·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


Let Lawyers be Lawyers: How to Integrate Processes Into Your Firm

— August 14, 2019

Without proper processes and tools, even the best lawyers may be too bogged down in busy work to be as effective as possible.

All businesses rely on three components to function: people, processes, and technology. Your people are your best asset, but without processes and tools to set them up for success, your teams won’t reach their full potential.

In the legal field, lawyers who possess valuable knowledge frequently waste hours on tasks that do not require their expert input. Recognizing that our lawyers were spending excessive time on administrative work, my firm adopted a case management system built on top of Salesforce. Using this tool has helped our attorneys dramatically reduce the time they spend on tasks like scheduling and deadline management.

Law firms have employees beyond lawyers, though. The same tools and processes that improve the lives of attorneys can also help managers, auditors, and administrative assistants.

The more time your people spend on busywork and unnecessary red tape, the less time they have to focus on the areas where they excel. That wasted time harms productivity and diminishes your ability to serve your clients. By eliminating the obstacles holding your firm back, you can empower everyone within your firm to achieve more in less time.

Use these tips to break down silos in your firm, adopt better technology, and create processes that empower your employees:

1. Open channels of communication from the top.

Your employees want to work toward a common goal, but many of them don’t know what that goal should be. Eliminate the doubt by opening more channels of communication between leadership, management, and frontline employees.

Which values does your organization prioritize above all others? Client service can be an excellent guide. So can integrity. Work with your leadership team to identify the values and mission that matter most to your firm.

Host regular meetings to inform employees about the direction of the firm. Don’t hold a one-sided conversation — open the floor for employees to provide feedback. If your organization employs too many people to make an open forum viable, solicit employee questions and concerns in advance, then address them in the meeting. Your firm’s vision will keep your teams on track, but only if those teams see that vision in action.

2. Use software to more easily collaborate across departments 

Our case management software helps everyone in our organization get up-to-date information on clients and cases. Thanks to that tool, people in our offices can work together for the good of our clients without worry of duplicating work.

Shelf full of binders; image by Samuel Zeller, via
Shelf full of binders; image by Samuel Zeller, via

Identify areas of frustration in your firm, then look for tools that could help you streamline the issue. What do members of your staff wish the attorneys knew? Where are the points of friction that prevent cases from wrapping up on time? The more you know about how your organization operates, the better able you will be to provide solutions that directly address the needs of your workers.

Keep employees in the loop during this process. Solicit feedback and invite frontline employees to demo potential software solutions. Go with the product that addresses all your firm’s needs, not the cheapest quick fix.

3. Reevaluate your compensation programs.

Lawyers tend to be competitive. If you let that competitive streak go too far, you could unwittingly encourage people within your firm to play dirty to get ahead.

To create a culture that places the firm’s mission above all, your compensation system must reflect your values. Prevent unnecessary backstabbing and harmful behaviors by rewarding your attorneys for collaboration. Lawyers should work for the benefit of the clients, not solely for their own gain.

Many firms judge the performance of their lawyers by measuring how many new clients they acquire and how many hours they bill. That structure often encourages lawyers to spend more time on cases than necessary, which harms clients and limits the firm’s productivity. To correct this, offer incentives for cross-selling and client outcomes that are at least equal to the incentives for bringing in new business. This change may seem radical, but it could substantially improve the collaborative spirit of your firm.

If people, processes, and technology are the biggest factors in business, then smarter compensation, improved communication, and more helpful tools determine those factors’ success. People waste time on unnecessary tasks at every firm, but you can limit the damage by facilitating collaboration and eliminating silos.

The changes may happen slowly at first, but as you help your employees spend more time on their specialties, your firm will reap the benefits.

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