4 ways to reboot your small law firm

I’m about to share with you how you can save 12 hours of time per week and increase the revenue of your small firm by 30%. Simultaneously

If your firm is in the doldrums who do you blame? It is easy to blame the economy or increased competition, but the truth is only you can turn it around.

If you are in this category your firm is probably using old computer and software systems. This is usually the case. But the reality is that you are probably doing poorly because your systems are inefficient. Your clients will notice this and gradually drift away. Your firm could be in a downward spiral and there’s no time like the present to TAKE ACTION!

Effective modern technology is absolutely the most efficient way for small firms to create lasting positive change. It is no good marketing in other ways and then delivering non-competitive service. You need to fix the service delivery before you start marketing. Here are four vital methods that can be relatively easily achieved that will turn your firm around, with you at the wheel.

One database to rule them all

Having multiple databases of information is inefficient, inaccurate, costly and frustrating for you and your staff, and most probably your clients as well. With a good system, you maintain your client and contact details once only and use those details whenever you need to.  You can’t achieve your goals if you try to cobble disparate systems together.

You need one system that does the lot:

  • Matter management
  • Workflow control
  • Automated forms and precedents
  • Document management
  • Time recording and 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 with an estimated time saving per person per week of five hours!

Automated document production

Producing correspondence of all kinds is the ‘stock-in-trade’ of most lawyers. So, it stands to reason that the more accurately and faster you can produce routine correspondence the better the service your firm will provide and the lower the costs will be. Merging previously captured data directly into your Word Templates is the best way to do this.

You need an integrated system that has all the necessary legal forms that you use in your area of law, instantly available. Complicated forms like a Settlement Statement can take hours to do if calculated manually and often required corrections and checks. A good system will enable you to complete these statements accurately in minutes. You should also be able to add your own precedent letters and other legal documents so that you have a standard way of working on all cases for all staff. Estimated time saving per person per week is seven hours!

Time record everything

For anything other than conveyancing, if you are not doing this you are throwing money away. Even if you work to a fixed-fee model , you need to know how much time you are spending on a particular type of case so that you fix fees realistically in the future.
Recording time on paper timesheets is inefficient and inaccurate and makes extra non-income producing work. What you want is a ‘touch it once’ system where you always record your matter based attendances accurately.

To help you do this a good system will enable you to:

  • Quickly find the correct matter, by name or number
  • Easily start and stop the timer to cater for interruptions
  • Record time even if the matter has not been opened yet
  • Record time wherever you are without you being tied to your desktop

You can expect a revenue increase of up to 30% if you record every billable minute. If you only bill at the end of a matter two things are certain to happen:

1. You will discount the bill before it is sent because you are fearful that the client will object
2. The client objects to the discounted bill so you discount a second time.

Best practice involves these service -focused steps:

  • Provide your client with a simple and clear costs agreement
  • Record time and disbursements diligently
  • Generate bills using the original data recorded in your system. Don’t dictate and re-type.
  • Bill regularly so that your clients can pay you regularly in small amounts
  • Be clear about your payment terms
  • Stop work if your clients don’t pay.

Ensure everyone in the firms uses the system

Unless everyone in the firm uses the same systems and tools you will never emerge from the frustrations and failures of multiple databases. It sometimes takes dedicated leadership to push this along. Firms that don’t standardise and provide a consistent quality of service will not be able to compete successfully.

Explaining the consequences of not changing and the advantages of changing to all staff is usually the best way forward. The truth is the better run your law firm is, the more profitable it will be, and the more you will be able to pay your staff and yourself.