An Effective Guide to Productive Law Firm Management
Last Updated on August 7, 2021 by Owen McGab Enaohwo
Every industry of the world is being digitized and transformed by technology, and the law industry isn’t an exception. The entire landscape of the law system has been touched in a stupendous way. For instance, discovering an attorney used to be tough, but with technological advancement and the power of visibility, a lot more attorneys are now easy to find when we need them.
Super stressful legal research that took days can now be done in just a few hours. Classified resources that only the largest firms could access are now reachable by the smallest firms. Ultimately, technology has raised the ante of legal services.
In this article, we’ll show you all you need to know about how to better manage your law firm for a successful practice. This information has helped others, and these smart law firm management guides could help you scale up too.
Chapter 1: All You Need to Know About Law Firm Management
Law firm management can pose a herculean task. In one breath, you are dealing with the expectation of demanding clients; in another, you are handling the financial, ethical, and administrative responsibility of keeping your law office in tip-top shape.
The seamless and successful management of a law office is characterized by some typical features. For you to be at the top of your game, you need to be a firm and calculative leader who implements systems and procedures.
An effective and productive law firm management system requires looking challenges in the eye. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting your law firm and want to have the right systems in place, or if your firm is growing and you want to ensure your management strategies are abreast with modern times—you should run your law office with precision and strategy through the best systems.
What changes does an effective law firm management process bring about?
Ideally, a law practice should have a systematized workday schedule for all staff. This includes the following roles:
- office managers
Process manuals should be created and made available to simplify the onboarding process for new staff. Having this as a goal will, to a large extent, help your firm grow more quickly.
For superior law firm management, you need to pool the right experts into your team to help lay the right foundation of work processes that will be involved. By doing this, wasted time is cut off and attention can be channeled into more productive things that will bring about huge success.
Why is law firm management relevant for productivity and profitability?
In this digital age, working smart is one of the best ways to break even in minimal time. This is why automating systems and processes is necessary. Without a proactively documented productivity process, law firm management, productivity, and profitability would be a hustle, and breaking even would be unachievable.
When law firm management is successfully achieved, clients will take notice, and they spread the good news and your firm can gain new clients. It’s no wonder that client service companies like Uber, Netflix, and Amazon have raised client expectations.
This also points to the fact that client service needs to be your topmost priority in the management of your law firm. Repeat clients will only come back when the services you have rendered are exceptional. Knowing exactly what your clients want and how to deliver it in a way they like will be the game changer for your law firm.
Chapter 2: Law Firm Structures and Trends
According to U.S. Legal’s website, a law firm is an entity formed by one or more practicing lawyers to engage in the practice of law. Several services are offered and they include: coming to the aid of clients, providing legal services, being counsel for business transactions, and tackling any other matters that require legal assistance.
No matter how small a law firm might seem, the reality is that no one person could possibly manage a law firm efficiently alone. This is exactly why it is necessary to decentralize work for effective law firm management.
Within a law firm, structures and trends vary from others. The various departments exist to help the law firm grow as rapidly as can happen. The organizational structure of the law firm is characterized by hierarchies, some of which are seen below.
These experts manage cases, litigate in court, and provide legal advice to clients. Attorneys may operate as partners, while the more experienced and senior attorneys in the firm may be the owners of the firm. There are also associates or junior attorneys at the firm who may or may not be on the partnership team.
These experts may be hired on a full-time or contract basis. Their tasks can range from bringing particular expertise to a matter or assisting in research and legal writing when your task is overwhelming.
Legal assistants are typically trained in law but don’t have the license to represent clients or practice law. They can be paralegals whose task is to handle most of the paperwork and even some legal drafting for attorneys.
A legal secretary helps to manage the attorney’s schedule and other administrative duties.
These are law students who work at firms for training or internships. They make work easier by assisting in legal research and case preparation.
Other structures within the law firm include the following:
One of the most important departments to have in law firm management is marketing. Knowing how to market your law firm to your target clients is one of the most important skills you need to develop. Your marketing department will need to come up with actionable ways to attract your clients.
Finance and Accounting
Your accounting department will assist in the management of your law firm finances, including budgeting, bookkeeping, and taxes. The responsibilities associated with this department require skill and can be time-consuming. If you’re a lawyer on your own, this is one department you will want to consider outsourcing.
Billing and Collections
This department is saddled with the task of tracking payments and sending bills to clients. Much of this process can be automated to get maximum impact.
Staff in sales, or business development, help you bring in the money and clients, and also manage your clients. Sales work closely and in harmony with your marketing department to make sure that you’re visible to the right people (your target clients) through advertising.
It doesn’t matter if you do not plan to have a server in your office or have computers. You’ll most definitely need a proactive expert to troubleshoot any issues that arise with your firm’s technology.
Office Management and HR
This department serves as a powerhouse to other units. These roles involve ordering supplies; managing compensation, benefits, and employees; managing the office rent and lease; and other aspects of the business side of your law practice.
Traits and features of a law firm management
It’s no news that law firm management is not an easy task. Not only are you dealing with the expectations of demanding clients, but you are also handling the financial, ethical, and administrative demands of keeping your law office up and running.
