Law firms, like all businesses, can experience inefficiencies even on the simplest tasks. A lawyer’s day is busy from start to finish and a day in the life of a legal assistant is no different. Inefficiencies cause downtime and can result in an inability to keep up with the daily workload.
This has lead many to wonder whether there is a blueprint for creating a more efficient law firm. While there are no one-size-fits-all answers, there are some things that you can do to improve law firm efficiency, right now.
1. Lead and Manage
Proper management is essential to law firm efficiency. Good managers lead their teams and are proactive, taking steps before rather than after an event. It’s helpful to always stay aware of the roadblocks that people are facing so you can help them find solutions before issues occur.
Being proactive can identify potential problems and develop resolutions that will keep them from happening. A good management team relates to employees and has a clear understanding of what is happening on a daily basis. This type of management can’t be done from 10,000 feet – managers need to get into the trenches from time to time.
One of the best ways to offer leadership is by example. Don’t just tell people what they should be doing – sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and show people how you want things done and try to make it a collaborative effort. There is often no better technique for teaching and coaching people what is to be expected than to work closely with your team and closely inspecting the output of their work and providing immediate feedback.
2. Provide Employees with the Guidance they Need
No one wants to fail or be unsuccessful. As a result, proper training for new hires and ongoing training for others is essential to keeping your law firm ahead of the curve. Employees need to be trained on the technical aspects of the job such as how to create documents and how to organize files. In addition, they also need guidance to on the firm’s philosophy, mission statement and goals so that everyone is aligned and understands what’s expected of them.
When employees understand expectations they become more engaged and much better able to meet them. If the law firm isn’t clear about what they expect, lawyers and others cannot have a clear understanding of what they need to accomplish. Don’t anticipate that all employees automatically know and understand their role in the firm. This should be spelled out for new hires and regularly reviewed for existing ones.
Related article – Training legal professionals can be easier said than done. That said, the numerous benefits of helping employees in a law firm can pay off immensely. Read our article about the numerous benefits of spending time and resources training legal professionals.
3. Offer Assistance
Provide assistance to lawyers and others in the firm when they experience problems. Larger sized law firms can benefit from a help desk to provide assistance for employees with technological difficulties. Help desks keep lawyers from spinning their wheels on minor situations that could be easily cleared up.
Smaller law firms may benefit from a designated training manager to provide help and training on products and software that are used by the company. Lawyers need to be free to spend their time on billable client matters and on developing and researching cases. To improve law firm efficiency, lawyers should not have to take time to handle routine tasks. These tasks can be automated to make life easier. If a lawyer has a problem they should have someone to go to before they waste too much time working to resolve the issue on their own.
4. Embrace Technology
Leveraging technology is critical in order to maximise efficiency. There are a increasingly wide range of solutions that can assist lawyers and legal professionals to plan their days, record time, communicate with clients, as well as new legal software that is available to save time creating, and formatting legal documents.
If your firm isn’t currently utilising software to help automate certain aspects of document creation then this is an area to explore to improve the quality, accuracy and consistency across all of your firm’s documents.
You can also use advanced technology in other areas as well. For example, the use of i-pads or similar items gives lawyers the capability to take care of business from anywhere. Network functions are also essential and lawyers need the latest and greatest online access possible. Look for new technology rather than waiting until the firm is too far behind the times.
Related article – Looking to increase law firm efficiency by investing in new legal tech? We’ve compiled a list of 6 Essential Software and Technology for every law office.
5. Develop Standards
Law firm efficiency begins with standardization. When everyone is working from the same page then everything will run more smoothly and effectively. Develop standards for handling various tasks that must be done on a regular basis. For instance, document creation is one area where standards are extremely useful.
There are a number of documents that are used over and over again. Instead of recreating them every time, develop some software templates that can be accessed by anyone in the firm. Documents will always be done correctly without errors and they will always be created to the high standards you have set.
Related Article – When everyone in the law firm is dedicated to learning and maintaining a certain level of quality standards, the overall efficiency of the law firm will dramatically increase over time. Read how you can implement new changes in our article “The Value of Standardization – Choose Legal Document Procedure over Tradition”.
Good communication is key to law firm efficiency. Without it, you will soon find that the firm’s employees lose their direction. Communication can be done simply through regular emails, newsletters and memos. Firms can also choose to conduct meetings which can help bring problems to light so they can be resolved.
The failure to communicate with lawyers and other staff members can be disastrous. Staying connected to those in the firm is necessary to foster a harmonious atmosphere and to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the company’s goals.
The Future of Your Law Firm
In order to maintain a solid profit and solidify the future of your law firm, you need a blueprint for law firm efficiency. Set both short and long-term goals for your firm. Where do you envision your firm in the next 5 years? What about in the next 10 years? Finally, where should your firm be in 20 years? Set goals that should be met every year in order to move towards your long-term goals.
The future of your law firm depends on your ability to maintain and improve law firm efficiency both now and in the future. The things you do today will benefit the firm for many years to come. If your firm is not as profitable as it should be, look at your plan to see where you can make improvements and changes.
Learn more ways you can start working to create a faster, more agile and efficient law firm by staying tuned to the Infoware blog and informing yourself about our suite of legal document software products.