The File Nobody Wants

Is there a file in the office that you just can't stand to look at? (It's often related to a client you really can't stand.) Has it been languishing on the corner of your desk or just out of sight on your credenza? Is a deadline approaching or recently passed? You know you’ve got to tackle it, but just can't seem to get started? These unwanted files are a major cause of grievance and malpractice complaints, and can cause the premature end of a lawyer's career. And almost every lawyer has one of these "dog" files. Sobering, yes, but how does one deal with the "dog" file? Here are several ways to get moving on it and extract yourself from a potentially dangerous problem:

1. If you are in a small firm, trade the file with a colleague. Approach your partner or another associate and offer to trade your "dog" file for hers. At least this way you don't already have problems with the client.

2. Call a valued colleague and ask him to lunch. Hypothetically, explain the case. Ask him what he would do, where he would start, how he might proceed. If the advice is good, buy lunch. : - ).

3. Open the file and start working on it immediately. (And that means RIGHT NOW!) Sometimes our own procrastination is the real problem. Just open the file and start reading it, as ideas and tasks come to mind, write them down. Work on the file for a minimum of thirty minutes. If you can, work longer. When you can't work anymore, schedule time on your calendar to work on it again tomorrow. As you re-familiarize yourself with the file, it will become easier to work on.

Have you noticed that as the years go by, you forget the rules of proper grammar and punctuation? (I personally have already forgotten everything I learned in elementary and high school.) Poor grammar in a letter or other document can cast the wrong impression. Well, help is on the way via the World Wide Web. Bookmark, loaded with lots of resources, including "Ask Grammar," a way to ask a college professor your most intimate grammar questions–for free! Another web site with on-line assistance and a downloadable computer program that goes beyond the grammar functions in your word processor is Now, how many grammatical mistakes are in this post?

A recent Law Technology News article written by Robert Ambrogi provides a list of ethics websites, some of which are listed here for those of you who may be "in search of ethics." Check these out:

• American Legal Ethics Library ( from Cornell Legal Information Institute
• ABA Center for Professional Responsibility (
• ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct ( Requires a paid subscription, but BNA offers a two-week free trial.
• (, addresses, among other things, ethical issues raised by the internet.
• A Good Lawyer is a free on-line book written by McLean, VA lawyer Stephen W. Comiskey) ( A folksy view of legal ethics, according to Ambrogi.
• American Judicature Society ( promotes judicial-legal ethics and fair and effective system of judicial discipline.
• The Law Office Hornbook (
• Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, (
• National Association of Bar Counsel ( Provides a semi-annual compilation of ethics cases.