Systems: Save Your Sanity Through Effectively Mapping Stuff

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Today’s post is written by Andrea Cannavina of

Hi.  I’m a Virtual Assistant.  I help attorneys and law firms streamline their tech and processes so they can get more done with less –  less time, less resources and less stress.  I’ve been doing this since 2001 and I’ve helped 100’s of lawyers irrespective of their chosen technology.

Everyone always asks me “how”? Simple.


Without systems, I wouldn’t be where I am, and some of my clients would not be in business.  Everyone is on information overload and the more successful you become, the more stuff you have to keep track of.

David Allen of Getting Things Done fame is big on systems and getting everything out of your head.  So am I.  Systems remove the need for you to be thinking about how to do something vs. just getting it done.

Not all that you do as a business owner needs to have a thought process.  By getting this easy stuff out – written and known – concrete – you free up lots of the gray matter for more important ruminations (you are lawyers after all).

Systems allow you to go on autopilot. You don’t have to think: ‘hmmm, what do I do with this?”.  You already know what to do when you receive the following:

  • A check from the client: make photocopy for financial binder, put in spot reserved just for checks until enough gathered to warrant trip to bank.
  • A deposit:  log checks in register; fill in deposit slip; take to bank; put receipt in receipts folder.
  • A client document: scan to digital and place in client electronic folder; add document to the to be filed or to be shredded pile, as necessary – or mail to client.
  • E-mail from adversary: copy to client’s folder/matter; add time to calendar to call client and respond.

These are all very routine tasks that you wouldn’t normally think you need documented steps to accomplish, however, when you are receiving 100’s of emails a day, your phone is ringing off the hook, and you’re multitasking like crazy – you forget.

Suddenly, you can’t find the checks because you have stacks of mail all over the place; you recall an e-mail from an adversary on a case, but that was last night when you woke up at 2am and you’ve now forgotten again, and you know you got that signed document, but for the life you, you can’t say where it is.

By having systems in place to handle the flow of all that you are bombarded with every day, you develop habits.  When you habitually do the same thing, you don’t think about it — you just get it done.

Along with helping you get the work done, systems help you organize your business processes and create a roadmap for others to follow.

As Michael Geber pointed out in The E-Myth Revisited, most small business owners are so busy working IN their business, they aren’t working ON it.  Rather than creating systems so others can take care of required and repetitive tasks, small business owners think the only solution is to do everything by themselves.  This means they end up working longer hours doing less fun tasks.  Not really a script for success.

Much better to take a few moments to document each of your business processes – in a step by step format – so you can begin to:

  • Get and stay organized
  • Streamline your workflow/processes
  • Compile an operations manual
  • Determine what tasks are best to delegate.

I’m such a fan of systems, I created my own to help me manage email.  It’s called  D-A-F-T (stands for Defer, Act, File Toss) – you can use download a copy directly from my site:


Andrea Cannavina is a Master Virtual Assistant who teaches legal professionals how to upgrade their business processes to digital in order to get more done with less – less time, less resources and less stress!

  • Her first company, LegalTypist, specializes in providing experienced legal secretarial services to single practitioners and initial drafts transcription services to multiple attorney firms.
  • Her second company, Law Firm Solutions, concentrates on consulting, research and review of web based technologies which allow professionals to work securely with nothing more than a telephone or the Internet.

Andrea is a legal assistant who has worked in various sized law firms since starting her career.  She has been a professional legal assistant for 17+ years and a Virtual Assistant since 2001.

  • Abb Oglesby

    Where can I find more examples of general law office systems?

    • TomaszStasiuk

      I would contact Andrea Cannavina. She is the author of the post and can probably provide more information for you.