Transforming Your Law Firm to Optimize Efficiency with Case Management
As a Legal Practice Management Consultant, I hear lots of reasons why attorneys want to reorganize or restructure their law offices. For some, it’s about increasing productivity and revenue. For others, it’s about taking over the practice from a partner or starting a new firm all together. One client simply wanted to “go green,” and didn’t know where to start. Whatever the impetus driving the desire for change, a good place to begin is by assessing the current state of affairs. Once the assessment is complete, you can begin to think about recommendations for optimization, remediation and training.
Conducting an assessment usually reveals the aches and pains of a law practice. Paralegals will typically complain about the filing system. Attorneys will typically complain about their work not getting completed in a timely fashion or missing deadlines. And, of course, the Executive Management Team is concerned about the bottom line… are we producing enough business, generating new business, and retaining our current clients?
One of the most common complaints I hear from all constituents, however, is the ever-frustrating, “where’s that document?” seek and find escapade. With multiple hands on files, it’s inevitable that documents are filed differently by different people. It’s not necessarily wrong, it’s just inconsistent. As a trial attorney, one of the most frustrating parts of preparing for trial is opening the file cabinet only to find redwell upon redwell of disorganized and duplicative papers. Medical records copied in triplicate. Pleadings bibles busting at the seams. And the Correspondence Chronology never actually in chronological order. This mess is, unfortunately, often the norm.
But, identifying the bottlenecks that are interfering with smooth, effective workflows is just the beginning of designing a sustainable, process-oriented work environment. You also need to be thinking about the appropriate infrastructures to support your practice, including both hardware and software. Most law firms have some sort of “system” for case management, which is usually customizable to the individual needs of a law firm. The problem, however, is that oftentimes, the expectations do not meet the realities of the case management system’s limitations. Your case management system can have all of the bells and whistles needed to successfully manage thousands of cases. However, without the proper workflows, processes and procedures in place, you’ve simply transitioned a paper mess to an electronic one.
A full, case management system integration requires two important things: (1) Process redesign to serve the individual needs and objectives of the Firm; and (2) Change Management techniques to address the human behavior attributes for efficient transformation. Leveraging process improvement methodologies to document existing processes and map-out a more streamlined, efficient process allows the Firm to take full advantage of Best Practices in the industry.
Lastly, as everyone knows, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Therefore, it’s imperative to provide one-on-one training to attorneys and support staff to show them how to use the systems to improve the quality of their work-product and align with the Law Firm’s goals and objectives.