Category Archives: Secretarial support

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How To Handle Negative Reviews

How To Handle Negative Reviews

How To Handle Negative Reviews

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The Best Way To Take Notes

Hacking Chaos: The Cornell Method of Note-Taking


Taking notes by hand is better than typing your notes on a computer. Handwriting forces you to slow down and focus on what is important. This greatly increases comprehension.

That is where the Cornell Method comes in. The Cornell Method has you separate your notes into a note-taking portion, key points, and a summary. It is ideal for lawyers.1

Setting Up the Cornell Method

To arrange your notes in Cornell fashion, take your standard legal pad and draw a thick vertical line down the left-hand side of the paper, approximately 2-3 inches from the side of the page. Then draw a horizontal line all the way across the paper about two inches from the bottom of the page. You will end up with something like this:


You can also design one online and print it, or you can purchase Levenger pads optimized for the Cornell Method.

There. You are all done getting ready to take notes Cornell-style.

The Structure of the Cornell Method

Dividing your paper gives you three sections:

  1. The largest section is for note-taking.
  2. The left-hand margin is your key points and key questions section.
  3. The bottom is your summary.

Opinions differ wildly on what should happen with your notes section. Some people — particularly those that recommend it as a college study tool — subscribe to an elaborate set of rules about recording, reciting, reflecting, and reviewing. You probably do not need to go that deep. However, there is one principle that should guide you if you’re going to take notes using the Cornell Method: write less, not more.

If you have gotten used to taking notes on a laptop, you are already guilty of writing down too much. Treat your notes section like an outline. Shoot for key points, not a verbatim transcript. Think of that section as an outline you will return to later, after your lecture or meeting or motion hearing has finished.

The left-hand margin is your cue and recall section. When you are using Cornell as an academic note-taking method, the cue functions as a memorization and comprehension tool. You should be able to cover up your notes section, and answer any questions you posed to yourself in the cue section. You probably are not going to need to do that with your notes. Depending on what you are taking notes, this section can contain a series of questions, a roundup of notable points, or to get all business-speak, action items. You should be able to throw your entire notes section away and walk out of your meeting, hearing, or lecture with the key ideas intact. If you are the kind of person who likes to distill your oral arguments down to one notecard, this will seem pretty familiar.

The summary at the bottom is exactly what you would expect — a quick summary of the notes on that page. Internet nerds differ on whether you should do that right when you are done taking notes or after you have reviewed them. I tend to summarize right away. Otherwise, that summary section sits alone

How the Cornell Method Works For Me

It is not an exaggeration to say the Cornell Method helps me in every note-taking situation I have in my professional life.

In meetings, I use it to easily call out follow-up items by dumping them in the cue section. This can be anything from a statute I need to look up to a call I need to return. Pulling those to-do items and reminders out of the main text of the notes really highlights them. Every time I fall in love with a new type of notebook that does not have the Cornell margin, I go back to trying to just circle, underline, or highlight my follow up items and two things happen:

  1. My notes look like an utter mess
  2. I can’t easily find the things I want to do just by glancing at the page.

Pulling your next steps/to-dos/action items over into the left-hand column also works well if you like to reduce your notes to an actual to-do list you put on an index card, in a computer file, or a fancy Getting Things Done tickler file. That left-hand column is now functionally your list of next actions. In meeting situations, the summary usually ends up being nothing but the date, time, purpose, and attendees of the meeting. This gives me a way to file my notes easily.

When I am listening to someone else talk for any length of time, whether an opponent in court or speaker at a CLE, being forced to organize my notes Cornell-style on the fly means I am actively engaged. If I do not take handwritten notes, my mind drifts, and suddenly I’ve missed everything. Here, I use the notes section to force me into keeping a cohesive outline, even if the speaker wanders around a bit (as lawyers often do).

Then I use the recall section to break out big-picture points I’m going to address and key questions I’d like to ask. Again, pulling those things out of the notes section cleans up my notes visually, and creates a quick mini-outline that I can refer to quickly.