Effective law management leads to profitability and sustainability. Without plans and strategy, necessary tasks and responsibilities can go unnoticed, leading to financial and ethical challenges. The successful management of a law office is characterized by some specific traits. While each of these features is important as a stand-alone, it takes all of them to truly build and nurture a successful legal practice.
Here are the traits:
- Effective leadership
- Administrative support
- Client services
- Proficient marketing plan
- Regular review
Skills needed for effective law firm management
Law firm management isn’t for the faint-hearted, and the reality is that reaching a level of accomplishment requires a lot. Besides the actual practice of law and its skills, there is also the need to hone your administrative skills. This is important in keeping the business moving in the right direction.
As such, running an effective and productive law firm requires strong leadership. Successful leadership entails a variety of necessary traits, and these traits must be mastered.
Traits required of you include:
- Good communication skills
- Sound judgment/diplomacy
- Team spirit
Chapter 3: Automating Law Firm Management
With the pace at which the world is going, one of the fastest ways to become obsolete in law firm management and practice is by preventing your tasks from being systematized. The gains that come with documenting your processes cannot be over-emphasized.
Automating makes room for harmonizing the skills and expertise that each team member in the law firm pools together for the success and overall goal of the law firm to be met. By automating tasks and procedures, more clients are served in the manner they should be served; there is an upgrade and upscale in the practice of law, and profitability becomes easier.
How to create systems and processes for an efficient and profitable law firm
Everything is systematized. The world is a set of systems. All outcomes are a result of procedures. This is why integrating a written procedure into law management eases challenges.
You can use systems to save yourself and your team the hassle of repetitive tasks. Some law firms build systems when things are super easy and manageable, but they fail to build systems when the issues are complex. Failing to create and document systems leaves a law firm stuck when things get difficult, with the same inefficient process likely repeated over and over again.
So, how do you create systems?
First, you’ve got to determine what tasks or functions you’d like to systematize. This will entail that you document the steps and the timing as you’re performing them in real-time.
Here are some things to have at the forefront when creating a system or procedure:
- Strategy: You’ve got to devise this ahead of time. What is the purpose of the particular task or set of tasks?
- Determine: You need to know how the activity or set of tasks provide value for your clients.
- Ask: What can you do, or how can you perform this task, in the most effective manner? Does this task require one or more persons?
- Decide: You have to know in what order the tasks should be performed.
- Planned thinking: Brainstorming is necessary so as to arrive at the best way to accomplish tasks within your practice and document the process.
- Don’t forget to write: You can also consider recording the process as you carry it out, or have someone take notes while you perform a task that you want to document.
- Test things out: Be sure to test the processes out and revisit them from time to time to ensure that they remain valuable to both you and your clients.
When you do this, you’ll find that having the systems and procedures documented creates a more effective practice, and it will allow you to focus your attention on legal issues and client needs. You’ll be more motivated to take action.
Chapter 4: Choosing the Right Law Firm Management Software
You can’t just hop on and choose any type of software to help you effectively manage your law firm. You’ve got to look before you leap. Some law firms have had to stick with crappy systems they never bargained for just because they failed to do their due diligence. Or, you could be like Resolute Legal, and choose a system like SweetProcess to meet all of your needs and your budget.
There are detailed things that must be taken into consideration when looking to choose the best software that suits your firm, and that is what this chapter will address, so read on.
Challenges of automating law firm management
Oftentimes you are forced to reject documenting systems because of the people it might involve. Automating might entail different judges, juries, claims, etc. With this unpredictability, it’s natural to feel that investing time in systems might be a waste of time.
But just what are these challenges?
The challenge of fixing a fee for your offer
Estimate and billing could pose a great challenge to lawyers, as clients expect a seamless billing system. Lawyers have a hard time achieving this because they do not know how much work they will be required to do to provide a reasonable service to the client.
The challenge of coming up with an effective business structure
Law firms have evolved, and so have the types of service offerings clients expect. And so, this makes law firms strive to stretch themselves beyond what they ordinarily can do. They try to keep up with the competition they need with intellect, expertise, information, and knowledge.
The challenge of embracing technology
A lot of firms do not know that effective law firm management comes about with technology. Resolute Legal is one of such firms that used SweetProcess to create systems that have led to an easy way of running the law firm.
The best things to keep in mind when buying a law firm management software plan
There are tons of automation plans out there that promise to deliver for your firm or business. However, care must be taken when deciding on which system you want to use, based on some key factors.
It doesn’t matter whether you manage a team or you’re hiring your first employee. SweetProcess gives you the systemization you need to scale and grow your business.
Here are some key features of SweetProcess that we believe are incredibly important for law firm management:
Documentation of procedures
Empowering your team with all the information they need to do their job right is one of the strengths of SweetProcess. This is done by the documentation of repetitive tasks so that there are fewer emails, questions, and no more guesswork.
