Five Steps to a More Productive Law Office

Ever ask yourself how you could possibly fit anything else into your day? We’ve all been there. The good news is that to be more productive and get more done, you don’t actually need more hours in the day. 

You just need to be more productive. 

We’ve broken down how you can turn your law office into a productive, efficient operation, where you and your staff are making the most out of your time spent working. 

Step #1: Get Organized

Time spent trying to find what you need is the exact opposite of being productive. When it seems like there’s not enough time, it can be easy to let the papers pile up and to move filing to the bottom of the “need to get done list”. Or to not put client notes into your practice management system. 

But when it’s busiest, that’s when law firm organization is actually the most important. Because a few minutes spent doing those things will save you hours down the road when you add up all the time you take searching through emails, computer folders and your office looking for that one critical piece. Deadlines and client needs somehow seem even more stressful when you can’t locate it. 

We all have those projects that we’ve said “I’ll get around to organizing that another day”. To make sure you actually get it done, put them on the calendar just like you would any other important meeting. You don’t have to tackle everything all at once, but you can break it down into one organizational task a week or every other day to start making your way to a more organized office. 

Here are a few ways you can start to get organized: 

  • Declutter your desks
  • Create bins or use a desktop filing system to keep the papers you need readily available neat and accessible
  • Keep all like items together, including office supplies and documents
  • Check out your data and  make sure your folders and desktop are structured and cleaned up

Step #2: Create Structure

All of the hard work you do in organizing your law firm can be undone in a matter of weeks – or hours depending on how much you tend to toss around case files! Maintaining that sense of organization and the calm that comes along with it means you need to have a plan laid out about how to keep it going. 

And no, just thinking it doesn’t count as a structured plan. You need to write it down. Make it clear. Make sure you and your team all know what that structure is. 

“File documents as needed” is very different from “Scan in any case relevant documents into their appropriate matter within 24 hours using the practice management program and the naming convention of ‘Client Code – Document Type and Name’. Then make sure that if a hard copy needs to be retained it is placed in the corresponding client folder.”

Documenting these processes is going to get everyone the same page and get you consistent results. 

Step #3: Use the Right Tools – Billing & Account

Billing and accounting – every lawyer’s favorite tasks! Just kidding. We know how most lawyers really feel about this part of running a law firm. 

A big part of the stress that comes from billing and accounting is often the lack of productivity involved. When you’re manually handling these tasks or running them through two separate systems that require you to put in data twice, you’re using a lot of mental energy. Just as important: you’re spending valuable time. 

Even if you have someone helping you with billing and accounting, there’s likely plenty of opportunity to make the process more productive. 

The most important part of making your billing and accounting more efficient: having the right tools. 

Make sure you’re using products that:

  • Include both billing and accounting to eliminate double data entry and reduce the risk of errors
  • Automate as much as possible, like low retainer notifications and past due invoice reminders
  • Easily run three-way reconciliations and create compliance reports
  • Give you access anytime, anywhere so you don’t have to wait until you’re in the office to add billable time or input reimbursable expenses

Step #4: Use the Right Tools – Practice Management

Remember what we said in Step #3? Now take all that and apply it to practice management. 

And just like with your billing and accounting, it’s critical to make sure your practice management program lets you work from anywhere. It’s nearly impossible to maximize productivity when the only place you can work is from your office. We’ve all learned how quickly things can change, and law firms to be flexible in where and how they work. 

You also want to keep an eye out for the features that are going to make running your law firm easier. Rather than using 5-6 separate tools, you can look for a program that has everything all in one system. Less clicking between programs, less to enter and more features to take advantage of. 

To get the most from your work output, look for a practice management program that includes:

  • Document management and storage
  • Calendar and task management
  • Template creation for certain tasks and matters
  • Email management
  • Client portal to securely send messages and let clients retrieve documents

Step #5: Track & Analyze the Right Metrics

With all of these moving parts, you need to know what’s working and what’s not. But where do you start?

By recording the right data to help you create metrics you can then analyze. 

Here’s a few of the most meaningful ones you should be evaluating: 

  • Aging on accounts receivable
  • Utilization rate
  • Realization rate
  • Fixed fee profitability ratio

Providing excellent client representation is a large part of running a successful law firm, but there’s also a lot of other factors that go into it. These productivity steps are meant to help you create an office where more gets done – and where there’s less stress. We have a feeling both you and your staff would call that a win-win. 

Ready to put these steps to work in your office? We layout exactly how to do it in our e-book, Five Ways to Increase Your Law Firm’s Productivity.

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