Making a List, Checking it Twice

Making a List, Checking it Twice by David Whelan When I was considering productivity for lawyers earlier this year, I was amazed how often I came across simple – non technical! – solutions to improving productivity. While you can apply all sorts of gadgetry, from Palm PDAs to automatic time tracking (more on that in the future), to productivity, sometimes simple documents can help just as much. I was reminded of this by a Web Worker Daily posting on checklists.

The posting discusses something that I’m familiar with: sloppy editing.  The checklist is great in a number of ways.  First, it’s easy to create and, for those who make detailed To Do lists, you probably already have a lot of skeletal checklists around.  Grab a piece of paper, a pencil, and start to break the work down into bits.

When I first started working in a law firm, my boss was a well known personal injury attorney.  He also happened to be an innovating law practice management guru!  That probably explains a lot about how I ended up!  In any event, he had massive binder-based systems, for sale, that included every type of start up form you would need to process a medical malpractice or automobile negligence case.  The first document, the Master Intake List (lovingly referred to as the MIL) kept the initial interview on track, ensuring that every piece of information necessary for the case was flagged and collected.

I often think about the MIL and checklists for how they can gather information.  Checklists are also good for slowing you down.  Recent research suggests that they can have a dramatic impact in surgical environments, making sure that the right patient is there for the right operation, among other things.

In reality, I use mental checklists all the time but as I come across more critical projects, I should start to do a better job of breaking out – and monitoring the steps – using a checklist.


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David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.