It’s probably no surprise to you that the legal profession relies heavily on paperwork and administrative tasks. However, what might be surprising is that the average lawyer in a firm can spend up to 12 hours per week just on administrative tasks.
Perhaps it doesn’t sound too bad? Well, considering lawyers work about 60 hours a week, you’re spending over ¼ of your work week on admin tasks!
Unfortunately for law firms, it’s common to suffer from inefficiency due largely to a lack of resources. A limited number of staff can only do so much in a day, but what if you could do more with less?
If your firm can relate to this scenario, there is help at hand!
Find the Root of the Problem
Firstly, ask yourself, “why is my firm not performing at its full potential?” Is the issue a lack of resources? Maybe you have outdated computers or software. Perhaps you are trying to do things ‘old school’. Whatever the reason, there’s no time like the present to TAKE ACTION.
Here are 4 simple steps to improve efficiency, take control of your time, and get your firm working at its full potential.
Step 1: One Database to Rule Them All
Effective modern technology is undeniably the most efficient way for firms to create lasting positive change. The best type of technology for firms is practice management software. However, not all software is equally efficient. To be effective, your software must be an all-in-one solution.
Having multiple databases is inefficient, inaccurate, costly and frustrating for you and your staff, and most probably your clients as well. When you have a single system, you import client and matter details once only and then use those details where and whenever you need.
You need one system that does it all:
- Matter management
- Workflow control
- Automated forms & precedents
- Document management
- Time recording & billing
- Trust Accounting
You will be amazed at how much more you will get done once you stop duplicating data. You will also enjoy practicing law more by saving about five hours per person weekly on admin tasks.
Step 2: Automated document production
For most lawyers, producing correspondence of all kinds is par for the course. Obviously, the faster the better when trying to improve efficiency.
The quickest, easiest and most accurate way to do this is to have an integrated system that can merge previously captured data directly into your document, email and contract templates.
A good system will enable you to complete correspondence in minutes. Ideally, you should also be able to add your own precedents and other legal documents, so there is a standard process for all staff.
This way your benefit is twofold – better service for your clients and efficiency for your firm. It’s a win-win situation.
Step 3: Time Record EVERYTHING!
If you’re not recording EVERY second, you’re throwing money away. You need to know how much time you are spending on a particular matter so that your fees are accurate; regardless whether you are doing fixed-fee billing or not.
Recording your time manually is inefficient, inaccurate and increases non-income generating work. What you want is a ‘touch it once’ system where your time is recorded accurately each time your work on a matter.
What you ideally need is a system that tracks, records and saves your billable hours into electronic timesheets automatically.
Ideally, you want a system that will enable you to:
- Quickly find the correct matter
- Easily start and stop the timer to cater for interruptions
- Enable you to record time, even if the matter has not been opened yet
- Allow you to record time wherever you are, without you being tied to your desktop.
Accurate time recording is only half the battle
Recording your time correctly is great, but a ‘client friendly’ billing process is the cherry on top.
Let’s be honest, billing is boring. Too many lawyers have manual or poor systems to time record and the tedious nature of this means billing gets put off to the conclusion of a matter.
Putting off billing until the end might seem like a good way to limit time spent on producing invoices but it also raises the risk of a dispute over a complex invoice, or a delay in the funds being receipted. Many lawyers place themselves in such a position.
Avoid the risk by:
- Providing your client with a clear costs agreement
- Recording time and disbursements diligently
- Generating bills using the original data recorded in your system. Don’t dictate and retype!
- Billing regularly, at least monthly, so your clients can pay regularly in small amounts
- Being clear about your payment terms
- Stopping work if your clients don’t pay
If everyone in your firm is recording billable time in this way, you should expect a revenue increase of about 30%.
Step 4: Ensure Everyone in the Firms Uses the System
The last step is the most important – unless everyone in the firm uses the same systems and tools you will never emerge from the frustrations and failures of inefficiency. Sometimes it takes strong leadership to push new processes because change can be daunting. Just remember, firms that don’t evolve will not be able to compete successfully.
The best way forward is usually to explain the pros and cons of each change. There is no mystery to success for law firms. The simple truth is, the better your firm runs, the more profitable it will be and the more you will be able to pay your staff and yourself.
LEAP is a sophisticated, cloud-based legal matter management and accounting platform which includes everything you need to run a small law firm. It allows you to do your work more effectively so your firm runs more efficiently and profitably.0