Archive for February 13th, 2009

Review of The Organized Lawyer

The Organized Lawyer. Kelly Lynn Anders. Carolina Academic Press, 2008, softcover, 155 pages, $20.00.

With innumerable responsibilities and countless demands on their time, developing and maintaining an organized workspace is a low priority for many lawyers. In her new book, The Organized Lawyer, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Washburn University School of Law Kelly Lynn Anders rejects the premise that workplace organization is unimportant, articulating instead the many personal and professional benefits that attorneys derive from an organized workspace, and the dangers they face in ignoring or minimizing the importance of office organization. Written with the needs of lawyers in mind, in this brief 155-page work, Anders invites readers to identify their individual “organizational style,” and to use this information to make decisions about office layout, desk arrangements, storage, filing systems, and personal organizers. Attorneys who apply these suggestions can expect improvements in the functionality of their workspace. Though lacking in great specificity or detail, this book is a useful resource for attorneys interested in achieving a more organized and supportive work environment, and as such, is an appropriate addition to any law library.

Anders begins her book with an admission- she too was once a disorganized lawyer. Her office cluttered with piles of books and papers, she eventually realized that an attorney’s workspace can affect how they are perceived by others, and that a chaotic space might suggest to clients and colleagues that the attorney is overextended, overwhelmed, or even careless in their work. Worse still, a disorganized office can lead an attorney to make inadvertent mistakes or errors- missing filing deadlines, losing papers, or comingling funds- that can result in allegations of malpractice, sanctions, or disciplinary action by the bar. Anders contends that attorneys can guard against such mistakes, project an image of competence and control, and achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in their professional practice by maintaining an organized workspace.

In the second chapter, Anders identifies four distinct organizational styles- stackers, spreaders, free spirits, and pack rats- and presents readers with a quiz to identify their organizational style. Empowered by new found self-knowledge about how they relate to items in their environment, readers can now begin the process of getting organized. In the chapters that follow, the author offers recommendations concerning office layout, furniture placement, desk and file organization, storage systems, information management, home office design, and portable work spaces that best support the needs of each organizational style. Anders also suggests that attorneys can achieve greater organization in their professional lives by taking advantage of “personal services,” like dry cleaners, tailors, and barbers that offer pick-up and delivery, or in-office service.

Divided into fourteen brief chapters, the book is (not surprisingly) well-organized and easy to read. The author includes a “Chapter Checklist” at the end of each chapter to reiterate her main points, as well as a general index. My main criticism of the book is that though the author identifies the four organizational styles and makes recommendations for each type, her advice is still fairly general, offering readers guidance rather than explicit direction for how to achieve an organized workspace. Priced at a modest $20.00, The Organized Lawyer succeeds in reminding readers of the importance of maintaining an organized work environment and provides a general road map on the journey from clutter to order.

Reviewed by Emily Bergfeld, reference librarian at Alameda County Law Library in Oakland, CA

February 2009

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