It is risky for a lawyer not to schedule reminders for when a statute of limitations will run out. Attorneys can utilize legal practice management software which tracks your law firm workflow to record self-imposed deadlines for court filings. Lawyers who don’t schedule regular check-ins with their clients could miss a critical update that significantly affects the progress of the case. Thus, a software system that helps builds better workflows can be very valuable to attorneys.
Law firms often describe workflows as time-sensitive aggregations of tasks. Adding reminders to time-sensitive lists or breaking down large projects into smaller pieces helps professional service providers work more efficiently and reduce malpractice risk.
Best practice for attorneys is to use a top-down approach to manage law firm workflow because the most senior lawyers in the firm typically bill at the highest rates. Attorneys should be performing high-value substantive tasks or marketing for that type of work. Many senior lawyers may waste time by performing low-level substantive work or by spending too much time on administrative duties. If you have an employee that you’re paying $20/hour and you’re billing out at $400/hour – you are losing revenue by doing their work. Ideally, there should be three types of work in a law firm, performed by three kinds of staff members:
- High-level substantive work – completed by the highest billing partners
- Low-level substantive work – completed by associates or paralegals
- Administrative work – completed by office staff
Operating in this manner will ensure the most revenue for a law firm.
Once tasks are assigned, the law firm should create working lists for each employee. Have your support staff and associates draw up roadmaps for processes based on their existing law firm, review those, and apply them. Have employees add these workflows to your legal practice management software to ensure they will know what to do when a specific situation arises, and you will be able to monitor their progress in real time.
Perhaps the most useful tool to assist with streamlining law office workflow is a template authoring tool or legal document automation software. If you’re an estate planning attorney who charges $1500 for a will package and it takes you four hours to complete that package for a client, you are limited in the number of wills you can complete. This limits the amount of money you can make. However, if the use of a document automation program could reduce that time to one hour, then you are free to acquire four times as much work and make four times as much money.
In addition to saving you time and earning you more money, document automation tools reduce malpractice risk. Any practice that relies on document generation to make money should use document automation software. In addition to the estate planning example above, document assembly tools can allow lawyers to quickly complete financial forms and guidelines for a family law practice (including divorce and probate), fill court forms, and generate documents for worker’s compensation and other personal injury cases. Using a case management system that also integrates document automation features is ideal. You’ll be able to fill client and case information quickly and access all other relevant document information in one place, rather than using multiple systems to access your data. The most effective document automation programs will walk you through the construction of a document at a high level, helping you reduce drafting errors and offering an integrated solution for document creation and management.