• Lisa Dawson

Part One: Practice Management Building a Successful Law

Recently published in the Lawyers Daily, Gary Mitchell's column highlights the first article in a 4 part series on Building a Successful Law Firm.

Whether your plans for 2019 are just getting started or well under way, certain key areas deserve your firm’s attention.   Don’t wait until the “new year” becomes “last year”.

Following the introduction in our last article , these 4 key areas of Building a Successful Law Firm include: - Practice Management

- Administrative Management

- Financial Management

- Business Development

We begin with:

Practice Management: Efficiency/Quality Control/Profitability):

Practice Management is, essentially, the effective and efficient delivery of legal services. From our experience, effective delivery of legal services is all about the quality or results of services provided to the client as defined by the client’s successful outcome. Efficient delivery of legal services targets cost effectiveness. With billable time defining cost in most firms, essentially, anything that saves time is cost effective.

  Alternatively, in the absence of any practice management, there are large amounts of time given over to information entry and searching as individuals look for information (paper files, lawyer calendars, email inbox, online research, electronic documents, the “right” precedent, etc.). Delays erode value to the client, reduces time for business related activities, results in frustration, and strained productivity among lawyers and support staff. That costs the firm and your clients money.

Identifying the major elements of a practice, we discover the following roadblocks to delivering effective and efficient legal services. These nine areas result in time delays, either requiring individuals to complete processes manually or in delays related to information retrieval or access.

Client / Conflict Management

Manually tracked email, spreadsheets, and paper files

Scheduling

Manually by electronic or paper calendars

Time Tracking

Manually tracked and/or standalone time tracking tool used

Billing

Manual data entry of client and time information and/or a standalone billing tool for generation of invoices

Account reconciliation

Manual reconciliation requiring spreadsheets or dedicated accounting tool

Matter Management

Paper files maintained on site or physical storage provider, documents stored on lawyer desktops or in shared folder

Collaboration

Email or paper documents, in person meetings, teaming,

Remote Access

VPN, remote desktop, or remote email client Cloud file share

Building a Successful Law Firm

Set your focus on improved file organization.  Create standards for both paper and computer files from client intake to closed file and beyond; assist your professionals to better manage their time, collaborate more efficiently with others internally and with clients; leverage the available, wide-range of IT solutions and new technologies. Create improved integration of business needs, workflow of process automation, document assembly, and data analytics.

 

Identifying issues and providing solutions is easy in the absence of a firm’s internal challenges. We know and recognize, from experience, the kinds of challenges law firms of all sizes experience. Do budgetary constraints and buy-in for initiatives ring a bell?

Even if your firm is not facing upheaval caused by lawyer departures or declining client relationships you will encounter other transitional events. You are not alone.

Evaluating the Impact of Practice Management We know your bottom-line counts. Track your costs of practice management. Build a business case using these 5 main areas:

Lawyer time

Potential billable time lost to administrative activities and information retrieval.

Support Time

Capacity to complete projects.

Direct Costs of Physical File Storage

Printing requirements, office space required for files and need for 3rd party storage,  real estate costs, and fees charged by 3rd party providers

Direct costs of on-premises IT

Investment of servers, fixed storage limitations and maintenance and repair.

Risk

Scheduling errors, loss of misplaced files/documents, mistakes in conflict checks and law society compliance, errors in account management.

So where do you start to improve practice management?

 You start by answering the following questions:


1         Which processes contribute the firm’s largest pain points?

2         Do those pain points weigh more heavily on lawyers or support staff time?

3         To what extent does the firm suffer sunk costs or sacrificed revenue opportunities resulting from current processes?

4         What additional costs and limitations are imposed by the firm’s current IT i infrastructure

or remote access capabilities?

5         What professional responsibility and data security risks do the firm’s current and

proposed solutions impose?

6         What are the expected costs imposed by the solution considered?


Success involves implementing new approaches and strategies.  And to do that, it starts at and from the top. It is Law Firm Leadership that makes the difference and can set a firm apart from its competition. If you can’t answer the questions above on your own, fine, build a team of other professionals around you that can or will.


Stay tuned as next month we delve into Administrative Management.