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Law Firm Productivity with Remember the Milk

As lawyers we have tons of tasks and deadlines to keep tabs on. We have to do something today for Client A, be sure we don’t miss Client B’s hearing tomorrow, and remember that Client C still hasn’t returned a call. Fortunately, Remember the Milk can track everything for us.

I’ve developed a pretty solid way of using Remember the Milk (RTM) to track all of my tasks. My system has been working great for several months, and I’m pretty happy with it. Here’s my attempt to illustrate the system I use to be productive.

A list for everything

At the most basic level, RTM is a series of lists. You can create as many lists as you want.

Remember the Milk - lists

In my system, I have a list for each client. This lets me keep all a client’s tasks and ticklers together. When Bob calls to ask about his case, I can easily click on his list and see exactly what’s going on.

I have another catch-all list for other to do and tickler items that aren’t associated with a client. This is where I put tasks such as “update template for fee agreement.” My personal tasks also go in the catch-all list.

Two other main lists form the heart of my productivity system. I use Google Calendar for my main calendar needs, but I also put important dates (mainly court hearings) in RTM as a backup. Thus, I have a “Calendar” list.

I also send out birthday cards for all my current and former clients. It’s a to do, so the birthdays go in a “Birthdays” list.

RTM sorts lists alphabetically with symbols first. I like to have my catch-all list first, so I just named it “.” (that’s a period). My client lists are next. They are all named like this “_Smith” (underscore, followed by client name). The underscore quickly shows that they are client lists. Finally, miscellaneous lists are just named like “Calendar” or “Birthdays.” I also have a “Someday” list, and other lists for things I want to remember or do at some point in the future.

Dates, priorities, and tags

Each RTM list entry can have lots of things attached to it. The most basic attribute is the name, like “send fee agreement to Bob.” But RTM is much more powerful than that. This is where my system gets a little complicated.

Items in my “Calendar” list are entered with the name and date. They’re pretty simple:

Remember the Milk - calendar

Then there’s the “Birthdays” list. These items are relatively simple as well. I enter the client’s name, then set the due date as the birthday. Since birthdays come every year, I set the RTM repeat option to “yearly.”

Remember the Milk - birthday

Client lists are the most complicated. Items in a client list are first named, such as “research cause of action.” I usually have several items in each client list. In accordance with GTD (getting things done – a productivity system), I use a RTM tag to denote the items that are next in line. Also, if I am waiting on something or someone, I tag that item as “wait.” (I can’t do anything with it right now, but that makes sure it doesn’t fall through the cracks.) I sometimes use priorities with client “next” items. If something is really important, I’ll assign it a RTM “1″ priority. Client items that aren’t tagged with anything are things that must be done, but that aren’t next in line. During my daily and weekly reviews, I see those items; then I can determine if they are ready to be tagged “next” for action.

Remember the Milk - clients

Magical smart list

Now you may be thinking, “How the heck does this nut keep track of so many freaking lists?!” It’s easy. Smart lists.

RTM has a powerful search function. You can search based on keyword, due date, tag, priority, list, and more. But the cool thing is that you can save any search as a “smart list.”

I have created a “Today” smart list that aggregates the important items from all my other lists (catch-all, clients, Birthdays, Calendar). Here’s what the search looks like:

Remember the Milk - today

This is my magical “Today” search string:

tag:next or dueWithin:”2 days of today” or dueBefore:today or (list:. and due:never and NOT tag:wait) or (list:Birthdays and dueWithin:”6 days of today”)

Let’s dissect the search and see exactly what items go into my “Today” list. These items are all included:

1. tag:next – Any item from any list that is tagged “next.” So “Today” includes all next actions.
2. dueWithin:”2 days of today” – Any item from any list that is due in the next 2 days. This makes sure I’m aware of all upcoming deadlines, court appearances, etc.
3. dueBefore:today – Any item from any list that is overdue. Without this element, overdue items can disappear from “Today.”
4. list:. and due:never and NOT tag:wait – This element grabs items from the catch-all list (“.”). But it only pulls items that don’t have a due date and aren’t tagged as “wait.” Thus, it’s just pulling actionable items.
5. list:Birthdays and dueWithin:”6 days of today” – This element grabs upcoming client birthdays. Since I like to send cards in the mail, I pull the birthday six days ahead of time.

