that didn?t fit my new priorities. It wasn?t an easy process but if you know what you want, you really can achieve anything, no matter how busy your life seems at the time.

Are you excited about being a court reporter? We need your help!

Begin by sharing your own experience on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, connecting with people seeking career options, and mentoring students. We need to get the word out that court reporting isn?t just in the courtroom. We?re covering legal cases as well as business, political, sporting, and other events and there are benefits of being a court reporter like earning potential and flexible schedules. This is especially important during this time of uncertainty in the industry with a looming court reporter shortage.

What matters most to us professionally is that we?re helping the community while raising awareness of this growing industry that is helping clients across Arizona.

Ready to get started? Contact Herder and Associates today!

To double space or single space

Raise your hand if you ever took a typing class in school. <Me: raises hand.> If you?re of a certain generation, Gen X or older, it?s quite likely taking a typing class was part of your high school graduation requirements. The answer to the question of whether to double space or single space is a nagging one. I recently asked on social media if my friends were single or double spacers and was a bit surprised at the answers.

Truth be told, I was shamed into becoming a single spacer.?

My need to double space came from my time in school writing papers on an electric typewriter. Because of the spacing, we were taught to use a double space. While a seeming simple change, double vs. single still causes controversy to this day.

Controversial because it was pounded into us that we needed to hit the spacebar twice between sentences, losing points for careless single spacing. Up until 2005, I was in the corporate world using a computer and slamming the space bar so hard I needed a new keyboard every quarter.

Then a lovely young editor pointed out that while she loved my writing, she hated editing my double-spaced work. That?s when I was shamed into my journey to not only single space but to save the company in new keyboards.

In the legal world, there are two schools on this issue.

Some attorneys will tell me that double spacing is what they?ve always done and will continue to do. It?s the way they learned and they?re not changing. Others still feel the wrath of typing teachers from their past and simply can?t live the single (spacing) lifestyle. An attorney friend of mine said that her firm?s standard is double spacing. Then she reminded me of our typing teacher from high school and almost shamed me into living the double (spacing) lifestyle again!

There are a few who have embraced the single spacing lifestyle but I haven?t found many.

Seriously, I wondered how I had been so easily shamed into single spacing when what feels like the rest of my generation is still slamming the spacebar twice.

If you?re a Phoenix court reporter or attorney wondering what to do, I recommend asking your peers or reviewing the standards for your firm. There?s no right answer to double space or single space, no matter how hard the younger generation pushes us into single (spacing) life.

First-Time Deponent

Do you remember your first court appearance as an attorney? If you were nervous, had questions, and wanted to understand what would happen, you?re a lot like a first-time deponent.

It can be quite intimidating entering a room with attorney(s) and a Phoenix court reporter. To get the best from your deponent, prepare them prior to deposition day.

Tell them why they have been called.

Begin by explaining they have been called as part of the discovery process and they are a potential witness. In Arizona, they are allowed to be called only once for a maximum of four hours unless agreed to by parties or ordered by the court. Let them know if you expect it to be a four hour or longer event so they can properly prepare.

If they?re called as an expert witness for the plaintiff as part of a pre-trial motion, and the testimony doesn?t support the plaintiff?s claims, the defense can use the deposition to get out on summary judgment and avoid a full trial. That?s why the next point is so important.

Tell the truth.

While a deposition takes place outside the courtroom, it is important to tell the truth as they know it. Your first-time deponent should be reminded that they are under oath and need to tell the truth. If not, their deposition could be used against them at trial. In cases where an attorney suspects lying, they may even opt to hire a legal videographer. A lying witness on video plays differently with a jury than simply reading a transcript.

Ask for clarification.

If the deponent is unsure of what they?re being asked, they need to know it is okay to ask for clarification. If they can answer with a simple yes or no, they should do so. If asked, ?Can you tell me what time that event took place?? Reply yes or no. It?s not that you want them to be a hostile witness, they have to answer exactly what they?re asked. As an attorney, rephrase the question to, ?What time did the event take place?? Then the witness can provide a more detailed answer.

It?s okay if you don?t know the answer.?

The discovery process is just that – a time to discover and understand what witnesses know about the event in question. Advise the deponent that, ?I don?t know,? is a perfectly acceptable answer as long as it is the truth.

Being a first-time deponent can be intimidating but with the right guidance and listening to what is asked, they can give an accurate account of events to best of their recollection.

Ways to Save on Your Next Deposition

Whether it is saving time or money, if you?re a member of legal team, it?s likely you are looking for ways to save on your next deposition. Building relationships, setting pricing while controlling costs, and creating efficiencies will go a long way to creating the successful firm you desire. It can begin simply by partnering with a court reporting firm.

Benefits of a Court Reporting Firm

As your Phoenix based court reporting firm, Herder and Associates strives to make your job easier by providing experienced nationally certified court reporters for all aspects of litigation, hearings, and arbitrations. We understand the importance of not only providing the right court reporters and conference rooms to our clients across Arizona, but we also strive for a seamless client experience. Using the latest technology, we build business relationships with you that we hope last for years.

