Systematize to Optimize Your Legal Practice – Part 2: How?
Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.
In this issue of “Raising the Bar”, Debra L. Bruce continues her three-part series with a starting point to employ systems. The series addresses the creation of law office systems for increased efficiency, improved quality control and cost reductions. As a bonus, systems help lawyers to focus on and enjoy their law practice more.
Now that you have been persuaded that it would be worthwhile to develop and document some systems, how do you get systems in place and how do you use them? You’re probably already struggling to get all your own work done or trying to cut down your nonbillable time. How will you ever get around to creating systems?
Have each staff member create a desk manual.
Ask them to spend a few minutes each day documenting the tasks they do repeatedly and the steps involved. In a couple of months you will have a manual, without extraordinary effort on anyone’s part. The manual should include:
a. Lists of software and online programs you use
b. Instructions for equipment (especially phones, copiers, scanners and anything else used multiple times per day) or location of user manuals (digital or paper)
c. Screenshots or videos with circles and arrows explaining to a temp or new employee procedures and schedules for regular tasks
d. Usernames and passwords (appropriately protected) for software and websites necessary to do the tasks
e. Links to online tutorials for your software and equipment
f. Instructions to remind your assistant how to do infrequent tasks or use uncommon software features
g. Contact information for vendors and repairmen
h. Troubleshooting tips for quirky equipment and software
i. Suggested scripts for answering the phone and greeting clients, including how to handle calls when you don’t want to be disturbed
j. Steps for opening a new client file or archiving an old one
k. Filing conventions for digital and paper document
l. Procedures for handling mail, email and messages
m. Protocols and time frames for creating routine legal documents and correspondence
Post adapted with permission from an article by Debra L. Bruce in the August 15, 2012 issue of The Legal Intelligencer. (c)2012 ALM Media Properties LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.