The arena in which I’ve definitely found the Cornell method most helpful is in organizing my own teaching notes. The notes section covers the main points of my lecture in an outline and forces me to stay on task. The recall section is my dumping ground for everything I can’t deal with in my notes without things getting messy. Questions I plan on asking appear there, linked to whichever part of the lecture they’re related to. Reminders to myself also go there when I’m re-reading notes before getting up to speak. Notes on sources, if I need to mention those, go in the side margin as well.

With that wide Cornell margin, my teaching notes last three or four semesters instead of one. This is because I’m able to use that recall section to highlight key changes I want to make next time I present the material. Finally, the summary functions like the tagging function in Evernote. I have got the week of the semester the lecture occurs, the name of the class, the major topics I’m covering that week, and a page number. This way, when I have shuffled and reshuffled the pages while speaking, I can easily put them back together again when I’m done (or let’s be honest, mid-lecture).

If you are hopelessly disorganized like me, but wish you were an organized person hacking your own tendencies towards chaos, you really can’t go wrong with taking your notes by hand using the Cornell Method to force you into a specific but flexible note-taking framework. All my notes — meeting notes, lecture notes, deposition notes — look and function the same, which means I always know where to put information when I am writing, and I always know how to find information when I’m reviewing later.

The Cornell Method is the only productivity tool that has stuck with me for more than a year, and I am never giving it up.

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Starting Up A New Business?

Starting Up A New Business? (From the Law Society Of Scotland –as amended by rtlcooperative)

Setting up your own business involves making some of the biggest decisions of your life. And before your new venture is up and running, there are even more day-to-day decisions to be made. A solicitor can guide you through this tricky process, protecting your business and helping you avoid costly pitfalls. With the legal and financial issues watertight, you can focus on what you do best – building a successful business.

Business structure

One of the first, and most important, decisions you will make is the structure that best suits your business needs. The options – sole trader, partnership, limited company or limited liability partnership – involve different legal requirements, for instance, when making agreements and keeping company records. To help avoid disputes, it is important to set out the relationships between those involved in running the business. Franchising can also be an attractive option. Your solicitor can give independent advice and assistance on business structures and their legal requirements.


Many of those starting a business need to borrow money to do so. If so, the lender may want security over the business premises or other private property. A solicitor can help identify different sources of finance, explain the terms that lenders are offering, outline the risks involved and help with negotiations. You also need to think about your personal finances, how will you be able to afford a pension? What happens if you are too ill to work? Can you get cover for key personnel insurance?

That is when it is time to consider the advice of a Financial Planner such as Fergus Muirhead. Fergus is well renowned in Scotland.

Fergus has years of experience helping people manage their money, both as a professionally qualified Certified Financial Planner and as a regular writer and broadcaster across a wide range of programmes, magazines and newspapers.

These days he can be heard on the John Beattie Show advising viewers and listeners on money and consumer issues. Fergus was a regular on GMTV and has also appeared on Channel 4 hit programme Location Location Location. He was Woman’s Own Consumer Champion for five years, helping hundreds of readers find solutions to their consumer problems.



It is important to find the right premises, whether leasing a shop, renting an office or running a business from your laptop. But problems can arise, for instance, understanding the terms of a lease or finalising a property purchase. Solicitors understand the legal complexities and are familiar with local property markets.

Taxes and insurance

New businesses must register with HM Revenue & Customs and are expected to pay national insurance. Other tax issues may arise, for instance, over VAT, inheritance tax planning and trading abroad.

A range of different types of insurance is available to help businesses protect against risks. A solicitor can guide you through these issues.

Employing staff

The rules for employing staff are complicated – and constantly changing. Solicitors can give specialist advice on the rights of employees and employers, drawing up contracts and dealing with any disputes that occur. Consider outsourcing. Staff costs can be crippling for any new company so why not consider outsourcing some of your staff requirements. A fantastic way to do this, is to use a company such as A Scottish company who are local, yet have a broad range of experience, that is world wide. They will answer your phones as if they are based in your office and wil provide a highly professional service for you at a fraction of the cost of employing your own secretary or PA.

As Helen at says “My team of PA’s and I have been delivering a telephone answering and virtual office service since 2004. And the only thing that has changed in that time is the range of services we now offer and our name which resulted from our re-branding in November 2011.. Our personal professional telephone answering service has been a constant since we answered our first call for our first client way back then – incidentally that same client still uses our service. So you could say that after all these years we obviously do something great.”


