, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By: Jamie Collins

There are certain days when the things we each “need” to accomplish and that list of things we “want” to do become intertwined in a seldom fleeting duel. It’s usually not a particular task or errand on that gargantuan to do list, a single professional obligation we must fulfill, nor any one endeavor that stops us in our tracks — it’s the 3,000 other things swirling all around us at any given moment, as we attempt to accomplish them.

Admittedly, when I pondered putting up today’s post (in addition to normal work demands, a fabulous zoo fieldtrip, family time, dinner time (ugh), personal time, work out time (double ugh – followed by “what’s that”), and an array of things you can vividly imagine as a fellow human being on this planet), I breathed a deep, self-pitying sigh. I had no clue what to write about.

Had the inspirational river run dry?

I certainly wondered.

I feared it.

I even reached out to my writing mentor, Chere, for help. I was sitting on the side of that ultra dry riverbank on a fast slide toward uninspired waters, when I read her response (which was brilliant), and decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, as I plotted my postless demise on that motivationally parched riverbank. I reluctantly pulled myself up, grasping a virtual tree branch, and sauntered into my home office, where I sat before the keyboard to see what words would come to me, as I began to fill that blank, white screen.

Today’s topic?

Pull up a chair. We’re going to talk about the death (and resurrection) of one of my nearest-and-dearest paralegal resources; one which I carelessly left along the wayside somewhere along the career highway. The reason why? I have not a single excuse. Along the wayside this valuable resource went, and I have not one pathetic excuse to offer in its place.

We’re here to talk about Paralegal Binders. I know the utterance of the word “binders” is typically equated with trial exhibits, near-death experiences, and/or large volumes of documents tidily locked and stored into their plastic, 3-ring, makeshift prison homes. But today, my friends, we’re here to talk about YOUR paralegal binder…or lack thereof.

Early on in my career, I decided (quite intelligently, I might add) to begin a paralegal binder. This binder became a home for all of those random tibits of information, helpful articles, important websites, key resources, attorney gleaned insight, and career-related advice that crossed my path.

By all personal accounts, I was an elite, legal-information-collection ninja. Dewey Decimal had nothing on me.

I took pride in that binder. I even tabbed the thing by topic. If I needed to know anything about anything I’d read of any importance whatsoever, I knew right where to go – straight into that dark navy, plastic binder, intently flipping away at the pages, as I successfully made my way down the center of the paralegal promise land; where answers bloomed in abundance.

For a newbie paralegal, a reference material like this becomes an immediate and immeasurable item of survival. One you grab any time the violins begin to play, while you frantically attempt to tackle a particular task to its knees, a once known bit of information playfully evades you, a procedure you performed flawlessly 3 years ago is no longer anywhere to be found within the ultra crazy confines of your now overwhelmed paralegal brain, or the key wording to that perfectly crafted pleading you once did before your imminent arrival into the land of legal insanity is attempting to: Take. You. Down.

Any helpful information I needed was printed, categorized, and housed. I had a world class paralegal binder. It had articles, and more. It boasted every type of pleading; discovery form; important trial rule; grammar tip; and inspirational piece of writing I’d had the pleasure of reading or typing — all properly redacted, of course. If an attorney described a 1031 exchange to me; it went in. If I learned a new trial rule that could potentially save a trial team strapped to a paddleboat approaching an epic waterfall; it went in. If I came across an inspiring story, rally speech or a really great quote; it went in. That binder and I were an elite team of two.

I dominated the paper around me, and into the 3 rings of that papyrus paradise for future perusal it would go. Much like that “clean desk,” somewhere along the way – I lost my binder. Now, I don’t mean I literally lost the thing. Rather, it became a permanent occupant of the same drawer at a different firm, rarely perused, and never added to. For all intensive purposes, the thing died along the way. Stagnant remains of an information carcass it became.

Did I think I had become so knowledgeable or skilled along the way that I no longer needed to stockpile important information when I found it? Perhaps.

But I was dead wrong.

Over the past year or so, we’ve shared some amazing articles, posts, and discussions in our “Social Club” on LinkedIn. (Those of you who are members of that fun forum – you know I’m right).  How many of those articles have I printed off and saved over the past 365 days? A scant handful at best; most of which were on the topics of writing and blogging.

I find myself asking “why?” Better yet – wondering if you’ve been joining me as a member in the Inactive Paralegal Binder Club? Are you walking past the graveyard of “Paralegal Binders of Days Passed” right along with me? I’m guessing most of you have, and are. Let’s all stop to ask ourselves “why?”

Seriously, why?

At what point did we decide we were okay just reading the information, taking it in momentarily, and allowing it to remain non-existent by way of an amazingly helpful, personal resource? Nothing makes me crazier than knowing I had a particular piece of information or an article that was totally on point with what I need here and now, and having absolutely no way to retrieve it. We must begin to save those articles, discussions, and tips we come across when they stop us dead in our busy tracks, and make us think, “Wow, what a great article/discussion/tip!”

How “wow” could it be if you read the thing, only to pass it by, failing to gather it as a resource?

So today, my fellow paralegals, aspiring paralegal, loyal readers, (and even attorneys), I encourage you to remember to care. To remember how important it is to have a personal resource that is yours for the taking, any time the page flipping urge arises. To commit yourself to creating the best binder you could possibly own. To read, acknowledge, save/print, tab, 3-hole punch, and permanently house each helpful article, insightful tip or relevant piece of information you come across, until your arm hurts, and maybe even your eyes.

Heck, while you’re at it – list out your 1 year goals, 5 year goals, and 10 year goals and put them at the front of it. Commit. Decide who you’re going to become, and what you plan to do to get there. Print out humorous and inspirational items and keep them for a future day when you could use a laugh…or better yet, a prod. Decide it’s not only “okay” to make the stuff meaningful; it’s critical.

Engage in your future. Engage in your career. Reignite your passion for becoming the very best you can be. Next time the violins are tuning up in a law firm near you or you need that key piece of information you read 6 months ago, you’ll find yourself flipping, tabbing, and finding it faster than a paralegal could depart through the doors of a law firm into an extended weekend, all expenses paid by the esquire, to Hawaii. Oh yes, that fast.

You’re just $5-10 away from reinventing the way you do business. Just one decision and many print jobs away from becoming the next best you, with the next best binder. A moment when you will forever change the way you locate a vital piece of information in a sheer nanosecond, while entrenched in the midst of a soul sucking assignment, difficult project, or professional disaster. It’s time to become better. To care. To become the most well-prepared paralegal (on a binder flipping mission) the world has ever seen.

Spend the money.
Buy the binder.
Print the article, tip, trial rule, and helpful tidbit.
Tab away.
Begin anew…and become a legal-information-collection ninja.

Engage in your future. Engage in your career. Reignite your passion for becoming the very best you can be, and care enough to begin (or resurrect)  the best paralegal resource you’ve ever owned.

I may have left my paralegal binder along the wayside, but I just found it – on my way back up the side of that ultra dry riverbank, one carefully placed high heel at a time.

Join me.


I want to hear about your paralegal binders! You got one? Do you love it? Had one and planning to resurrect it? When did it save you most? Hit that comment button, and tell us all about it!

Wishing you an absolutely Happy High Heel Friday and amazing weekend outside the law firm gates. Let’s see if you can set a new personal best running out of those law firm doors! We’ll see you on Monday.