Law Firm Efficiency: A Guide For Getting it Done
You are a passionate attorney and dedicated counselor at law, running a busy law firm or legal department. You spend your day seeing back-to-back clients, hurrying from one appointment to the next, but with only so many hours in the day, you feel like your work is only just scratching the surface and there are so many more things left to do.
If you are honest with yourself, it feels like you spend all your available time planning while tasks and goals are not completed. You see glimpses of what could be but feel a knot in the pit of your stomach as you think of ways to improve.
The way you operate your law firm will determine how efficient your law firm is, your client’s satisfaction, and your profits. Running a law firm requires your entire team to remain fluid while delivering services and work product without errors or omissions on every matter. A high level of efficiency in all stages of a client’s journey with your firm will increase profitability while the case is being handled, and continually in the future as your clients continue to share their positive experiences. Although all your clients and cases are unique, there are plenty of ways to systemize processes for continued use and make your law firm run more efficiently. You can learn more about this by reading about the core elements of an efficient law firm.
Sometimes, even the most basic use of technology can improve your team’s efficiency. There are tools you can start using today to increase efficiency without significant investment. You can streamline workflows for all your processes by reviewing what tools you have and determining if you can use more features of the product, or if you can use it to complete more tasks. Next, think about what types of tools you can add to improve your workflows.
A workflow in a law firm or legal department consists of the steps required to move a matter or project from the beginning to the end. Ask yourself, what are the milestones for each project or matter type, and what are the tasks that need to be completed during each milestone to keep it moving to the next? Defining these processes for your team will allow them to always know the next steps to take, based on your specific workflow design. Workflows provide a robust boost in efficiency by capturing all the tasks that your team completes on a regular basis and making them the journey your clients or team will take to move the project or matter to completion.
Because working in the legal field requires any team to work in a fluid environment with constantly changing priorities, there are endless trigger points that occur where information is collected and needs to be stored for easy access in the future. When you create workflows for all your processes, projects and matter types, you are examining those processes in detail and ensuring that all the information you need is collected at the correct time. Here are some workflow tips to run an efficient law firm.
What is Efficiency in a Law Firm (and Why Does it Matter)?
Efficiency is obtaining the highest output with the least amount of input and involves reducing unnecessary tasks or resources while obtaining specific outcomes. In a law firm, efficiency is systemizing processes so that the completion of tasks is done in a uniform and consistent way that eliminates redundancies. Efficiency matters because it impacts the operational, financial and developmental aspects of your law firm. If you want to improve or grow your law firm, improving the efficiency of your operations will increase the quality of the services you provide, increase profits, and the amount of leads you receive.
Terms to Know
Processes. Predetermined policies and procedures for tasks that are repeated, such as processing incoming/outgoing mail, sending email correspondence, filing court documents, calendaring, filing structures, how files are prepared for court or other appearances, how a prospective client is handled or how a client’s file is closed.
Workflows. A workflow consists of the steps required to move a matter or project from the beginning to the end.
Metrics. Measures of data that management or analysts review on a regular basis to maintain performance assessments, opinions and business strategies.
Automation. The technique of using technology to make a process, system or task operate automatically, reducing human data entry or intervention.
How to Increase Efficiency in a Law Firm
Adopting a Process Oriented Model
A common problem presented to us by attorneys is that they have so many ideas for firm management, case management, improving the delivery of their services, increasing profits and obtaining more qualified leads; however, the execution of those ideas generally falls short. An attorney running a law firm or legal department is responsible for managing multiple projects from marketing, administrative and compliance tasks to managing a firm or team, to delivering quality legal services to their clients. What is a process-oriented law firm? We break it down here.
Attorneys spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas to increase the profits of their law firm, and the ones with the most success are likely process orientated. Creating processes for your law firm will provide insights that make it easy to identify where costs can be reduced, redundancies can be eliminated, and to identify tasks that can be streamlined or automated. They can also be used to ensure critical tasks like calendaring and deadline management are completed throughout the workflow, reducing stress and increasing efficiency. Learn more about how a process-oriented model will increase your profits.