That’s it. With those 5 elements in my smart list, “Today” includes all actionable items from every other RTM list. This is how I can have dozens of lists with hundreds of items, but only have 20 items in my immediate view.

Any questions?

Whew! That’s a lot of info, but I built this system over several weeks. It took quite a bit of tweaking to get it where it works well. And I’ll probably keep improving it as time goes on.

If you have any questions about RTM or my specific system, drop a comment below.

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11 Responses to “Law Firm Productivity with Remember the Milk”

  1. [...] Law Firm Productivity with Remember the Milk from Legal Andrew by Andrew Flusche [...]

  2. [...] » Law Firm Productivity with Remember the Milk [legalandrew.com] [...]

  3. [...] Suchfunktion erstellen kann – eine sehr praktische Lösung, die Flusche in seinem Artikel “Law Firm Productivity with Remember the Milk“  ausführlich beschreibt. [via [...]

  4. Claris
    February 19th, 2009

    The mandatory attributes are much more necessary to feed the data into a database so we need to give the correct information. Thanks for the post.

  5. [...] Law Firm Productivity with Remember the Milk @ Legal Andrew [...]

  6. hmmmm
    April 12th, 2009

    I wonder if such information is discoverable! Consider the following excepts on RTMs privacy policy page:

    “Because we keep back-up copies of data for the purposes of recovery from errors or system failure, residual copies of task list contents may remain on our systems for some time, even after you have deleted information or after the termination of your account.”


    “Remember The Milk employees do not access the content of any task lists unless you specifically request them to do so (for example, if you are having technical difficulties accessing your account) or if required by law, to maintain our system, or to protect Remember The Milk or the public.”

    Note the “if required by law” part in conjunction with “may remain on our system for some time” part.

    I don’t know if using this service is such a great idea.

  7. Andrew Flusche
    April 12th, 2009

    @hmmmm – First off, what’s your name? I’m always happy to discuss things with readers, but I like to know who I’m talking with. I’m transparent about my identity, so asking for your name isn’t much.

    Second, how do you envision someone obtaining RTM data?

  8. Ohio Web Designer
    May 14th, 2009

    Andrew, this is a really impressive execution of RTM. I was shopping for another tool that integrates GTD-style task lists with Gmail — I’ve been using RTM for a while but was not completely happy with it. I had never noticed the “Smart List” feature. This opens up so many more possibilities! Thanks for the great post.

  9. [...] article on how to implement Remember The Milk into your own practice management scheme, check out this article from Legal Andrew. For a more in-depth look at RTM’s feature set, take a look at the official [...]

  10. Davo
    October 20th, 2009


    I’ve been looking for the best method of organizing my calendar/to-dos as an attorney and I’ve been less than satisfied with RTM. I tried tagging my tasks with the client and partner, but when I do a custom list, it doesn’t really organize them very well. I can’t figure out a way to make it work.

    I generally don’t organize by due date or by creation date. I just like to have a list of all projects I’m working on and things that need to get done. It makes the most sense for me to organize lists by client/project. Todoist works much better in ordering my list (which is my highest priority in a list app), but doesn’t have great mobile support. RTM is very well supported, and I’d like to use it. Unfortunately this is a deal-breaker. Any thoughts?

  11. Andrew Flusche
    November 14th, 2009


    I suggest creating a RTM list for each client or matter. Then you’ll easily be able to see what’s going on for each of them.

    If you assign individual tasks to different attorneys or staff members, you could tag those. Then create smart lists for each attorney/staff tag to quickly view all tasks for each person.

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