Graphic: The Organized Lawyer book cover.

Book Review by Robert Yates

Book Review:
"The Organized Lawyer"
By Kelly Lynn Anders
Carolina Academic Press

April 10, 2009

I decided to review a book called "The Organized Lawyer," but I couldn't find it. Couldn't remember where it was, which is probably reason enough to find it and read it.

Okay, I've read through page 21, "Starting the Organizational Process," and I've decided it's time to clean my desk, to put all that stuff over there into a file folder, but the file folders are, let's see, are, oh, yeah, in the second drawer over there. So you can see the problem I was likely to have with a book about getting organized.

Actually, the idea of reading a book on becoming organized doesn't have a great deal of appeal on the surface. But "The Organized Lawyer," written by Kelly Lynn Anders, associate dean for student affairs at Washburn University School of Law, comes across as a bright idea, rather than some dour drill sergeant ordering you to get squared away, mister, or ma'am. Guess what? It's good and even interesting.

This is your friendly next-cubicle neighbor, teasing you about your mess and offering simple hints on clearing away the unnecessary stuff and organizing what needs to be on your desk. Honestly, it's written in such a way that I keep looking around at my desk as I'm writing this review and shuffling things around and tossing stuff away. Which means writing this review is taking much longer than it should. All these little scraps of paper...

What's bright about this book, in addition to the writing, is that Anders splits people into four groups, organizationally speaking: Stackers, who, according to Anders, "work best in workspaces with a lot of nooks and crannies" (Anders herself is a Stacker); Spreaders (like me), who need a lot of flat surfaces "because they like to have room to spread out current projects"; Free Spirits, who need places to store their items of interest so they don't take over their workspace"; and Packrats, who "tend to like the full and cozy feel of a cluttered space." (As a bonus, Anders provides a short questionnaire that allows you to determine which organizational type you are.)

The point of the organizational typing is that it makes no sense for, say, me to stack things up and pretend that's me, only organized! It just wouldn't work; that's not how I need things to be for me to feel comfortable with all my stuff. Anders' premise is that you are the organizational type you are for a reason, so go with it. But go with it in a way that allows you to relax and work more efficiently and effectively.

The book is filled with step-by-step processes to make your workspace and, by extension, you, more efficient. Some of the hints are very specific: for instance, buy a metal step file holder, which typically holds eight letter-size folders. Fill that file holder with eight differently colored folders for the things you need at a moment's notice and those things that need, as Anders says, "a permanent home" on your desktop. And you're on your way.

This is a short (146 pages), pleasant read and set up so you can skip around (as Anders encourages the reader to do) to find the stuff that interests you. But, most of all, it makes you conscious of the need to be organized and stay organized so that you can work better.

And now, after just one reading, my desk looks better already, if I do say so myself.

Robert Yates is the editor of Chicago Lawyer and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

(This review originally appeared at: http://www.chicagolawyermagazine.com/2009/04/10/book-review-the-organized-lawyer/)

Photograph: Kelly Lynn Anders.Kelly Lynn Anders, Director of Communications & Diversity at Creighton University School of Law, works with attorneys and students to sharpen their time management, business etiquette, and organization skills. Contact Kelly at organizedlawyer@gmail.com.