The reason why technology companies are so successful these days is due to greater scalability. Scalability is essentially just the ability to increase the level of outputs while maintaining the same, or only a marginally higher level of inputs. When processes become systematic and repeatable, they become more scalable. So as you can imagine, developing repeatable workflows in your law firm will save time and increase efficiency, which ultimately leads to greater profitability and better opportunities for law firm growth. In this post, we explain some of the best ways that you can develop systematic workflows for greater law firm efficiency.
How to Develop Systematic Workflows
In order to improve your law firm’s workflows, you first have to identify the problem areas and bottlenecks in your current processes that lend themselves to a more systematic approach.
Here are a few particularly cumbersome processes facing most law firms which make good candidates for automation and a more systematic workflow.
Organize Data Collection & Automate Data Transcription
Doing legal work requires collecting a large amount of data regarding your clients and their cases. The problem is, both the collection of this data, as well as the transcription of it into software programs, is cumbersome and time consuming.
Most law firms have a broken client intake process, where data collection is disjointed and scattered across multiple phone calls, emails, PDF forms, notes, etc. All of this data will normally have to be aggregated and entered manually into some type of practice management software.
While practice management software is incredibly powerful and makes managing cases, calendars, and bills much easier, it comes with a negative side effect. In order to get any benefit from those tools, you have to first have the necessary data in your database, and that requires data entry.
This data entry can be quite costly in terms of both time and money. So, one of the most important steps you can take toward a more systematic workflow is to automate the collection and transcription of data.
By streamlining your intake process and using online intake forms to capture data, not only will your data be more organized, it can also be automatically transcribed into other software programs with the help of APIs.
Now your data collection process becomes systematic and repeatable, and the transcription of data into other software can be automated, saving countless hours of time for you and your staff.
Leverage Email Templates for Repetitive Communications
Every law firm uses document templates to make drafting motions and agreements easier. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel for each document you prepare, so this makes a lot of sense.
But that’s not the only repetitive drafting involved with running a law firm. Another area where lawyers spend a ton of time is communicating with clients, and good communication is essential to running a successful law practice. So why don’t more lawyers use templates for emails?
Drafting emails can take up hours of time for attorneys and their staff, and oftentimes you’re just repeating the same types of information in your messages:
“Thanks for contacting us…”; “Attached is a document explaining what will happen next…”; “Please send us a copy of your driver’s license”; “Please fill out this questionnaire about your finances…”; etc. etc.
These repetitive messages are a necessary part of effectively communicating with clients. But yet, most clients’ number one complaint is that their attorney is still not communicating with them enough.
And although many attorneys will bill their clients for this time, that practice is sure to go away as law firms shift from hourly billing toward a business model with greater value for clients.
Law firms can benefit by creating and reusing email templates throughout all different phases of the client lifecycle. They can be utilized for anything, including thank you emails, quick follow ups and check ins, and in order to deliver important updates, files, and other case information.
Tools like Google labs’ canned responses or Lexicata’s email template feature can be used for this purpose. It will help save you hours of time writing emails, as well as help you communicate more frequently and effectively with clients. Both are major wins for a law firm.
Implement Checklists and Task Management Systems to Keep Organized
Henry Ford’s assembly line approach not only majorly contributed to the growth of the automobile industry, but also sparked an industrial revolution where every industry implemented better ways of manufacturing products.
The concept is quite simple: when processes are broken down into smaller, repeatable sequences and a single person is responsible for each task, the process as a whole becomes faster and more effective. Similar thinking can (and in the future, will) be applied in a law firm setting.
One of the most important ways of implementing more systematic workflows into a law firm is through better process management, making each type of matter more repeatable and predictable to handle. Checklists and task management tools are really powerful for this purpose.
A checklist will help keep track of the basic steps and milestones in the case, ensuring that nothing gets overlooked and enabling everyone in the firm to keep up to date with the progress. You can also benefit from assigning the responsibility for one particular task to a single person who can manage it and ensure that it gets taken care of promptly.
Using software for process management is generally the best approach because everyone has access to the information and the progress of various tasks and checklist items can be updated in real time for everyone to see.
Lexicata has customizable intake checklists built into our matter management system for this very purpose. You may also consider things like Asana, Trello, or any of the thousands of to-do list apps out there.
It’s clear that a law firm can benefit tremendously from developing more systematic workflows and implementing them into the daily routine.
Certain areas of running a law practice such as data collection and transcription, email communication with clients, and process/task management lend themselves particularly well to automation and repeatability.
The challenge for attorneys will be to spend the time upfront actually doing the work. Most attorneys assume they’re too busy for such “trivial” activities that don’t directly have an impact on their bottom line.
In reality, with all the competition and the way the legal market is constantly evolving, this type of work is critical for your future success. The immediate benefits may not be tangible, but it will have a substantial impact on the bottom line over the long run.
Therefore, implementing systematic workflows into your law firm should be looked at as an investment, rather than an unproductive use of time.
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