Running a successful law firm is no walk in the park and a law firm that is highly efficient is a priority for every managing partner. From dealing with clients and handling sensitive legal information to managing your employees and filing system, you want your firm to run like a well-oiled machine even in your absence. You probably already have systems and processes in place that you believe work, but in today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing world, you do not want to have a law firm that is static and does not evolve with the times.
It is important to review your management systems and processes so you can weed out and get rid of stuff that does not work while introducing new and improved processes that will boost your firm’s efficiency. I am going to share a few steps on how to take your law firm from a crawling babe to the next level of efficiency as a master sprinter. You may have come across some of this steps for efficiency in the past and overlooked them, however, I assure you I provide an easy to understand breakdown of these steps to act as a guide for you to make your practice much more efficient.
We hear the word automation a lot in different industries but what does it really mean? Automation simply means taking tasks that you perform every other day that are repetitive and take up a lot of your time and handing it over to an automated system to do it for you. Law firms handle a lot of documents and paperwork and reviewing and processing documents take up a good amount of billable time your staff could use to attend to other things that require their expertise. Automating your business removes the strain on time and resources allocated to repetitive tasks that can easily be taken over by machine systems, this will greatly improve your firms’ productivity while eliminating costs and redundancy.
Automating your law firm also ensures that your employees get assigned tasks that match their skill set at the right times thus improving their morale, cutting down the amount of overtime they would have put in to finish up all that paperwork and ensuring they perform their tasks well. Automating your law firm streamlines and integrate tasks that are related to one another across departments thus reducing the amount of time and errors that would have been made if these tasks were taken on manually.
In the legal profession, maintaining healthy client relationships are very important and automation helps your firm take on a larger number of clients and improve your client relationships by enabling you to respond to queries in real time as information can be easily pulled up with a significantly lower amount of error that could have been made by manual systems.
Some examples of automatable processes include:
- Time and expense entry – using software like Everhour and Minute7 for your law firm make automating time and expense entries like preparing invoices to be done on time with fewer errors as it reduces the number of hands expense sheets have to go through.
- Client intake processes – EffortlessIntake and HubSpot software make automating your client intake process fast and easy for new clients to sign up for your services while taking away all the time that would have been wasted by manually entering handwritten forms.
- Budgeting – automating your budget with software like NetSuite and Sage50 helps you keep track of your firm’s spending and allocates resources to their various departments. You will also have a central source of budgetary information that can be retrieved at any time without the need for multiple calls or emails.
- UTMBS or “LEDES” – clients who require their bills sent in these codes will easily receive their invoices in these formats quick and on time by using software like Zola Suite.
- Coding – writing code can get tedious and boring, automating coding takes away the stress of long hours you would have spent in front of your screen.
- Invoice submissions – automatically submitting invoices with software like Zoho or Bitrix24 will save your accounts department from lots of paperwork involved in processing invoices and payments will be made much faster.
- File format conversions – you can easily convert your law firms file archives into different formats that are easier to work with like XML, HTML or Word with the simple click of a button using software like Adlib.
- Document review – automated document review software like Process Street or CaseFox allows your firm to identify relevant information in documents much faster, with fewer resources and more accurately than manual document reviews.
Migrating your infrastructure and PMS to the Cloud
As you may know, Cloud storage is slowly taking over from workspaces and is one of the great ways your law firm can function more efficiently. Imagine being able to access all information you need to work from any location you are in the world, it makes work so much easier and eliminates all the time that would have been spent locating relevant documents. Moving your management software and documents to cloud storage platforms like Clio and Rocket Matter means new information can be added and made easily accessible to staff at all times, so even when your lawyers and staff are on the go, they can stay up to date on what is happening with your firm on their mobile devices and contribute to completing their set tasks.
Migrating your infrastructure to the cloud is a complex process and it is important that you use a dedicated cloud service that will help with your law firm achieve its business goals.
Benefits of your law firms data to cloud storage include:
- Cloud migration reduces operational costs such as hiring office space in different geographical locations should you choose to open a branch in some other location as employees will have remote access to necessary documents and can work online. This means you can hire more hands to increase your law firms efficiency at a reduced cost.
- Migrating your law firms infrastructure to the cloud ensures that there is a permanent store of your firm’s valuable information and documents. In the case of a disaster where you could lose all of your files and information, cloud storage comes to the rescue because all your information is already backed up and safe. The same said for a situation where you lose your work device or it crashes. Without cloud storage, this would send you into panic mode as you struggle to retrieve your data from hard drives or colleagues. With cloud storage, however, you are sure your data can be accessed from a new device.
- Cloud migration allows you to pay for storage by subscription so your firm gets to eliminate costs because you pay as you use their cloud hosting services.
Some examples of cloud-based legal practice management software platforms are :
Clio – is a cloud-based platform for small to large legal firms which enables firms to track information like deadlines and appointments, manage and collect bills and cases from clients with ease.