Problems can arise for a number of reasons – contractual disputes with suppliers, recovering bad debt, disagreement with business colleagues or associates – so it is vital to receive professional advice and, if necessary, representation. Solicitors have the expertise to draw up terms of business and review contracts. More serious disputes do not necessarily end up in court. Your solicitor can help you avoid disputes in the first place or, if need be, arrange mediation.

Further information

Whatever the legal issue – from data protection and product liability to advising what you can say in promotional material, protecting your ideas and applying for licences – a Scottish solicitor can help. Use our website to find a solicitor.


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The Magic of Outsourcing Your Call Handling

The Magic of Outsourcing Your Call Handling

Why You Should Consider Outsourcing Your Telephone Answering Service

One of the most important decisions that business owners and managers need to make is whether to perform some activity in-house, or whether to outsource it to a more specialised third party. Each side will have its pros and cons, so the wise manager will need to compare the two sides thoroughly before coming to a decision. This is something that also applies to the question of how to handle the telephone answering service of a business. In the past, this type of thing would be handled by a personal assistant who is an employee, but today, that no longer needs to be the case.

The Benefits of Outsourcing

One of the pluses of outsourcing is that it allows your company to be more flexible. So for example, if you find that your need for individuals to handle order processing drastically increases at certain points in the year, you can negotiate with a telephone answering service to provide the necessary additional people during those times. This allows you to ensure that there are enough individuals answering phones so that your order processing doesn’t get bogged down, but you still remain flexible so that when the demand for order processing decreases, you can simply adjust the number of outsourced staff downwards. It’s much less flexible if you do this in-house because your firm will need to hire additional employees or workers in order to be able to do so. The lack of flexibility will be a further drain on the company’s resources.

Another benefit of outsourcing is that the telephone answering service staffs are specialists in what they do. Whether the job involves simply answering calls, or something more intensive such as telemarketing, these individuals know how to do it well because that is what their job is all about. This is unlike the in-house option, where employees will tend to be more like generalists, who sometimes handle phone calls but often handle other responsibilities.


The Downsides of Outsourcing

One possible disadvantage to outsourcing is where the staff of the telephone answering service lack the knowledge to properly address questions that callers ask. This is why it is very important to hire a firm like Easy Answering, which makes it a point to ensure that any personal assistants who are handling calls have sufficiently in-depth knowledge about your company.

Another possible downside involves telephone answering services, which attempt to lock their clients into longer term contracts. This is a problem because it tends to nullify the advantage of flexibility, which is one of the reasons to outsource in the first place. So again, you need to choose a firm like Easy Answering, which does not obligate clients to enter into long-term contracts, so that you can maintain the flexibility to increase or decrease the number of individuals involved, as needed.


The Magic of is we can appear to be in your office when we are in fact your online partner, at your side throughout the day.

Easy Answering Service -The Magic Of Easyanswering (Enhanced) from Alice Walker on Vimeo.

Music: All the things by M.A.G. Trio (

Check out the testimonials of easyanswering to get an idea of what their clients appreciate about their service. They might just be that piece of magic that your business needs to reach the next level.


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How to Find Support and Assistance for Your Business

How to Find Support and Assistance for Your Business


I am one of those bores who keeps extolling the virtues of the 80/20 rule or Pareto’s theorem, however the response I often get from other lawyers and business people on an almost daily basis is how can I delegate when I don’t have the time to even think about what I need done?

When your practice gets a little too busy and too hot to handle then it is time to delegate or get some help in to establish some breathing space. You need to work “on your business and not in it” as the business gurus say! A Virtual PA can be a temporary solution or may even be a long term solution to your business bottleneck.

However, it’s not easy to find good, reliable support. Many independent contractors are unreliable, unavailable when you need them, or their work quality is not up to speed. It may be that it takes you too much time explaining what you need done to ever trust them to actually deal with  the task in hand. A practical suggestion at this stage is to ask an employee who carries out a regular piece of work for you to write down the full sequence of events involved in that sequence and to provide examples of the type of things they say or write or do when carrying out that procedure. This will take you a long way to breaking down a role into manageable chunks that can be delegated when required.

