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It’s technically spring for a few more weeks — and it’s not too late for a little seasonal cleaning before the summer is fully upon us. What does spring cleaning have to do with the professional development of attorneys, you ask? Plenty. Lawyers are the kings and queens of compiling, collecting, procrastinating and multitasking. Our offices, briefcases, file drawers and case rooms are bulging with documents, cell phones, PDAs and Dictaphones, and our homes and minds are just as messy and crowded. So, before the air thickens for good for the summer, why not plow through some piles and clear the way for summertime, when the living is supposed to be easy? Start with your desk. If I were an idealist, I’d tell you to clean your whole office, assess your professional development and take inventory of your files and assignments. But I am a realist and know that you will be lucky to get your desk cleared. Remove everything from your desk to give it a good cleaning. Seriously. After all, many people eat at least one meal a day at their desk, so why not give it a good wipe-down with an antibacterial cleaner? Deal with that mountain of a reading pile — face it, there are just some things you will never get to read, so pass them on to the next person on the distribution list or throw them out. You can thin the pile by flipping through your journals and saving or copying only the articles or pages that interest you, even if you don’t have time to read them now. If you have stacks of filing, get them into the right files, or, at the least, and only as a temporary solution, triage it by sorting it into an “A-Z” organizer. Your desk probably has your calendar on it, likely in your computer. Since it’s a new month, take a few minutes and make sure all of your deadlines and appropriate reminders are on your calendar. Unless you were slacking off for the first half of the year, your vacation days should be blocked off, and, if not, stop reading this column and go plan a vacation. And don’t wait until the night before you leave for vacation to clear out your e-mail and voicemail boxes as well. If you get beyond the surface of your desk, open your drawers. Stop hoarding interoffice envelopes and paper clips. Do you really need all of those ketchup packets, napkins and pennies on hand, as well? And how did I manage to collect what must be thousands of rubber bands? Get rid of the excess and unnecessary clutter on and in your desk. If somehow the crisis du jour passes over your door, you may get beyond your desk in your spring cleanup efforts. If so, take a long look around your entire office. Does it instill confidence or is it a fire hazard? Did you build yourself a wall of paper collected from closed files or grow a lovely garden of floor files? If you shoo the cleaning staff away every night because you don’t want to be disturbed, shut down early tonight so your office can be vacuumed. While looking around, think about the current status of every file and assignment. If there are too many to remember, get a database, or, at the least, prepare an inventory. What about the files you have been ignoring or those assignments or projects you procrastinated doing? Pay some attention to them. Try to close those deals, finish that research memorandum or schedule your depositions before everyone else starts going on summer vacation. Cleaning your desk and office will force you to touch and to remember everything you’ve been stockpiling. It also will give the professional responsibility gurus at your firm great comfort. Clean inconspicuously, though. Otherwise, someone will suggest you must not have enough work if you found time to clean. Word will spread throughout the office and you will end up inundated with assignments to fill your plate — which, of course, will refill your desk. I realize that some of my brothers and sisters at the bar do not bury themselves in paper and, instead, have sparkling desks and offices in no need of cleaning. Well, those desks likely contain compulsively compiled lists of client matters, case assignments and court-imposed or other deadlines. Take a look at your list and assess whether you have enough or too much work. Also, take a look back at your initial file memoranda and engagement letters, allow yourself time to really brainstorm about your clients’ needs and to think about your interactions, transactions and cases. Go to lunch with a colleague and run the facts of your client’s case or review your transaction with her. You may come up with a new approach or regain direction. Additionally, try to find some time to think about your professional development. Are you developing? Are you content? If not, figure out what would make you happier and work toward it. Give yourself a midyear assessment. Are you meeting your goals for the year? Do you have any goals for the year? Are you proud of your work quality for the first six months of 2004 and on pace to meet hours requirements, goals and deadlines? Clean out your mind, too. Maybe you won’t get beyond your rubber band collection in your spring cleanup, and I am an idealist after all. But try. In fact, while you’re straightening up, clear out your mind, too. Do something creative. As someone who sometimes struggles with this monthly column, I’ve learned that creativity atrophies if not properly exercised, and it is easily overpowered by too much input. Silence the cacophony of your cell phone and BlackBerry alarm and stop multitasking to the extreme. You know what I mean — walking while reading your e-mail messages, driving while talking on the cell phone or working on your BlackBerry. Please, focus on the road, pull over or start taking the train if you can’t put down your electronic gadgets. A good way to clear out your mind is to clear out of the office. Are you caught up in a hamster-wheel existence where you feel unable to leave? Do you know how to turn the air conditioning on during weekends? Do you feel responsible for everything? Are you dreaming about your work or, worse yet, laying in bed awake thinking about it? Break what is a dangerous cycle. Start saying no once in a while, set some boundaries, including for yourself, and leave the building! Go play softball with the summer associates, take your dog for a walk, your bike for a ride, your sweetheart to a movie, your kid for ice cream or yourself to the gym. According to my favorite doctor, “The West Wing”‘s Abby Bartlett, stress takes an incredible toll on the human body and will kill you if you let it — so don’t let it. In addition to managing your stress, focus your energy. Try to be more positive and to keep an open mind as the temperatures steadily rise. Enjoy these dog days of spring, and good luck with your cleaning. And let me know if you need any rubber bands. Molly Peckman is the director of associate development at Pepper Hamilton. Peckman works with the associates committee and is responsible for coordinating the evaluation and partnership nomination processes. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association and is a former chairwoman of the Young Lawyers Division. Peckman was a trial lawyer for 10 years before joining the firm. She can be reached at [email protected] .

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