John Brannigan discusses the importance of effective time management on the lead up to and throughout a busy Christmas period.

It's easy to start winding down at work over Christmas…it is the holiday season, after all! But that doesn’t mean that our clients will be thinking the same way. At Russells Gibson McCaffrey our criminal and civil departments are as busy as ever at this time of year.

Our firm is allocated Police Station Duty Backup throughout the Christmas week - there will no doubt be a number of clients requiring assistance at Police Stations in addition to our existing clients needing representation at court. Therefore I am already thinking ahead as to how best to manage a large caseload, and there are a few golden rules that every solicitor at any level can follow.

The first is to prioritise the most urgent tasks, e.g. defences and a written record must be lodged three working days in advance of a First Diet and it may be that you are fast approaching this deadline. This might take priority over case law research for a trial some weeks away.

Once the most urgent tasks have been identified, they must be treated with a sense of urgency. It is easy to think, 'I’ll do that later once I’m back from lunch or come back from court in the afternoon. But the reality of the job is that something else, perhaps something more urgent, could arise after lunch or after court. This just adds to your list of urgent tasks.

I understand I’m not saying anything new here. The mantra of working efficiently has no doubt been expounded by our teachers, lecturers and employers (and myself in previous blogs) but it is always worth repeating. As a criminal practitioner, especially, I find that, on average, around 60-70% of my day is spent at court. This is a significant amount of time spent away from the office; however, the job we do as solicitors requires a lot of paperwork to be completed, processed etc.

This is really where the idea of working efficiently comes into play. I’ve found that doing as much work on the move at court creates less pressure when in the office. Otherwise, trying to complete all the paperwork in 30% of the office time isn’t feasible. Things like court attendance notes, dictating letters and completing legal aid forms can all be completed away from the office with our dictaphones and iPads etc.

So, as we approach the Christmas period, it is important not to lose focus on the momentum which we must maintain in our work. Equally, it is important to switch off once we stop work for the holidays and, on that note, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

John Brannigan studied at the University of Glasgow and completed his traineeship at Gallen & Co Solicitors. He now works at Russels Gibson McCaffrey Solicitors in Glasgow, specialising in all criminal and civil litigation matters.

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