In my last post I observed that there are three essential building blocks for operational efficiency:
- Solid Systems: i.e., mapping out ideal workflows and use of well-crafted checklists
- Streamlined Workflows: i.e., paperless lawyering, automation, cloud-based storage & virtual collaboration
- Effective Delegation: i.e., you, as the lawyer, focus on only legal work, and outsource everything else as much as possible
And I promised to delve more deeply into how these key elements will set you up for your new reality of a smooth-running law firm.
Systems are key
Unfortunately, most lawyers are not systematic enough in the management of their practices.
This is why you sometimes hear lawyers complain about these kinds of routine challenges:
- Keeping on top of the work coming in, as well as the ongoing work…”
- “wearing too many hats and not being able to take a 5 minute break without everything crumbling…”
- “Feeling stretched too thin for time…”
- “Keeping projects organized and moving…”
- “Getting things done in the time frame I want them done.”
- “Focusing and completing difficult tasks…”
- “Trying to manage too many things at once…”
- “Time. There is never enough time. More profitable competent staff is needed…”
- “Work flow; getting the cases in- keeping them moving- and getting them out by settlement or trial…”
If you want to minimize challenges like these then you must operate your business using well-developed systems —ones that you document and regularly update as your key workflows evolve.
Systems make life easier and better.
In our modern world, we’re surrounded by systems–to the point that we take them completely for granted.
Human beings have been using systems for thousands of years.
Our early ancestors learned to systematically create fire by rubbing sticks together. Now we have modern tools that let us create fire (i.e., matches and lighters).The effective use of systems allows us to manage our firms in an orderly, efficient way.
When used in a firm with several staff members and colleagues, documented systems ensure that each person doing the same work will do that work in a repeatable way. In doing so, you’re setting up your systems and processes to produce predictable results.
Systems help us avoid stupid (and costly) mistakes. As an example, airlines require their pilots to use thorough, standardized checklists.
You might not think of a checklist as a system, but it is. The checklist is designed to ensure the predictable result of a safe, on-time flight.
Systems also make it possible for less-skilled workers to perform at a higher level by creating procedures and workflows that they can easily follow to do their work well.
On the other side of the coin, systems are used by highly skilled, top performers as well.
For example, elite athletes improve their performance by using proven systems and systematic training plans.
And they typically work with coaches to ensure that they train properly using those optimal systems to enhance their performance.
If you want to radically improve your law firm management practices, then you need to build, learn, and use systems.
If you aren’t sure where to start and need guidance in implementing these systems, don’t be afraid to seek help—preferably from someone who has been able to get the results you’re looking for in your practice.
Here are just a few examples of desirable systems for law firms:
- New employee training and continuing education
- Time management and recording in the firm’s billing software
- Invoice creation and tracking
- Marketing and interview scripting to secure potential new clients
- Settlement negotiation processes (using proven persuasion tactics)
- Data security (password management, automated backup, etc.)
- Document editing and formatting
For more insights on the creation of efficient systems, check out this insightful book by New York personal injury lawyer, John Fisher: The Power of a System (you can download the PDF ebook at no charge).