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. In this post, we will provide six ways for you to become a process-oriented law firm.
Why are Processes Important?
A process-oriented law firm has predetermined policies and procedures for each task that is repeated, such as client intake, processing incoming/outgoing mail, billing, opening, and closing client files, or your electronic and paper file systems.
In addition to the frequent shift of priorities, regulations, laws, and rules are constantly changing. When your entire team has processes for repeated tasks, it allows them to fully do their job without having to think about the next steps each time a prospective client calls or they receive documents for processing.
6 Processes You Can Start Today
Define how the phone should be answered, how calls should be forwarded and when messages should be taken. Detail how a consult and other appointments should be scheduled. If your team is figuring this out with no process, it will be inconsistent which can create issues in operations and client dissatisfaction.
Create a policy for handling incoming and outgoing documents. Make sure copies are sent to clients and deadlines are calendared. Include where and how documents should be handled and stored once processed, and if time needs to be recorded for these tasks. When all of your incoming and outgoing mail is processed correctly, most of your deadlines will be captured and immediately become part of your todo list.
Implement a regular and recurring billing process to occur in specific intervals (usually monthly), so that your clients are always up to date on their financial status and can review the billing details in a timely fashion. This will increase your revenue and avoid surprising clients with large bills or depleted retainers in an already stressful, and many times emotional, situation.
Opening/closing client files
Detail the specific procedures for opening and closing a client's file. Include tasks required like conflict checks and engagement letters and outline the structure of how all electronic and physical files should be set up. Go over how a client’s file should be broken down, what should be returned to a client (and when), and how the file is stored after it is closed.
Map out the details of your digital storage. Include where draft documents should be stored, lists of accounts, and how they are accessed. Ensure that your team knows how to locate relevant items in your system and how things should be stored so they can be accessed when needed in the future.
Schedule milestone steps or tasks to review deadline-driven work along the way. Make policies as to when drafts should be reviewed, or an appointment scheduled on a matter that requires collaboration. As you breakdown your matter type milestones, think of the tasks required to reach that milestone and continue to the next. Those tasks can all become part of your workflows ensuring everyone on your team knows that the next steps are.
Any tasks that are repeated can become a process. When you have processes in place for your core operations; your efficiency, revenues, and profits will increase. You will position yourself to take on new technologies, to automate processes, for growth and reaching your goals.