Rocket Matter – rocket matter is a great legal practice management software that helps your law firm boost its efficiency by managing your schedules, storing documents and generating invoices.
PracticePanther – PracticePanther is an easy to use legal practice management software that helps your law firm operate more efficiently by monitoring expenses, processing payments, managing your calendar and appointments and automatically billing your clients accurately.
These software and many others like them are made to help firms run smoothly by managing their billing, cases and clients records, accounting information, schedules and appointments amongst other functions. Now it’s understandable that you may have some concerns about the security of the information stored in the cloud especially as law firms handle a lot of sensitive information but all data is encrypted and protected by passwords you set.
Invest in your staff
Whether you realize it or not, your staff are the lifeblood of your firm and one of your most valuable assets because they are responsible for so many of the activities in the day to day running of your law firm. Making sure that your staff are happy and feel appreciated goes a long way in the increasing the efficiency of your law firm because happier staff work harder, rise to challenges and accomplish their tasks a lot better than staff who feel abused, mistreated, unappreciated and dissatisfied.
Providing your staff with the necessary tools to perform their tasks effectively also increases their productivity and output. It also goes without saying that you need to pay your staff well, you should remunerate staff according to the work they put in, including bonuses. Don’t hesitate to provide payment for overtime and create a conducive work environment that is comfortable, have lunch breaks and even snacks! When your staff love working with you, they are more likely to come in early with a positive attitude, recommend new clients, friends, and family to your law firm in addition to working harder.
Some of the ways you can invest in your staff and increase the efficiency of your law firm include:
- Hire Properly – hiring the right people for the job is hardly an easy task but it most definitely can be done. Sifting through resumes and selecting the right fit for your firm is more than picking the candidate with the right skills on paper. You should hire someone who will fit right in with your firm’s culture, look out for candidates who will get along with your other employees and be willing to learn from them. You should hire someone who is committed to developing their career instead of chasing the next big paycheck as they will most likely ditch you as soon as a better offer comes along. This candidate would be willing to learn and adapt to your firm’s policies and thus will give their best to ensure your firm continues to grow. It’s also important that you check referees and backgrounds of your potential employees as more than a few people have been known to exaggerate on their resumes. A little background check will ascertain the validity of the skills and qualifications candidates have listed on their resumes. You can also check out candidates on social media, In the age of technology, most people are very open on social media, you stand to learn a lot more about candidates, who they are as people and their job experiences from what they share on their social media pages like Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Train them – giving your staff room to grow by training them and providing opportunities for them to move upwards in your law firms hierarchy encourages them to work harder thus increasing your firm’s efficiency. You ought to train both new and old staff to ensure they remain competent at their jobs and improve as time goes by. As the popular saying goes, “practice makes perfect” encourage your staff to practice everything they have learned continually. It’ll help them learn faster and get better at everything they’re taught in training sessions. You can also encourage staff to share their expertise with each other. If one staff is particularly good at cloud computing and machine learning, you can set aside a time of the week for said staff to share his/her knowledge with the rest of your team and sit back and watch as your law firms efficiency skyrocket. Your staff would most likely feel comfortable learning and asking questions from a colleague than from a stranger as well. Taking into account how each employee learns and tailoring their training to suit them will also make your employees feel appreciated and spurred to put in their best in completing their tasks. By training your employees individually you also will help them grow both professionally and personally by helping their identify their strengths and work on improving their weaknesses.
- Build a solid management team – Building a strong management team ensures your team actually works. Finding the right talent to make up your team is the first step to making sure your management team is a strong one. You might choose to go down the route where you promote a member of staff who shows great management skill and has worked with your firm for some time to a position of manager, or you can scout for new talent by attending industry related networking events or headhunting. Once you have assembled your team of talents, It’s imperative that your management team should also understand that they are all equal parts of a whole and no one’s contribution is more important than the other, ensure that roles are clearly defined so that your team does not mix up their responsibilities and butt heads. Your team should also have an open line of communication so information is shared at the same time and no one feels out of the loop, This will reduce conflicts and ensure they have great chemistry with each other. Your management team should be made up of people who are good leaders as well, it is no good if they possess the talent for management and have great chemistry with one another if they cannot lead the rest of your staff and ensure that your law firm is run efficiently.
These 3 ways will definitely help you get the ball rolling to a law firm that is 200% more efficient. However, it is up to you as a managing partner to find the appropriate tools and best practices available that would be most suitable for your law firm to enable it to succeed in our fast-paced and rapidly evolving modern era.
Automating redundant, tedious, time-consuming tasks that slow down your law firm and eat into billable hours with machine learning capabilities, adapting and migrating to cloud-based software platforms and using tools that work best for your firm will benefit your practice and your clients. Your employees will also deeply appreciate the effort you make to streamline their processes and increase productivity so that they can spend their time doing work that requires their expertise like winning new business. Moving your firm’s processes towards new technology sooner rather than later makes your firm indispensable. Any firm can increase its efficiency as long as you are willing to embrace change and learn new ways to get things done.