The beginning of the year is always about making changes and improving. Similar to hitting the snooze button and neglecting those running shoes, our professional lives often develop bad habits similar to our personal ones. For lawyers who are always short on time and overwhelmed with to-dos, fixing those bad habits can relieve some of the stress and headaches that inevitably come along with the job.
Lack of Standardization
As long as things are getting done and cases are moving forward, a lack of standardization works – until it doesn’t. As your firm grows and you’re no longer the only one handling tasks, it becomes critical to document processes and creates standardization. Otherwise, you end up with twenty variations of folder naming conventions, an inability to find what you need, missed deadlines, and disgruntled clients.
Calendaring, case management, client intake, and time tracking should be priorities for creating processes. Make a list of all the tasks at your firm and start documenting the steps to creating them. If you have multiple people on your team, you can have them write out the steps first and you can review and make edits as needed to avoid putting the full responsibility on you.
However, this isn’t the time to be hands-off. Take an active role in creating this documentation now and it will pay off in dividends by cutting down on inconsistencies and making hiring and training easier.
Even if you have documented processes, it doesn’t mean that they’re efficient. Take a minute and think about where it seems like there’s always an issue.
Is client billing a four-day task because of failure to input time as it happens? Are clients seeing a delay in getting feedback because there’s only one person who can provide an update? Are you missing deadlines because of how long it takes to fill in forms and documents?
For each of these problems, there’s likely a way to improve your workflows to resolve them. The answer may require some changes to how things have always been done and will likely require some technology implementation, but the result will be a more effective and productive workflow.
Scattered Client Data
Do you find yourself sifting through emails to try to find a piece of client communication or searching folder after folder for a document? Having client data spread out means you’re likely wasting considerable time trying to piece together the information you need. Instead, look to pull all your client data into one system.
Many of today’s practice management programs will enable you to track client emails, documents, call notes, and other relevant information all in a singular program. This means when you’re in a particular matter, you’ll have all the case details right in front of you, giving you the full picture at a glance.
No Measurements or Goals
If you don’t have a goal, how can you know when you’ve achieved a milestone? Setting law firm goals is a necessity if you want to see true growth. Without clear direction, it can be difficult to know which decisions are the right ones, where to focus your attention and what the priorities are. But with a list of detailed goals, every choice can be guided by where you want to be.
Just as important as your goals are the metrics that support them. Data not only shows you if you’ve achieved what you hoped for, but also provides key information to help you determine your financial stability, opportunities for expansion and where the firm can make improvements.
If your firm doesn’t measure and analyze financials and data or set goals, now is the time to fix that. Determine what the most important metrics to track will be in the coming year and how you’ll get them, and then stick to a schedule as to when to calculate and review them. Tie these metrics into timely, achievable goals to give you and your staff something to aim for.
Settling for outdated technology
Just because the technology you’ve been using is getting the job done, if it’s outdated it’s likely missing a lot of invaluable features. Software that hasn’t been updated for years or technology that isn’t made specifically for the legal industry often lacks the benefits that come along with modern, legal-specific tools. You probably don’t even know what you’re missing out on, but it’s safe to say an upgrade could save you hours a month and be well worth the investment.
For example, take practice management programs. Earlier versions required lawyers to work only from their office and limited when and where they could enter time or see case information. Today’s cloud-based practice management programs not only let lawyers work from anywhere, but also include features like automations, document creation and built-in accounting and billing to make for an efficient law firm.
Out with the old, in with the new
Make 2020 the best year yet by making sure you’re not carrying over any bad habits from last year. If any of these bad habits struck a chord with you that means you have the opportunity to make a change to better your law firm. Even if the change takes months to stick, you’ll be able to look back on the year and see positive improvements.