Productivity. It’s what we all want. But what does it mean in a modern law firm to contemporary lawyers?
It seems like every couple of years, a new perspective on productivity rolls around: how to achieve it, how to manage it, how to let go of it. For lawyers especially, it’s highly desirable. Productivity means clients signed, billable hours racked up, and cases closed, right?
Interpreting productivity can be more nuanced than that, though. Yes, for law firms, it could mean how many billable or non-billable hours went into collecting a fee. But lawyers also perform a lot of non-billable work that nonetheless generates value.
That’s why it’s more useful to frame productivity as the effort put into an output to generate an input. Essentially, how much time and energy are you putting into an endeavor to achieve a result.
Productivity may be an ongoing concern for lawyers, but as remote working solidifies as a new practice in offices around the country, productivity discussions have taken on a new urgency. While public health is critical at this time, it’s also important to ensure staff productivity, especially considering that the pandemic may stretch on for some time.
For law firms looking to maintain – and even optimize – productivity, consider these tips for your staff.
Make Accountability Clear
Accountability is important when maintaining productivity. Why? Productivity demands timelines, deadlines, and deliverables from everyone involved. However, all of this needs to be clearly communicated. Hence, accountability.To build accountability, everyone involved in a product or a workflow should know what tasks they are responsible for and the target deadlines. To make sure that tasks are completed in a timely manner, task management software can be a huge help. Not only can it facilitate collaboration, but it can automate reminders.
Accountability also requires…accountability. Team members should be held to task if they miss deadlines. How this looks depends on the nature of the case and your firm’s culture.
Remember that it’s easy for staff to lose sight of accountability when their supervisor or boss isn’t nearby. (hence the challenge of remote working). It can be tempting to micromanage. However, through clear accountability practices, your firm can support productivity without micromanaging each and every task.
Communication is key for most business practices, but productivity especially benefits from it. Especially in the age of remote working. Lots of professionals across all industries feel like it’s harder to communicate or collaborate when they’re not in the same room with their colleagues.
It’s not, in fact, actually harder to communicate or collaborate in these circumstances. But it does take some getting used to. By using these tips, though, more productive communication and collaboration will happen in no time.
Leverage internal chat tools
The days of casually walking over to your colleague’s desk with a quick question are gone for now, but chat tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are an excellent replacement. Chat tools allow for quick questions, lengthy conversations, and multi-person collaboration all from your desktop or smartphone. These tools are actually less disruptive in many ways because you can customize your notifications and even set snooze features to reduce distraction.
Stay consistent with scheduled meetings
Meetings. We used to dread them, but many of us are longing for an in-person meeting. (Or maybe just the chocolate chip muffins.)
Working from home has made it easy to fall out of routine after such an adjustment, but consistency is important. When working remotely, these huddles/meetings can be the only time of structured communication during the day.
That being said, now is a great time to assess whether your previous meeting structure was really working for your team. If you can streamline your meeting schedule, you’ll find your actual meetings, as well as the rest of your day, are more productive.
Encourage video conferencing for those not in the office
It’s nice to see another face these days, but that’s not why we recommend implementing video conferences for communication. Video really is the next best thing to in-person conversations. Video chats allow us to read body language, interpret connotations more accurately, and stay attentive and engaged.
Invest in Developing and Tracking Metrics
Metrics are your best friend when assessing your productivity. After all, without them, we’re really guessing, not measuring, our outputs. Consider these ten productivity metrics to evaluate your activities.
10 productivity metrics
- Number of Matters Opened/Closed
- Utilization Rates by Staff Member
- Realization Rates by Timekeeper or Matter Owner
- Percentage of Cost Recovery
- Fixed Fee Profitability Ratios
- Work in Process (WIP) vs. Available Client Funds
- Aging of Accounts Receivable (A/R)
- Proportion of Administrative Non-Billable Time
- Business Development Effort & Cost Analysis
- Tracking Profitability by Segments
Seek to Reduce Inefficiencies
Once you’ve established your metrics and evaluated your productivity, what do you do with that information? Pinpoint the areas you’ve got inefficiencies in. Where are the biggest time wasters? Typically, these will be items that are repetitive. This makes them a great candidate for automation a productivity win, for sure! This might include:
- Batch billing
- Generate & delivery emails in batches
- Pre-defined checklists and workflows
- Document assembly tools
- Integrations/combined tools to reduce double entry
- Importing of high volume items
Also, keep your eye out for tools that can refine processes. Implementing the right tools can open up a wide swath of time in your schedule to meet your productivity goals.
Use tools that allow work from anywhere
Speaking of tools, productivity doesn’t just thrive in your office. (Home or otherwise.) Many new productivity tools let you, your staff, and any outsourced help work from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. We’re speaking, specifically, about cloud-based tools.
Why is this important? First and foremost, it lets you hire talent from anywhere. If you’re looking for a marketing coordinator and you find the perfect fit in Berlin, it’s no problem anymore. Moreover, cloud-based tools have made the transition to working and collaborating from home infinitely easier and more flexible.
Cloud-based platforms have the additional benefit of automatically updating to the latest version, integrating easily with our mobile devices and laptops, providing modern functionalities, and not requiring IT maintenance.
Looking for more ways to turn productivity into profitability? Check out our webinar, Advanced Practice Management Strategies for Increased Productivity.