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Law Firms Should Teach Associates GTD

Law firms offer interesting programs for their incoming associates. They teach the basics of surviving your first few weeks, how to work the copier, and even etiquette courses. What they don’t teach the newbies is how to actually get work done.

What is GTD?

I’ve posted about this a few times in the past. It’s a productivity system that focuses on doing things in the appropriate “context.” It’s a way to be more productive and group things in their logical place of actually doing them. You can learn tons about it online.

Matt’s GTD for faculty

Over at Matt’s Idea Blog, Matt explains his very cool pilot project: GTD for faculty.

He went through the basics of GTD with three new faculty members at a university. Then he went through an intensive workshop with each of them. Finally, he provided follow-up coaching.

The results – they want to expand the program. The faculty members loved it, as did their supervisor.

Use it for associates

This got me thinking: why don’t lawyers learn this? Everyone knows that associates have lots of things to juggle. Appointments to make, phone calls to return, emails to send, documents to review, and meetings to attend. If they had some formal training with a solid productivity system, wouldn’t everyone benefit?

Matt mentions that he developed a set of faculty-specific “contexts.” We could make these for lawyers, too. You have contexts such as “phone,” “computer,” and “home.” These are pretty standard. You put a task in the group where it fits (what you need to get it done). Lawyers could add on “court.” Maybe you need some books, so you can have “library.” It’s pretty simple.

Why not?

I wonder why law firms don’t do something like this. Here’s my speculation: they don’t actually have much to gain from associates being more productive. Partners bill the hours out at $XXX, regardless of what actually got done. Sure, they may cut the bill a little here and there, but probably not a ton. So maybe it’s not worth the cost of teaching productivity. The firm stands to lose more by hiring a consultant to teach GTD.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Am I being too harsh on firm lawyers?

[tags]legal andrew, gtd, matt’s idea blog, law firm[/tags]

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6 Responses to “Law Firms Should Teach Associates GTD”

  1. The Frugal Law Student
    December 17th, 2006

    I think GTD is awesome. My wife and I just started it yesterday. I went out and bought us supplies to do it yesterday. I put some photos of our setups on flickr. Here’s the link. http://www.flickr.com/photos/4.....421901880/

    I think an interesting post for you to do is how to incorporate legal productivity into a hipster PDA.

  2. Matthew Cornell
    December 17th, 2006

    I’m glad you liked it, Andrew. Thanks for the link.

    And I like your post. Though I have to say you gave me an idea I hadn’t thought of: You mentioned profession-specific contexts (a great idea), where I talked about profession-specific trigger lists.


  3. Andrew Flusche
    December 17th, 2006

    Thanks a ton for commenting guys!

    @Frugal – I like your GTD setup. You’re way more organized than I am. Although I’m pretty anti-paper these days. Perhaps that’s one reason GTD doesn’t always work for me. I do LOVE the idea of the hipster PDA. I’ll definitely start thinking about that one.

    @Matt – Thanks for correcting my misunderstanding. I always did poorly on reading comprehension in school. But at least I had a good idea! I’m curious to see where your pilot project leads you next.

  4. Lawsagna
    December 18th, 2006

    Easy way to declutter your home and your head…

    One of my New Year’s resolutions is to maintain an organized home and office. I believe there is a correlation between the clutter in my physical surroundings and the clutter in my head. Another pressing reason is that my one-year…

  5. David Mackay
    January 2nd, 2007

    Hi Andrew,

    An interesting, if depressing, idea that law firms would actually lose money by getting more productive! I work in an industry (federal government … if you can call it an industry) where there’s no concept of billable hours — maybe there’s a niche there for GTD without the risk of losing money?



  6. Andrew Flusche
    January 2nd, 2007


    My law firm speculation is above is just that – speculation. If a firm has tons of work, they would probably gain revenue by being more productive. Who knows, in reality?

    As for civil service – that is definitely an area where GTD could be useful. Quite interesting. Maybe you could start its spread right there in your own department!

    Thanks for stopping by & commenting,

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