It is the process and experience that saves our clients time and money and we?re proud to serve legal teams across the state. Don?t be afraid to ask for quotes from other firms (we promise we won?t be offended) as you will find we offer the best value for the money.

Opposing Counsel

On a similar note, if you?re seeking to keep court reporting costs low for your next deposition, ask opposing counsel if they would like to also use our firm. We can house the case calendar, transcripts, exhibits, errata sheets, and invoices in the same secure repository so there aren?t duplicate charges to access the same information. This will also be more efficient and more consistent than if two court reporting firms were utilized for the same case.

Video Conferencing?

Let?s face it. Arizona is a really big state making even intrastate travel costs expensive. Consider our video conferencing service rather than driving to remote locations. Not only will it potentially save you in travel costs, it can save in time as well. You can conduct depositions in Phoenix and Yuma, or anywhere around the globe, on the same day right from our state of the art video conferencing suites located ?in central Phoenix.

We like to say all you need to do is make the call to us and we can do it all. No matter where your clients are located, we have the team in place to serve you and your legal team. Contact us today to learn more.

Hire A Court Reporter

You?ve been handed a case and need to hire a court reporter. Where do you go and what do you ask? While search engines may provide a start for your search, we encourage you to call and ask these questions. Just like with any important hiring decision, you want to make sure you?re onboarding the right candidate for the job.

What is your experience?

While court reporters are an average age of about 53 years old, that doesn?t mean they all have the experience you need for your case. In fact, they may be new or second career reporters so it?s important to ask about the type of cases they?ve worked. Rather than spinning your wheels trying to find a reporter, contact an agency like Herder and Associates who can match you with the right reporter, follow a process, and deliver a final transcript by deadline.

Are you certified and trained?

This is an especially important question for a couple of reasons. Arizona is a transient state meaning many people aren?t from here and they tend to move here and then to another state. Not all states require court reporters to be certified so it is important to ask. In Arizona and surrounding states, certification is a requirement. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers certification and continuing education (CEU) so that reporters are up to date on technology and best practices.

How much advance notification do you need to schedule a deposition?

At Herder and Associates, we strive to provide the most qualified court reporters to all of our clients. While we?re always working to meet your timeframes, the more advanced notice you can give us, the better it is for us to be able to schedule the right court reporter for your case or project.

What is the cost and timeframe for transcript turnaround?

When you call to schedule your deposition, we will provide the cost and timeframe. If you need an expedited transcript, please let us know at that time. Prices may vary depending on how soon you need the final transcript. The more information you can relay to our team, the better we can provide the product and service you desire.

Before you hire a court reporter, ask these questions to be sure you?re getting the reporter that can work best with your legal team. Have more questions or need to schedule a court reporter? Contact us today.

Estate Planning Attorney

At Herder and Associates, we work with Phoenix attorneys from a variety of disciplines who have a number of requests of our team including estate planning attorneys in need of legal videographers. Before we discuss who may need a videographer, let?s discuss reasons to hire an estate planning attorney versus downloading documents from the internet.

Who is originally from Arizona?

When I sit in meetings, the speaker often asks who was born in Arizona and who came here from another state. If my husband is with me, he is one of only a few to raise their hand. The rest of us were born elsewhere. Because of the transient nature of Arizonans, we?ve often had wills or trusts drawn up in other states which means what was legal or allowable in Minnesota, for example, may not be the case here. And if you?ve downloaded documents from the internet, you may have missed opportunities that can benefit your heirs and estate after you die. Something as simple as not signing on the right line or checking the proper box can mean your estate goes to probate even if that?s not what you intended.

If you?re not sure if your will is valid, contact an estate planning attorney to review it for you.

What is your legacy?

One of the myths of estate planning is that you need a lot of money to establish an estate plan and that?s not the case. If you have assets to protect or investment accounts that you want dispersed to specific people or organizations, you may need the services of an estate planning attorney to protect what you have today and plan for the future. This is especially true for blended families. If your children are minors and you die, their inheritance could go to their biological parent rather than being used to benefit the child?s education like you may want it to.

When it comes to your legacy, you can?t just say what you want to happen to your money and belongings in the event of your death, you have to write it in a legal document and have it properly executed thus ensuring your wishes become reality.

Do you need a legal videographer?

There may be situations where a family member finds it necessary to hire a legal videographer to record the execution of an estate plan or will signing ceremony. Reasons include if there is (or may be) a question of the mental capacity of the person signing the documents, circumstances surrounding the terms of the trust, or to document the occasion so there are less questions in the future. There may be family dynamics at play, as there often are when someone dies, and it may give the family peace to see their loved one on video executing the documents.

If you?re an estate planning attorney with clients who may need to hire a legal videographer, contact Herder and Associates to book an appointment.

