How can law firms document and implement workflows?
Regardless of how many people work at your firm, whether you are wearing all the hats associated with running a law firm or managing a team of 5, having workflows can make the difference between consistent results that produce happy clients and varied outputs that cause frustration for everyone.
- Create a list of the most important procedures.
Start out by making a list of the most mission-critical processes in your law firm. These are ones that have the biggest impact on the success of your firm, from client intake to matter management to email templates and document preparation.
Sort this list in the order that you’ll work on documenting first.
- Document your workflows.
Write down every step involved in the process of a particular procedure. This should be written as if someone else would be doing the task and may have no other instruction as to how to complete it.
This can be done by staff, but you should always be sure to have the owner of the firm take a final review of these procedures to ensure they’re being done in line with their preferences. This is part of the foundation of the firm, so while it can be easy to complete handoff the task, having a hand in this will pay off dividends later.
Include screenshots where possible. Visuals are a great way to help explain and can be easier to understand than long paragraphs of text.
- Complete the processes and compare to the documented workflows.
Run through the processes several times as you would through the normal course of your firm’s day-to-day and look for any changes that may need to be made. You may need to add more detail or adjust them to more accurately reflect the task.
- Look for areas for improvement.
Identify bottlenecks or issues within the firm. Then identify what can be changed in the workflow to address them. This could be a simple change in process or could require the implementation of technology. For example, if you’re having problems getting payment from clients, you can put an evergreen retainer policy into place.
- Automate where possible.
Automation can save your firm significant time and expenses in the long run. It may require an investment in technology, but workflows that are more of the administrative level (invoicing, creating documents, calendaring cases) are well fitted to automation, turning them from hour-long tasks in seconds.
- Put your changes into place.
Let your staff know about any workflow changes and then make sure to stick to them. As long as they’re written down and documented, it will be easier for everyone to follow.
By documenting these workflows, it will be easy to onboard new staff in the future, and make a more efficient firm. Don’t think of these as set in stone documents. Instead, update them as your firm changes.