Best Practices for Running an Efficient Law Office
Time is money. So when running your law office, you want to accomplish tasks as efficiently as possible while minimizing time spent working after hours.
Increasing efficiency doesn’t need to be complicated, though. With a few simple tools and an awareness of outdated, inefficient firm practices, you can get more work done with less time spent behind the desk.
Keep these best practices in mind while realigning your law office to improve efficiency.
Set SMART goals
It’s difficult to improve efficiency unless you’ve identified areas of inefficiency. That’s where SMART goals come in, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Law firms should set SMART goals to track progress towards firm initiatives and improve efficiency.
For example, you want to set a SMART goal to reduce write-offs by 10% this quarter. Reducing write-offs would improve your firm’s efficiency by ensuring more work is billed and paid. At the end of the quarter, analyze your progress towards your goal and adjust it if necessary.
SMART goals might feel small or not impactful, but they’re better than bold, vague, broad goals. While a broad goal like “reduce efficiency and increase revenue” might sound impressive, it’s difficult to achieve without a concrete plan. Because SMART goals measure micro-progress, they can make a more significant impact on improving firm practices in the long run.
Track billable hours in real time
How do you track your billable hours? Do you jot down time spent completing tasks on sticky notes during the day, or do you rely on memory to itemize your hours? Do you log hours at the end of the day? Week? Month?
While you may have a set way of doing things, research shows that unless you’re tracking hours in real-time, you’re underbilling legal clients and losing money.
Earn what you’re owed for the work you’ve completed by using a time tracking tool, like a dedicated app or a component of a practice management software option, to record your billable hours as you work. Simply start the timer when you begin a new task and stop it once the task is complete or when it’s time to shift gears. Using a time tracking tool that’s a part of a larger practice management software can make the process even more efficient, since the time tracked will be automatically attached to the relevant legal matter and, later, invoiced.
Besides helping you bill more accurately, recording hours in real time minimizes the time spent compiling hours and invoicing them each month. While it might take 5 minutes of your day to work the time tracker, it takes much longer to jot down notes throughout the day or manually enter in a week’s worth of billable hours on a Friday afternoon.
Analyze available data to continually improve
The more you integrate technology into your firm’s daily practices, the more data you can collect. Transitioning invoicing, time tracking, bill payment, and task completion to one comprehensive practice management software solution will provide your firm with a wealth of data that can be used to continuously improve firm practices.
The problem is, many firms don’t even realize this useful information exists behind the scenes. Instead, they rely on guesswork and intuition to determine which areas of their practice management approach need improvement. Instead of taking a stab in the dark, let the data guide you towards the most effective ways to improve your law office’s efficiency and make your efforts meaningful.
Accept online payments
Traditionally, law offices have billed and accepted payments via regular mail. But this is a costly and time-consuming process involving multiple steps—from the cost of printing, stamps, and postage to the time spent mailing invoices, having bills returned, processing checks at the bank, and (worst of all) following up on unpaid bills, it’s clear that mail billing is an outdated and inefficient practice.
Online payments get law firms paid on time. Clients utilize payments in almost every facet of daily life, from paying for dinner deliveries to paying credit card bills. Clients who can pay online are more likely to pay invoices immediately rather than waiting until the due date. This reduces the time firm staff spent submitting past due invoices and contacting clients about unpaid bills.
Law firms may be hesitant to accept online payments due to the complex regulatory requirements surrounding legal payments, but legal-specific invoicing and accounting tools make ensuring compliance simple.
Use automation tools
There’s no easier way to improve your firm’s efficiency than to automate repetitive tasks. Automation literally takes tasks off your desk, giving you more time to work on high-level billable items.
Automation tools are best used to complete repetitive tasks like sending clients forms or emailing prospective leads. These tasks unnecessarily take up a significant amount of non-billable attorney hours. Marketing automation tools can increase your client base without the extra effort required to nurture leads, and automation tools that improve the client intake process can satisfy clients while saving you time.
Utilize cloud-based practice management software
How much time do you spend every week trying to hunt down that rogue folio file or locate a specific email on your computer? Instead of housing matter information in dozens of digital and physical locations, use a cloud-based practice management software to keep your files more organized and accessible.
Cloud-based software is available from anywhere, so you can access important documents and files from the courtroom, from vacation, or from your couch. Additionally, comprehensive practice management software equipped with matter-focused document management can house every single item pertaining to a matter in one central location, making it easy to locate documents when you need them. You’ll never have to wonder where accident photos, subpoenas, emails, or case notes are again, saving you precious time throughout the day.
There’s an added bonus to cloud-based practice management software: No more costly printing charges at your firm (and no more lugging around thick paper folios!). As long as you have your laptop, you have every document on hand to help your clients reach their goals.
Leverage CosmoLex’s practice management software to improve firm efficiency
CosmoLex’s cloud-based practice management software is equipped with the necessary tools to improve your law office’s efficiency. With integrated time tracking, invoicing, and billing features, easy-to-use automation tools, and detailed analytics, CosmoLex is the fully integrated solution firms need to improve their bottom line. Schedule a demo or sign up for a free trial to give it a try.