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By: Jamie Collins

I’ve got a question for you. Have you ever had one of those types of days when you arrive to work and realize that your former self, the day, week or month prior, wrote your future self (the one you are right now in this moment) a Post-It note you can’t possibly decipher? Now, I don’t mean that you can’t read the darn thing because it’s illegible. (I was actually told by my fourth grade teacher I could skip the handwriting assignments because I had the neatest handwriting she’d ever see, although you’ll never see it in the ink, as it appears I now like to give doctors and serial killers a legitimate run for their money where ink pens and little, yellow squares of paper are concerned.)

Back to the post-it note. I mean it’s as though it’s been written by that guy in “A Beautiful Mind,” only that guy was YOU. You aren’t sure if your former self was drinking a chocolate martini and chuckling at your self-created future demise, deprived of oxygen for an incredibly extended period of time or perhaps even rendered mentally incoherent at the time of its writing – that type of note.  The kind where you read it and find the only appropriate responses are: “What?” “Huh?” or “WTH?

I arrived to work following a lovely three day weekend respite to find a post-in note hanging on my computer monitor. One which I had written to my future (Monday) self on a Friday, and placed in a prominent position within my line of sight. It simply read as follows:

Home phone post it (2)





Um, what?

Come again…
Home phone…what?
Do you know what I wanted to tell myself about a home phone?
I don’t.

I got nothing.

I write today’s post to impart a little wisdom into the legal kingdom. Please consider this to be a simple reminder to countless others out there, like me, who enjoy mimicking the handwriting of notorious serial killers and playing an enthralling round of “guess WTH you meant by that post it,” just for kicks. Here’s the thing.  There IS a proper way to compose a post-it note in order to avoid the “Beautiful Mind” paradigm.

Put down the vodka down. Take a deep breath. Pick up the pen, and do the following:

  1. Put the client’s name somewhere on the little yellow piece of paper. The top or side would be a great location.  I don’t care if you “will know which client it’s for” or “will remember this later.” It’s a slippery slope to ESP psychosis. Pick up the pen and write down the name. Period.
  1. If your message is random (i.e., “home phone”), be sure to leave yourself a little context.  i.e., get home phone number for client, change client’s home phone in system, consider the purchase of a home phone so you can call a travel agent and immediately book a first class trip to Hawaii pending your immediate departure from Post-It hell, put down your phone and immediately run home, or any other combination of meaningful words and symbols that will actually allow you to know what in the hell it was your former self was attempting to tell your future self – the one who showed up to work today with not a clue. (Welcome to ESP psychosis. You’ve arrived).
  1. (Stop laughing).
  1. If this post it will make its way onto a document or into a client file (in other words, it will not end up shredded or in that rectangular receptacle sitting desk-side when all is said and done), be sure to scribble the date and your initials down on that baby. Yes, I’m serious. I don’t care if you’re the only paralegal in the firm. I don’t care if you are the only one who owns a pad of Post-Its that are bright purple. I don’t care if you entered into a universal agreement whereby you hold the exclusive rights to Post-It usage within the walls of your law firm. You may know you wrote it.  You may know when you wrote it. You may feel incredibly lucid and coherent in the moment and swear on your last paralegal breath that you will remember writing it. But if you leave your firm for that event non-legal people refer to as a “vacation” or a permanent departure en route to another opportunity, you’ll give those left behind a fighting chance to decipher your notoriously scribbled ramblings on 4×4 square sheets of paper. Consider it a social courtesy; one which will illustrate to future legal generations that follow behind you, your tremendous awesomeness in days past. Initials and date. Got it?
  1. “LOST” was a t.v. series, not a Post-It game for paralegals. Consider the possibility that this Post-It may become lost; lost like a paralegal’s mind under a beach cabana, sipping one of those umbrella drinks, with an envelope from the esquire containing $500 cold hard cash, and basking in the sunshine on a one-way ticket, kind of lost. Let’s just assume it will become lost – guaranteed. It may be helpful to leave a note in your case management system (on your client list, etc.) to back up the information contained on the Post-It note. It will also allow you to locate this information quickly in the event your future self loses the Post-It note your former self wanted you to have (in the event you actually recall that any of this actually occurred at all after losing said post-it note and entering a state of immediate and ongoing ESP psychosis).
  1. Consider a Master List. When it reaches the point your desk begins to appear as though it has been intricately pieced together by small, yellow, Post-It bricks, consider moving everything on those Post-It notes onto a master list. In other words, take the 3,000 random Post-It notes and condense them onto a single sheet of paper for your future perusal. You can even check things off as you go, to make yourself feel more productive during the work day. Say goodbye to the yellow-bricked-desk-pavers and hello to the master list.
  1. Have a little chat with yourself. Implore yourself to become better about this in the future. In other words, ask yourself to “help you, help yourself.” It’s as simple as that.

Bonus Tip: When attempting to call an individual you are unable to reach (one whom you must contact, be it a client, witness or opposing counsel), list the date and time of your attempted call, and outcome, along with your initials on the Post-It note, piece of paper or electronic entry. In other words, “5/27/14 at 3:30 left vm – JLC” or “5/27/14 at 3:30 left msg with client’s husband – JLC.” This will help you (and your boss) to see your numerous attempts and the outcome for each. Unless, of course, you’d like to play another exciting round of Paralegal ESP Psychosis. Your choice.

While these tips by no means guarantee that a certain paralegal individual reading this post will not fall into the “beautiful mind” trap in the future, they certainly will increase the odds to be ever in your favor during the next round of paralegal games. Tip the scale, my friends. Tip the scale. The Post-It Olympics are upon us.

To My Former Self: I still have absolutely no idea what in the heck you meant my “home phone.”  But thank you for prompting my “beautiful mind” to write a post today.

And To My Intern, Rob – No, I will not stop asking you to find my “home phone” with each and every task I assign you, until such time we manage to crack the case on this paralegal-induced bout of ESP-Post-It-psychosis. Please find my “home phone” or E.T. immediately. And if you happen to find my sanity alongside either of these items, please return it to me immediately.

I Still Got Nothin’