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How to Document a Procedure (SOP)

By April 14, 2023July 23rd, 2023Law Firm Operations, systems

The key to getting more work done well is documenting how each task should be carried out, step-by-step.

Here are the most important considerations for effectively documenting any workflow or procedure (“SOP”).

Key Steps for Documenting Procedures

  1. Identify the purpose and scope of the procedure: Clearly define the process you aim to standardize. Specify its purpose, scope, and expected outcome.
  2. Outline the steps or actions involved: Here, you’re outlining the necessary actions in chronological order. Remember, the balance between too much detail and too little is critical. Screenshots can visually capture each step, reducing ambiguity and enhancing understanding. Video recordings, such as those made with tools like Loom, can provide a comprehensive view of the process, allowing users to see and hear the procedure in real-time.
  3. Gather necessary resources: Your workflow may require the person performing it to access certain resources. These can include URLs, usernames, passwords, or access to specific documents. Ensuring these are readily available will greatly aid in completing the task.
  4. Review, proofread, and revise: Once your SOP is drafted, review it for clarity and completeness. This ensures that the procedure is understandable and devoid of errors.
  5. Get feedback: Test the procedure with a few users. Their feedback can help identify gaps or areas of confusion that must be addressed.
  6. Keep refining the procedure: A procedure is not a one-time document. As the process evolves, so should your documentation. Regularly review and update it to ensure it continues to reflect the best way to perform the task.

Now, let’s consider how this process unfolds in a typical solo or small law firm practice.

Choose a Procedure to Document

Ideally, begin with a workflow that is:

  • Repetitive: This allows for quick feedback and makes the documentation more valuable because it’s often used.
  • Significant: Documenting a significant workflow can motivate you more than trying to document a trivial one.
  • Concrete: The procedure should involve clear, tangible action steps.
  • Short & Simple: Starting with a relatively simple procedure allows you to hone the documentation process before tackling more complex tasks.

Start with a Simple Outline

Brainstorm the workflow in outline form, using bullet points. For example:

  • Set up new client records in practice management software.
  • Create a new record for the client.
  • Insert contact information.
  • Associate client record with the existing matter.
  • If it’s a new matter, create a new matter and then associate the client record.
  • Add important deadlines or milestones for the matter.

Example of a good SOP

If you want to see what a well-documented procedure looks like for evaluating prospective clients, click here.

That procedure was documented using a tool called SweetProcess, which is the best SOP tool for solo & small-firm attorneys for reasons explained here.

Bottom line

Figuring out the optimal documentation for a workflow involves more than just giving people simple steps for doing the task.

You also need to consider what resources are needed and how best to provide them to the person doing the task.

If you want to learn more about documenting workflows and creating systems, check out my Law Firm Systems Program.

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