Automating processes sounds great, in general. We set out coffee to brew the night before, we program our Roomba to run at 10 am to clean the floors and entertain the cat, and we set up automatic payments and withdrawals with our bank.
But what does automation look like at a law firm? In an industry that is all about the personal connection and one-on-one relationships, can automating your law firm really deliver what you need? (Which is, as always, more time and energy.)
The short answer is yes! Automating is a great solution for your law firm. The longer answer is: you have to be intentional about what you automate and why.
What can I automate?
The answer is, in all honesty, practically everything. No, you can’t automate your deposition, but you can automate transcriptions. Here’s an overview of some big-ticket items that you can automate to save time in your practice.
- Scheduling for meetings and appointments
- Tasks and deadlines
- Time tracking
- Client intake
- Marketing activities
- Billing and invoicing
- Client support
- Review management
What’s the benefit?
Lawyers, on average, only work 2.5 billable hours a day. So what are they spending the rest of the time on? A lot of work that needs to be done – just not by them. While automatable tasks aren’t unskilled or menial work, they also don’t need to be done by a lawyer.
When you automate the kind of tasks that are listed above, you do the following:
- Increase your efficiency by freeing up time
- Improve client experience by creating smoother, more consistent processes
- Reduce human error
- Maximize your staffing budget (especially important for small and solo practices)
All of this comes together to help boost another metric: lawyer satisfaction. When done right, automation reduces your mental load and improves your focus. You can more easily focus on tasks that grow your firm and do the work you care about.
Automate or outsource?
If automating is all about taking things off your plate, then how do you decide what you should automate and what you should outsource?
It comes down to the complexity of the tasks at hand. For example, you can automate some elements of your marketing, but you still need strategy behind your content. You can set up your invoicing software to deliver evergreen retainers, but you still need to pay your taxes.
That’s where outsourcing can come in. When it comes to tasks that involve specialized skills or impact aspects of organizational strategy, these tasks are good candidates for outsourcing. This allows you to still effectively manage your workload while ensuring that the right skills are being tapped.
The right tools for the right job
If you’ve decided to start automating processes at your law firm, know that there’s a whole world of tools out there to draw from. Incorporating new technology isn’t unlike hiring a new employee. There’s a learning curve and not every tool is the right fit.
Some tools are smaller scale and are implemented through web apps or browser extensions. For example, if you want to improve scheduling, integrating Acuity into your website is quick and easy and not a big investment. However, project management software for automating your workflow is a heavier resource to manage.
In those cases, it pays to take things slowly, especially when you’re looking at larger systems to automate. Request demos, ask lots of questions to sales reps, and don’t be afraid to seek out user forums for real insight into how well they work. A little due diligence goes a long way.
Automation is a great resource for law firms. With a little planning and research, you can make your work life easier. And hopefully, that will improve your life outside of work, too.