How legal professionals can improve efficiency in 2019
Everyone wants to be more efficient in their work, but what does this really mean? Over time, people have thrown around the word efficiency so often that it has started to lose its meaning. However, it isn’t just some buzzword. It’s an idea that everyone can implement in their work to find new ways to get more done in less time and do it better.
A quick web search of tips to improve efficiency will reveal countless pages. Some talk about basic principles that people in all professions can apply to their lives, while others offer focused tips that apply to specific areas. When looking for efficiency tips for legal professionals, many themes arise again and again. However, the team at Legal Files Software believes that the first and most important efficiency tip is setting standards.
What does it mean to set standards? It sounds like a very general idea, and you might think that your legal department already has standards in place. We’re here to provide specific examples of standards that can improve legal department efficiency. After reading this blog, you and your team will walk away with some information and insights that you didn’t have before.
What does it mean to set standards with technology and tools?
When we say that it is important to set standards, this applies to standardizing equipment, tools and technology. Let’s say every person in a legal department uses a different web browser at work. When someone encounters technical difficulties, troubleshooting can be a nightmare because everyone is using a different browser. When a legal department limits the options to just one browser, troubleshooting becomes a breeze.
Standardizing equipment and technology doesn’t just pertain to web browsers. It also extends to best legal case management software, document management systems, word processors and research tools, just to name a few. When everyone is working with the same tools, you don’t encounter issues with compatibility. It’s also easier to train new hires when they join the legal department.
Keeping track of information is also much easier. For example, if an employee goes on leave or takes another position, it’s easier to pick up where she left off if she was using the same tools and technology as the rest of the team. However, if someone puts together her own ad hoc system, it can take countless hours of work to untangle it all.
What does it look like to set standards for procedures?
Related to setting standards for tools and technology is standardizing procedures. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you work on similar legal matters and issues. You want to have repeatable processes and procedures that allow you to do your work quickly and accurately, in a proven way.
For example, legal professionals can standardize how they respond to requests for legal services. This can include setting standards for how to respond, who should respond, how quickly they should respond and how they should log information about their response. When all team members know the standardized processes, they don’t have to waste time thinking about how to handle each request that comes in.
You likely already have standardized processes in place within your legal department. For example, someone takes notes when you have meetings. You likely have a process that you follow to distribute these notes and related action items. This ensures that team members stay in the loop and knows what they should be doing after the meeting. Setting processes and procedures for other types of recurring legal tasks and issues is just an extension of this idea.
Equally important is making terminology and wording consistent throughout the legal department. Doing this removes a great deal of guesswork that would otherwise appear in a legal department that uses a wide variety of terms.
What does legal department efficiency and standardization not accomplish?
Some legal professionals may worry that standardizing procedures and processes will take away from the practice of law. However, improving efficiency through standardization doesn’t detract from the analytical and creative processes involved in legal thinking. Instead, it enhances them.
The majority of legal matters are repeatable and can fall under certain standardized guidelines. By standardizing these matters, you free up your time to have more bandwidth to work on the outlying issues that do not fit into any existing process or procedure. The goal is to standardize what you can to improve your efficiency on those items, and use the rest of your time on the more complex legal matters that inevitably pop up.
How Legal Files helps customers improve their efficiency
Before implementing Legal Files, one customer was utilizing two incompatible databases to schedule hearings. The databases had been developed several years apart, used different computer languages and collected different types of data. These incompatible systems created many inefficiencies for the office. This problem grew worse as the volume and complexity of data increased over time.
According to their lead clerk, “It wasn’t stone tablets or quill pens, but it was pretty close. The most obvious problem was people were showing up to hearings and we would have no record of their hearing.” Data extraction and reporting using the databases was also incredibly time-consuming. Some reports would take weeks to run.
After selecting Legal Files, the legal department efficiency and organization skyrocketed. “It really manages nearly all we do. Of course, managing our dockets has been the biggest improvement. I can’t remember the last time we had a person show up and we had no idea why. The clerks are in the system all day, every day,” the lead clerk explains.
Every legal department can become more efficient
Although every legal department has varying degrees of organization and efficiency, all of them have certain areas they can improve. The first step is looking for areas that could benefit from standardization. You’ll be amazed by how much time and effort you can save.