Because a law firm has so many ongoing projects and is required to shift priorities on a regular basis, becoming a process-oriented law firm will reduce stress when priorities are shifted. The size of your firm does not matter, as the primary purpose of developing processes is to free you from the time you spend giving instructions for basic, repetitive tasks that need to be accomplished for your firm to run.
If you have lots of ideas to improve your law firm, and have been unable to implement them, becoming a process-oriented law firm will give you back the time you need to reach your goals. Not only will your team always know the next steps to take, but accuracy will also be improved, workflows streamlined, and less time will be spent on administrative or organizational tasks. This will increase the quality of the services you provide, creating momentum for your marketing when your satisfied clients bring you returning business and new leads. It also lays the groundwork for effective marketing strategies, successfully implanting new technology solutions and overall growth. Start now with these 6 ways to become a process-oriented law firm.
Automating processes in your law firm can provide you with robust returns on investments, as well as improving the overall operational metrics of your law firm. To begin, you should think of what documents you create daily or weekly, what tasks you complete regularly, tasks that are delayed or forgotten, and how you communicate with prospective and current clients. Here are 5 processes you can start automating today.
Start with the processes that are completed the most. If you are thinking about document automation, determine what 10 forms you prepare most frequently. Analyze your workflow over the past six months, what are the tasks that are delayed or forgotten? Are your clients frequently calling in for a status update or to request copies of documents related to their matter? If so, think about status update automation and a client portal to streamline that process.
One thing law firms and legal departments all share is the creation of contracts, documents and communications that will be reused and customized for matters in the future. If you have enough of these contracts, documents or communications, document assembly or document automation can assist you in streamlining the creation of those documents and improving the consistency of the services you provide. The solution that will be most effective for you, will depend on a few things.
If you are looking to generate transactional documents in which many users or departments will be involved with a matter, assembly can provide a solution that delivers consistent documents that allow the user data entry control. If you are looking for a global solution that starts with your client intake and goes through closing your matters, you should invest in document automation. Document automation will require a system that can capture and store your data, as well as retrieve that data and apply it to your document templates.
Want to learn more about whether a document assembly or document automation solution could be right for you? Read more about what they are and how they differ here.
Regardless of the size of your law firm, metrics are a huge factor in business development and increasing the profits of your law firm. The amount and types of metrics you utilize will vary greatly between firms; however, there are three main categories all firms will use, which are marketing, financial and operational. If you are not sure on the value of metrics, we have come up with the top 4 reasons you need metrics in your law firm.
Metrics are generally the first step to improving your law firm, whether you want to improve the financial or operational part of your law firm. Reviewing these metrics regularly will improve your decision-making and assist in moving your matters through the workflow process at a faster pace. Understanding the types of metrics, you need to review to improve your law firm is the first step to improving your law firm. By using data to make decisions, your marketing efforts will produce more returns on investment, your operational efficiency will increase, which will increase your revenues, profits, and client satisfaction (that will wrap around to your marketing and become the momentum of your word of mouth and referral leads). Want some specific examples? Here are some basic metrics you can track for review.
Using the Right Tools
With so many legal technology products available, it is no wonder a majority of our clients have struggled with implementing technology solutions that provide results. This occurs when you implement new technologies without creating processes for using them. Implementing the most powerful legal technology solutions will not provide you results without the proper processes in place to use them. Examining and developing these processes prior to searching for a technology solution will ensure you find relevant products that are going to add value upon implementation. These top tools are used by many law firms, and we have broken down the most effective ways to use them.
Selecting the most effective legal technology tools for your law firm requires you to align your operational structures with available features so that it becomes part of your workflow and used to its maximum potential. Any solution you use should work around your workflows and should not require you to work around it.
When you eliminate redundancies and your team always knows what next steps they need to take, they will not stop the workflow to obtain the next step. Spending less time on routine tasks will allow you to work more on billable matters or business development, without reducing the quality of either. By identifying inefficiencies in your law firm, you can easily modify your workflows or know what needs to be upgraded next.