Implementation of policies
If creating, sharing, and ensuring the correct adoption of your business policies is at the front of your mind, then SweetProcess has you covered. Having the right policies in place is essential in maintaining standards and can help protect your business. Our system makes it easy for you to create processes and make sure the right people at your firm can access and use them.
An organization should always look in the direction of upgrading its processes. SweetProcess easily allows you to craft new processes, collaborate with key stakeholders to update processes, and refine processes so you can continue to grow your business.
Management of tasks
Stay abreast with issues and never miss an activity by using the SweetProcess system. Procedures and automation make managing tasks much less time-consuming, so you can focus your time on big-picture tasks that will help you grow your firm.
Chapter 5: Why SweetProcess is the Best Software for Creating Processes and Systems for Law Firms
Lawyers who are always in high demand are those who take law firm management seriously. And this is what SweetProcess helps you to achieve. With SweetProcess, you can automate a major part of your work with state-of-the-art technology. This will then make room for the advantage to serve your clients and attract new business more efficiently. But don’t just take our word for it.
For instance, Zen Media stopped running around in circles as it upgraded and began to achieve consistency in productivity with its employees’ performance. At Zen Media, a standard knowledge base was created using SweetProcess.
With law office systemization and technology, you’ll be smartly saving wasted time on menial tasks and channeling the energy on things that require your skills and expertise.
Here are a few valid reasons why automation matters a great deal to your business, and how SweetProcess delivers:
- Automation reduces the chances of human error related to duplicate data entry.
- It produces a relatable client experience that makes room for direct interactions that are automated.
- It increases attorney satisfaction because they can spend more time on billable work and other revenue-producing activities.
- Upgraded communication and transparency between your law firm’s staff and clients.
- Decreases the overhead costs of staffing and other fees associated with a conventional law office.
How effective is SweetProcess in carrying out automated tasks?
Time is money, they say. And one of the best ways to save time is by creating a procedure and documenting it to narrow down the delegation of tasks. This is something you can achieve with SweetProcess. Besides making tasks easily replicable, it also ensures that the tasks are completed exactly how you want.
Makes room for synergy
SweetProcess is a tested tool that is driven visually. It is easy to read with cool interactive features such as comments and checkboxes. You can create procedure documents with a member of your team by simply letting them know how the tasks should be done as they take detailed notes. This data can then be keyed into SweetProcess and tested to ensure that there is clarity and finesse.
Clarify with videos and images
Automating and documenting doesn’t have to be a struggle. This is why the software makes sure that our information is precise and accurate. Videos and screenshot images give extra clarity to all steps in the procedures. There’s also a copy-and-paste and drag-and-drop feature.
You can share procedures securely with your teammates and then monitor their progress through each step. Also, you may also consider making your procedures public and share them with your business partners or clients. Delivering with consistency is a very important factor when it comes to the general growth of your business.
Keep track of various activities
To save time and resources, you can track progress easily. SweetProcess helps you track the latest activity, and it makes your past procedures and history available to you. This helps you keep track of what you have done and what new things must be done.
With just a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can keep tabs on your work from wherever you are. This tool is mobile-enabled, so this means you can check the progress of things on the go. Eliminate the frustration of not having access to your procedures during key moments when you need them most.
Less employee turnover
Training and replacing employees who have left can be such a herculean task. Following the documented procedures already laid down or upgraded is a good way to cut down on onboarding or training time and achieve success in law firm management.
Upgrading of your law firm and ultimately achieving success
Businesses that are built on sturdy foundations of efficient automation have a lot more chances to excel and scale than those that don’t.
SweetProcess helps with a standard operating procedure that brings about effective tools for managing a law firm in minimal time. When these processes are implemented across all employees, it makes room for growth and success. With the ability to track different activities and progress, you can accomplish your goals much quicker.
Chapter 6: What Drives an Effective Law firm Management
At the end of the day, the bulk of what you want to achieve with your firm rests majorly on having an effective team that’ll synergize across all departments and borders to realize the main goals of the firm.
After all, when a business lacks customers, it isn’t expected to thrive. So having your key employees know how to integrate into the automation trend, and having each person play out their roles effectively, is what will drive an effective law firm management, and this is the very work that the SweetProcess tool produces.
When Forensic Analytical Consulting Services thought about the upgrade, they thought about building a more efficient workforce. And guess what? Well, they trusted SweetProcess to take them on the systematization journey. Kevin Trap, director of operations at FACS, used the SweetProcess app to build a smart and tech-compliant workforce by documenting its processes, and productive results emerged.
Knowing the right system to use that will bring about tremendous change to the overall landscape of your business is all that matters, and sticking to the rudiments of its usage and management will be a game-changer.
Law firm management has gone beyond menial management, and this is exactly why you’ve got to embrace digitizing procedures and repeat tasks that can cause your services to go into extinction. The advancement that follows automating your systems can never be watered down.
You’ve got to embrace it now! So, how about plunging right into the wave of the moment in law firm management? We’d love to be a part of your success story!
Get started by downloading our content upgrade: Five Checklists to Make Your Law Practice More Efficient and Profitable.
While you’re at it, check out SweetProcess and our 14-day free trial, too! No credit card required.