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In her Motion to Organize weekly column, lawyer Jennifer Gumbel talks organization, productivity, and more.


I’m a paper lawyer…and obsessed with how to make the paper easier to understand and utilize for my clients. But, trial lawyers benefit just as much by being organized. Ultimately, trial lawyers distill loads of facts and rules into a narrative to convince a judge or jury. Taking a giant haystack of information to find the important pieces, takes thorough review and an organization of the materials.

When you go into court, you’re not merely making your own argument, you’re also combating the opposing argument. That’s where good organization can ready you to immediately call out any weaknesses or inconsistencies in the other side. When the other side exaggerates the rules, you need to be ready with the exact wording of the law to bring it back. When the other side’s witness is inconsistent, you need to pinpoint exactly where they’ve said otherwise.

I may be a paper lawyer, but even I find myself in the courtroom. Title issues need to be resolved and beneficiaries sometimes need to assert their rights. And it can be hard to keep your file organized during a whirlwind of client calls, negotiations, evidence gathering, and back and forth with the opposing attorney.

Steps I take that keep my file ready for court room, include keeping court filings tabbed, in order of filing and separate from other documents in the file. Essentially, I have a mini-file of what the court has in front of them. I also make a document with a summary of applicable statutes, court rules, and courts cases, so that I can guide the evidence presented and tailor the argument with an eye to what the Court will consider. Tools like binders, summaries, and tabs can take your file from something that works in the comfort of your office, to a set of information ready to be accessed exactly when you’re on the spot.

Jennifer Gumbel

Jennifer Gumbel is an estate planning and probate lawyer in Austin, Minnesota. She takes her morbid nerd-dom to another level by talking about how to organize your after life, with the website An Organized (after)Life and the podcast, An Organized (after)Life, which you can find on the website, Spreaker and ITunes. You can also find her on Instagram with pics on death organizing and small town Minnesota life at the handle @jengumbel.

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