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Tips for working with an unorganized boss?

Does anyone else suffer from an unorganized boss that, in tu banana05/10/17
It's a scary position to be in. Early in my career I took a ejs201705/11/17
You asked for tips which I didn't add. My suggestion is to a ejs201705/11/17
It's unclear. Is he busting his own deadlines for his own w jeffm05/10/17
Essentially deadlines for his own work, dropped on me at the banana05/10/17
Is it just you and him? No support staff or other associates isthisit05/10/17
Just me and him. There's a legal assistant, but as far as th banana05/10/17
Any response is going to depend a lot on the type of law you flharfh05/10/17
General civil litigation. Small practice. Of course, there a banana05/10/17
Most civil firms have some sort of shared calendar program i flharfh05/10/17
Maybe you can offer to do all the calendaring of all the dea jeffm05/10/17
My boss is/was like this and I made some significant changes sjlawyer05/10/17
You need to take control of the calendar. Tell him you "woul guyingorillasuit05/10/17
My two cents, move on to greener pastures. I was a paralegal qdllc05/11/17
Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the tips. I'll try these o banana05/11/17
banana (May 10, 2017 - 5:19 pm)

Does anyone else suffer from an unorganized boss that, in turn, affects them? I've always considered myself to be on top of my game. Diligent, accountable, you name it. Working with the boss over me at my firm has been, to put it nicely, a nightmare. In a nutshell, his disorganization causes unrealistic timelines, which, in turn, makes me look like I'm not the sharpest or most accountable person (or so I feel). A lot the time, his own disorganization and tardiness on deadlines ends up causing him frustration with me, when in reality I'm busting my ass for this guy. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm a pretty reliable person who tries to go above and beyond. I've tried to talk to him in a logical, respectable manner about this, but nothing seems to change. Any ideas?

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ejs2017 (May 11, 2017 - 10:04 am)

It's a scary position to be in. Early in my career I took a job at a PI firm because I wanted actual litigation experience. I worked for one of the partners who was notoriously disorganized similar to what you described. This guy would do things like take a retainer fee, pocket it, and conveniently forget to do anything on the file. More than once I had to go before judges and take the heat for my boss' screw-ups.

Probably the most egregious instance was where my boss took a retainer from a guy who was being charged with spousal abuse and then he did literally nothing on the file. On the day of trial my boss sent me to court to withdraw as counsel claiming that there had been a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.

The judge basically had me relay a hearty "F U" to my boss and told me to come back at 1:00 p.m. that day to pick a jury and to try the case. I managed to get the guy acquitted (it was a weak case, to begin with) but the lesson resonated with me and I soon got out of there. As an aside, despite the result my boss basically lambasted me for not succeeding on the motion to withdraw.

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ejs2017 (May 11, 2017 - 11:41 am)

You asked for tips which I didn't add. My suggestion is to approach the disorganization problem by suggesting the introduction of file handling processes in view of making the office run more efficiently.

Perhaps start by introducing your own diary system to keep track of deadlines and due dates. Work with your assistant - if you have one - to keep track of each of file beginning with a memorandum for each that briefly outlines the case, your projected outcome, court calendar dates and progress. Make a point to touch every file at most every 30 days.

When it starts working for you, you can show this to your boss with the hope that he'll be on board. If not, at least you are handling your matters competently.

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jeffm (May 10, 2017 - 5:31 pm)

It's unclear. Is he busting his own deadlines for his own work, or are you busting deadlines he is giving you for your work?

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banana (May 10, 2017 - 5:44 pm)

Essentially deadlines for his own work, dropped on me at the last minute, when there's, let's say, a court deadline tomorrow. I'm aware this is likely to happen at some point in a legal career, but its becoming more and more frequent.

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isthisit (May 10, 2017 - 5:32 pm)

Is it just you and him? No support staff or other associates?

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banana (May 10, 2017 - 5:40 pm)

Just me and him. There's a legal assistant, but as far as the actual practice of law goes, just me and him.

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flharfh (May 10, 2017 - 5:39 pm)

Any response is going to depend a lot on the type of law you practice and the nature of your deadline pressures.

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banana (May 10, 2017 - 5:49 pm)

General civil litigation. Small practice. Of course, there are always deadline pressures. The nature of these are essentially things he's forgotten/have been sitting on his desk for months, having an "oh crap" moment, and wanting to get it out immediately. The problem wouldn't be if it was things I could realistically get out in a few hours. I don't have a problem with that. The issues are briefs, complicated discovery requests, etc. that I think go into the back of his head and don't come to surface until hours before due.

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flharfh (May 10, 2017 - 6:11 pm)

Most civil firms have some sort of shared calendar program in which the secretaries can enter all the deadlines. That way you can keep track of his calendar and ask him in advance if he needs help with things.

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jeffm (May 10, 2017 - 6:09 pm)

Maybe you can offer to do all the calendaring of all the deadlines. Maybe pick 2 days a week to set up any new deadlines that come by way of scheduling orders or whatever.

Agree on how the work is doled out and keep a list of who is going to do what.

If you get your stuff done early, or if your list is not pressing, ask him things like, "How's the Smith disclosure coming? Need any help?" Or if the deadline is too near, don't ask to help. Instead, say, "What parts need to be done; I'll take some of them. This and this and that."

Sounds like he's the rain-maker, but not much of a manager. Let him make the rain, and you manage.

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sjlawyer (May 10, 2017 - 8:27 pm)

My boss is/was like this and I made some significant changes but left it incomplete. Busy tonight, but I'll respond tmmrw. Biggest issue is getting your boss to commit to changes, which can be near impossible.

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guyingorillasuit (May 10, 2017 - 9:50 pm)

You need to take control of the calendar. Tell him you "would like to more pro-active from the standpoint of case management, and that you would like to help him streamline the work so that he has more time to focus on strategic issues." Find out what tools he uses for calendaring (hopefully, not a large paper calendar), and ask for passwords to get in there and monitor the calendar. This way, you can ask him whether or not he wants you to start working on the opposition to the Smith motion 5 days before it's due, not the night before.

If he has a weak or non-existent calendaring system, that is a sign of serious trouble. Start with a basic Google calendar, and get him used to it.

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qdllc (May 11, 2017 - 8:15 am)

My two cents, move on to greener pastures. I was a paralegal for an attorney who was sloppy and didn't want to do anything outside of what he enjoyed doing.

I coped for a while, but while he gained the benefit of my attention to detail, he added nothing but endless frustration. I didn't expect a 180 in his office practice, but he could have at least tried to work with me to reduce the mess in the office.

Before 6 months were up, I had enough and started looking for another place to work. The constant stress was making me ill.

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banana (May 11, 2017 - 12:42 pm)

Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the tips. I'll try these out. If the situation just continues to seem irreparable, then I'll have to move on. Thanks again!

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