Apps for Legal Professionals

Years ago I wrote an article called Time Management Isn?t about Managing Your Time that?s likely still floating on the interweb somewhere. The idea was that we always have 24 hours in a day so it is pointless to manage our time. Rather, we need to manage how we?re using our time. I?ve found one of the ways to do this is to embrace apps for legal professionals.

Increased Efficiency

My favorite tool for running a small business is Google Drive which includes Google equivalents of MS Word, Excel, a calendar, and other tools. Safely store and share documents with multiple parties or share links to documents that includes view-only or editing options. That means using less space on a computer and sharing documents without sending a separate email. I like this because it?s efficient, especially for those working in teams. Other cloud options include DropBox and iCloud.

Words Matter

DragonDiction is a voice to text app that allows users to dictate text messages, emails, and social media statuses. This is the perfect app for the legal professional who is on the go and needs an efficient way to communicate.

Along with DragonDiction is Evernote which allows users to make lists, take notes, and search via smartphone or computer. Pretty slick and easy to use for the busiest of freelancers.

Legal Specific

DroidLaw is a free app providing access to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Evidence, Appellate, Criminal, Appellate, and Bankruptcy Procedure, and the U.S. Constitution. Available for purchase are state codes and laws and other resources useful to legal professionals. If you?re an iPhone user, LawStack is another option with similar resources.

If you?re a legal news hound, try LegalEdge. This app includes news alerts, updates, and case filings from across the nation. For general news, set up a Google Alert for certain terms and automatically receive news and blog posts about that topic straight to your email on a recurring basis.

It?s worth noting these apps for legal professionals including our Phoenix court reporters, all have free options available if you just want to give them a try. Leave a comment and let us know what you like to use and have fun managing your time!

Change Your Perspective When You Volunteer Your Time

When was the last time you volunteered? Whether it was to build houses, care for shelter pets, or participate in a mock deposition, you can change your perspective when you volunteer your time. For court reporters, there is also the benefit of sharing your experience with others who may be interested in a career in this changing field.

Change Your Perspective

As a volunteer, you see the world through different eyes. Feeding the homeless made me appreciate having food and shelter, luxuries I had taken for granted. Building homes made me appreciate the work my parents did to buy and keep our home. And for one court reporter, the joy was seeing students learn about the deposition process, including a mock deposition. [Source]

Benefits of Volunteering

There?s something positive to be said for spending an afternoon with high school or law students sharing your experience as a court reporter. It connects you not only to other people but to the community. Too often I feel like we?re too busy to pay attention to what is around us when the reality is that what is around us may be even more important than our small world of home, school, and work.

The benefits of volunteering include a feeling of accomplishment, connecting with others, learning new skills, and making a difference in someone else?s life.

Promote Your Industry

If you?re asked to volunteer, think of it as an opportunity to promote your industry and collaborate with others. Whether you like being in the spotlight or not, you?re the center of attention and a representative for other court reporters. Listen to what others are asking, answer them or point them to resources like the NCRA, and connect with them via LinkedIn so you can continue the conversation. Who knows, you might find a new friend, mentor, or client!

If you?re a court reporter seeking new opportunities or an attorney in need of a Phoenix court reporter for an upcoming deposition, we?d love to talk to you. Call us today.

court reporter shortage mean for earnings

You?re called for a deposition and in the room is your attorney, opposing counsel, and the court reporter. You?re sworn in and asked questions related to the case in question and you provide answers to the best of your knowledge and leave. While the deposition may be over for you, it?s really just beginning for the court reporter who can earn in the six figures for their quiet work at depositions and other venues. There?s just one problem – a court reporter shortage.

According to Ducker Worldwide, there will be a shortage of more than 5,000 reporters by 2018 including 120 in Arizona and 2,320 in neighboring California.

What does the court reporter shortage mean for earnings? It means new reporters start at average annual earnings of $42,000 and median pay is $51,000; it can be even more in urban areas like Phoenix. For those with experience, they can make well into the six figures.

The reason is simple economics and the law of supply and demand. Court reporters are the product and the price is their salary. When the supply is low and demand is high, as it is today, salaries increase.

Because of the court reporter shortage, Arizona courts only require a court reporter at certain types of cases.

According to the Arizona Supreme Court, human court reporters are only required in cases involving a Grand or felony jury trial, death penalty murder cases, some sex crimes, and parental consent for abortion. That leaves a lot of cases without a human court reporter.

Without a person to record the proceedings, courts are forced to use digital technology and then hire freelance court reporters to transcribe from the recording.

The problem is that the technology is good but not great. Often portions of testimony or exchanges is inaudible in a recording leaving the reporter no choice but to mark it as inaudible and move on.

As an industry, we need to be better about communicating not only the opportunities for court reporters in legal, business, political, civic and educational venues, but about the earnings potential.

Interested in becoming a court reporter? Check out the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) list of approved court reporting programs.