There are many options when it comes to searching for and utilizing outside contractors.
Here are a few of the basic options:

If you need secretarial support and support with those phones, then you do not want to be tied into an expensive contract with high monthly recurring fees. The answer I have used at Roadtrafficaw is

I would not hesitate to recomend the ladies at for all the members of the RTLcooperative as they have proved to me over the years that they really do care about your business and they consistently deliver a high standard of service. We have been using their service for a couple of years now so I speak from experience.

Your calls are answered by one of your 3 named PA’s – not by “the next available operator” – they will quickly get to know you, your business and importantly your customers. They tailor their service to their client’s requirements and not to what they think you need – they appreciate that every client is different. They will assign 3 named PA’s one of whom will be your account manager, so your calls are answered by someone who knows about you and your business and not simply “the next available operator. No long term contracts. Clients choose to use them because they want to, not because they are tied to a contract. Charges are very simple. You pay for messages relayed – and not for every call logged on your incoming line. They screen your calls for unwanted callers including unsolicited sales calls. This means that you can manage your budget and your time much more effectively. Because the ladies are local (Based in Hamilton) your clients get the feeling that they are based right there in your office and it makes for a easy trasition to pass on calls and messages.



1. Temp or Staff Agencies

One common source for contract staffing is placement agencies. The benefit of these agencies is they have done all the hard work of sorting through and vetting hundreds of job seekers, with the goal of finding someone who is a better fit for your needs.
The drawback of placement or temp agencies is the additional cost. “Contract recruitment agencies have a set percentage or fee which they recoup and this doesn’t vary that much, regardless of the hourly rate paid to the contractor,” Several agencies meet the demand in Glasgow.

Jobs, careers, employment and recruitment at Central - Celebrating 10 years helping you find recruitment agencies

2. Other Professionals In Your Industry

One great source for finding extra help is simply by talking to other people in your line of work. Get in touch with the Glasgow Bar Association and ask if they are aware of any lawyers or legal staff that might meet your needs. Check the Notrice Board at your local court common room.  You can draft up an email to your equals at other firms and tell them you need extra help. You may find someone whose practice is currently a little slow and would be willing to do the work. They may be willing to lend you a staff member just like the football teams do nowadays relieving the burden of long term salary obligation for a staff member that isn’t needed, at that present time. It may even be someone they want to share to improve the level of experience that the person receives.  Have a look at Sharing A Trainee Solicitor.

3. Gumtree

Gumtree has a tremendously popular jobs board, and you can post a job announcement for a few quid. Advertise for exactly what you want. And if you do hire a temporary worker permanently, you will not have to pay a mega finders fee like you would, if you  had you gone through an agency.
There is also a section on Craigslist called “Resumes” which allows any job seeker to post their resume or qualifications. If you search in this section for “lawyer,” “attorney,” or “paralegal,” then you can find just lawyers, attorneys or paralegals who are looking for work.
As with any hire, you should verify their qualifications by calling their references before making a hiring decision. Don’t over look this as people can be VERY economical with the truth when they post for a job online.

4. University Job Boards

Get your secretary or assistant to take a hike up to the Uni. Just kidding! Go online and search for the University notice boards or email direct to the Faculty where you think they may have some hidden talent waiting to be discovered. eg If you are making a video for your business you might want to try the Film school or if you are making a radio commercial or Podcast you might want to try the Media training courses. Check out local online University job boards. Most universities have dedicated jobs websites where they will allow you to post an ad to their system for free.
You may also want to contact the local university career offices directly. I contacted my law school’s Dilploma office Director, Eileen Patterson, and she said she recommends that employers post a job to the Law school’s LinkedIn Group, as the students all look to develop their CVs online and they are encouraged topost to LinkedIn


5. Post a Notice on Your Website or OUR website (

You may also draft up a job description, the duration of the assignment, and any other requirements and post it on your website or blog. You can then share this post by emailing the link to others or by posting it to social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Send it to us at the RTLcooperative and we will post it here and send out an email to the members of the cooperative.
Do you have any better suggestions for finding good independent contractors? Please leave your ideas in the comments below.



Graham Walker LLb, DipLP, NP

Practising Solicitor Scotland