Above all else, efficiency is essential at law firms, yet lawyers can often feel like this is impossible. There is so much to do each day, whether client meetings or queries, research, or ensuring documents and reports are filed on time – and correctly – that it seems it would take extra hours in the day to get everything done.
But, efficiency is possible. Lawyers simply need to know where to look. There is a range of effective and unique ways to improve productivity that will help your law firm take its productivity and efficiency to the next level. From this, your firm will benefit, your employees or coworkers will benefit, and your clients will benefit.
Why Become More Efficient?
You may regularly hear that improving efficiency is the best way to enhance your law firm, but this does not mean anything if you do not first understand why efficiency can be such an important improvement.
Improving your efficiency can have a direct impact on your profits. Although you want to do your part for your clients, every business depends on boosting profits, and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise. If you specialize in fixed-fee projects, this is even more important. With this, it doesn’t matter if your project takes half an hour, three hours, or from morning through to lunchtime, you can still charge the same amount, and the quicker you work, the more you earn.
As you will get through your workload faster, you can work on more projects or files, which enables you to arrange meetings and consultations that you would need to put off or rearrange if you did not work quickly enough.
Efficiency does not just relate to profit, though. As careful as you can be when reading projects, there is a risk for error, so you must know how to avoid this. The more errors you make, the more time you waste, so keeping errors to a minimum (and hopefully eliminating them), is something you must look into.
Errors are also more common if you feel overwhelmed with projects. If you feel snowed under, you will not be able to focus on a single project. Instead, you are distracted, worrying about several different cases, clients, or files at the same time. This could lead to an accidental – but still damaging – mistake where you approach or prioritize the wrong case. This can be damaging to your clients, your firm, and your reputation, so it’s essential to consider how efficiency eliminates errors.
Improved Client Treatment
No matter your business, customer service is essential. Without it, you are incapable of building your reputation, spreading positive brand awareness, and turning a profit. If nothing else, you should strive to improve your efficiency to help your clients.
If you make your office more efficient, you can work with more clients throughout the day. This allows you to take on more cases, allowing you to help more people. As a lawyer, this is everything you’ve wanted, and whether you provide legal advice or take on substantial cases, you’ll be able to do just what you hoped.
Reconsider Your Office Layout
Efficiency is not all about new gadgets and devices. Often, it begins within the office layout. Many factors could impact the efficiency and productivity within your office, ranging from a lack of natural light to an ill-considered setup for the desks. There are also the ergonomics and comfort you must think about, which can severely hinder productivity and efficient working within your firm.
Assistants and paralegals should not need to trek from one side of the office to the other just to ask a question to get you to sign a document, so consider whether an open plan office is better. This is especially true when working as a large team that demands constant communication. On the topic of ergonomics, comfortable chairs, adjustable desks, and even monitor stands can boost efficiency by reducing health issues caused by poor posture when employees are sitting down all day.
Opt For Manageable Chunks
Large projects are intimidating, and they can feel impossible to overcome when you first look at them. Whether it’s a novel-sized case you need to read through or a complicated charge that tests your legal knowledge, you might try to put it off for as long as possible. However, this is not beneficial for efficiency, and it can have severe consequences for the client.
Instead, the secret to project success is to opt for manageable chunks that enable you to deal with smaller pieces of the whole case. Gradually, you will make minor but effective progress, which keeps you motivated. As much as a large project will intimidate and will take a lot of time, you do yourself and your clients a disservice by putting it off. It’s always best to face up to it and get started as soon as possible, taking it one step at a time. You might realize that it is not as overwhelming as expected.
Enhance Research Resources
One of the most essential aspects that can boost efficiency is considering the resources you use and how long your current methods take. It is not the mid-20th century anymore, so you don’t have to trawl through dusty tomes to identify laws or precedent.
There is a health of information in online databases that will streamline your research practices. Implementing services such as Westlaw research tools can boost your research capabilities and ensure clear and concise results that you can locate in minutes, rather than hours or even days.
This type of resource is also exceptional when analyzing or comparing previous cases with your current case. This helps you get a clear picture of your options that will rapidly increase your research capabilities, allowing you to give answers to your clients so they know where they stand.
Visualize Your Tasks
People do not learn or approach things the same way. While some people at your firm prefer to simply do, others work best when they can visualize what they have to do in front of them. When it comes to prioritizing projects, this can be immensely useful for increasing productivity and maintaining an efficient office.
Creating a calendar or list of color-coded tasks allows assistants, lawyers, and other employees to identify what they need to do right now and which tasks can wait. This will prevent a backup of cases or tasks that could be damaging to the firm if ignored, especially with high-profile clients.
You can use this to demonstrate the progress of each case, too. For inexperienced employees, this can be essential, as it prevents them from doing the same amount of work twice, and can fix any communication problems around the workplace.
Speaking of communication problems, responsiveness is a substantial issue that can affect any business. A lack of communication, especially for important issues, can severely damage your standing and mean that no one knows what they are doing at any point. This will impact how you respond to and treat clients and means too many people stand around waiting for someone to tell them the next step rather than getting on with it.
Your responsiveness should also apply to clients. If you set a rule for the maximum amount of time you allow to pass before responding to clients, you can deal with issues and queries more regularly. As a rule, many firms consider a 24-hour response the maximum, although this can relate to working hours and therefore ignores weekends.
Still, out-of-hours customer service can at least take these queries, even if they are unable to solve them at the time. In doing so, your clients do not need to wait for a call-back to repeat themselves. If the out-of-hours team notes down the case details, you have enough information to speak with potential clients as soon as you are ready to respond.
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Tools
Organization tools, templates, and many more can have a remarkable impact on your firm’s efficiency. However, too many firms are set in their ways, and adopting new technologies to transform the infrastructure is regularly met with push-back from senior figures.
This can be frustrating. It feels like you are missing out on a goldmine of client activity and giving your competitors the edge. A forward-thinking law firm will always be more appealing compared to those that still do things the old way, so don’t be afraid to take the initiative and demonstrate how these tools can improve the atmosphere and efficiency around the office.
This can include digitizing documents for easy access and collaboration to automated scheduling functions. With tools such as this, you do not need to wait around for coworkers to be free, and you ensure you never double-book yourself, which also prevents client disappointment.
An efficient law firm may seem challenging to achieve, but the well-oiled machine is not as much of a myth as it might seem. As long as you recognize the importance of efficiency and how it can benefit your firm and take the correct steps to implement efficient policies, you will see a dramatic increase in productivity, employee performance, and client satisfaction.