Long hours are typical for law firms, but how often do you find yourself underestimating your billable hours, or those “pass on” client costs? This can be especially problematic for smaller firms, where margins are already slim and practitioners are often juggling the many responsibilities of running a small business. Here are five things you can do to make your practice more efficient.
1. Adopt automated processes
Document handling is a big part of law practice, so it goes without saying that you can save a lot of time by automating tasks like document creation and assembly. Make the most of software that can automatically merge data into document templates. Also look at investing in tools that automate workflow management and CRM tasks. Research can also be streamlined significantly by moving from paper to digital media with query-based search capabilities.
2. Measure everything, analyse and evaluate
In a profession where analysis of evidence is the proverbial bread and butter, you should also be applying the same kind of scrutiny to your fee earners’ figures. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean a full audit at the end of each month – looking at a few key performance indicators will probably be enough. Also ensure key tools, such as your word-processing software, are maintained correctly and upgraded to newer versions when required.
3. Provide IT training for staff
Technophobia, and greater trust in older, paper-based ways of doing things, is often blamed for slow adoption of timesaving tools and technologies by smaller law firms. Formal IT training is a good way to tackle this problem. For best results, this training should include scenario-based teaching exercises as well as ongoing helpdesk support while staff adapt to new tools and technology.
4. Improve personal time management
Do you often find yourself getting distracted by emails, phone calls and meetings? These are all notorious productivity killers. Allocate specific periods during the day during where you handle electronic communications. Consider using a “no interruptions” time management policy such as the Pomodoro Technique, which splits the workday into 25-minute bursts of activity.
5. Encourage innovation
Quite simply, if you can see a way to do something more quickly and efficiently, don’t hesitate to speak up. Subscribe to industry journals, and look at other industries for ideas.
A small firm can improve its efficiencies in big ways – it simply requires letting go of the fear of change and embracing new (and better) ways of getting things done.