Thriving in the current landscape of legal services is a challenging endeavor. The digital revolution has transformed the expectations of clients, who now demand quicker results at a more affordable price.
Plus, the Covid-19 pandemic revealed all the shortcomings of the traditional workflow when it “forced” legal professionals to work remotely. These events have left firms struggling, even if they have already embraced some of the available digital solutions.
Why is that?
The problem lies in inefficient business processes and the lack of organization.
So, how exactly should you organize and streamline your business processes to deliver faster fast results effortlessly?
- Establish clearly defined business processes
Business processes are a series of interconnected tasks that lead to a required outcome – delivering a service to a client. Processes require constant refinement to meet the shifting demands of the customer or address the changes within an organization itself.
This is important to mention since law firms need to shift more towards operating like any other business, as opposed to relying on verbal instructions every time a new client gets onboarded.
Instead of the traditional way of organizing workflow into operational processes, management processes, and supporting processes, we suggest a different approach, better suited to practicing law:
- Business development
- Matter management
Once your processes are defined, it’s easy to identify the categories that might require refinement. In many cases, the most likely culprits are usually inefficient routine tasks.
- Put together a process manual
Before we dive deeper into ways to streamline some of the processes, it’s necessary to communicate the new workflow changes to your employees. You can do this by establishing a process manual.
A well-crafted process manual can make the workflow predictable, which is the best way to increase efficiency, and judge how effective processes in your law firm are. Your employees will know what needs to be done while giving you additional insight into the way your processes function.
Remember to update your manual regularly to keep your team up to speed on the latest changes you might have added into the mix. The introduction of a new tool, such as software for legal documents, for example, should be registered since it will impact the process in your law firm.
- Document and analyze your processes
You should always monitor your efforts and refine your processes. Taking note of how work transpires through a particular case makes it easy to spot mistakes and problem areas. However, this might turn out to be a team effort though, which is why we suggest using a project management solution, such as Trello or Asana.
Once you and your employees have identified the problem areas, you should document the steps of the process, people who perform the particular task, inputs related to the task, and the output of the task.
The information recorded should be reinforced by solid data such as:
- The volume of the process
- Cost of the process
- The time needed to complete the process
- Error rates
Once the performance is documented, it’s time to find out what’s causing the problem. Pay attention to areas with high error rates, areas that require unnecessary communication, delays, and/or unnecessary steps.
- Automate routine tasks
Whenever possible, you should look into the options of automating certain tasks. Using technology to streamline the work process will offer long-term benefits to your productivity as it will free up your employees to do important things rather than time-consuming routine work.
Several tasks can be automated, such as:
- Client intake process
- Time and billing
- Document assembly
- Client communication
Let’s say you notice that you are losing a lot of time in your triage process because conflict-checking a new client is taking too long. This bottleneck can be solved quickly by making use of conflict-checking software designed specifically to automate this part of the work. Be on the lookout for automation solutions that will address workflow issues present in your law firm.
- Allocate different employees to different tasks
While automation can solve a lot of issues when it comes to inefficient workflows, you should also consider if the human element is to blame when it comes to a particular process.
There is no lawyer career guide or a handbook that teaches you which roles fit certain skill sets, which is why experimentation and team effort might come in handy. You should analyze roles that are needed to complete a certain task and match it with the required skill set. Thus, experienced employees aren’t wasting time doing smaller jobs, while inexperienced ones aren’t contributing to delays by working on tasks better suited for hardened legal professionals.
On the other hand, maybe a process could use an extra set of hands for faster completion or maybe a part of it should be outsourced. Maybe some of your employees need upskilling to catch up with the latest developments – there are many scenarios in play here.
- Focused management is key
Being aware of what each process entails and the key players involved in the completion are crucial to fixing the weak spots in your organization. Collecting data, and analyzing your work procedures will make it easy to streamline the way your law firm operates, and ultimately, meet the expectations and demands of today’s clients.