Top tips to boost lawyer efficiency

When I saw the title of a recent article from Artificial Lawyer, I had to read on. The title: ‘What if Lawyers Had an Ethical Obligation to be Efficient?’ struck me as bold, and I was intrigued by this controversial view.

It made me think: we know the legal market is changing rapidly, but why is it so hard for lawyers to adjust to modern ways of working? Clients continue to demand more, and it could be argued that an obligation to be as efficient as possible could be just as important as any other ethical obligation.

Law firm workflow

In my experience helping law firms to manage the efficiency and effectiveness of their back-office operations and workflow between lawyers and support staff, I’ve found that sometimes efficiency has to be defined, explained and the benefits understood as a first step in changing old habits.

There are many components to lawyer efficiency and it is not found overnight. The perfect combination would include three elements:

  • The ability to easily transfer knowledge among your people
  • The ability to seamlessly adjust behavior and current processes
  • The ability to access the best technology with real data to assist with continuous improvement

In order to put this perfect combination into action, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Meet with your internal teams, stress the need to adjust current processes and brainstorm ways to efficiently make this happen.
  • Consult change management practices that will best suit your firm or enlist a consulting firm to help guide you on changing behavior.
  • Use new technology as the lever for the change that will enable new processes, bringing you greater efficiencies. And don’t forget the data that will provide you metrics to help you as you continue to evolve your processes in the future.

Changing old habits

When it comes to change, lawyers are often unsure how to adjust old habits. They need to clearly understand the reason for making the adjustment, the intended goals, and the personal benefits they can expect from the increased efficiency.

Here are some common benefits worth pointing out on lawyer efficiency:

  • Lawyers are undertaking more administrative work instead of delegating to support staff. Show them ways to get these tasks off of their desks and into the hands of support staff, at a lower cost to the firm, to free them up for more billable work which in turn is a major benefit to the firm and for clients. Our recent Workflow Management research shows that 30% of North American firms are concerned about lawyers undertaking more administrative work, which rises to 45% of mid-size firms.
  • Clients want value for money. Use cost to demonstrate the need for tasks to be delegated to the most cost-effective resource for the job.
  • When you adjust current ways of working, you improve the process of support cover during times of absence. Eventually, you build a group of skilled support staff that can provide adequate support to any lawyer in need of additional support. Many are turning to specialized teams that provide highly skilled work around the clock.
  • Current and rather archaic ways of delegating tasks, like email, can take up to eight minutes per task with the back and forth that is typically required to clarify information to carry out the task correctly.

Each firm is different but there are some that have leapt ahead of their peers by unlocking the key to lawyer efficiency and they are the ones that are quickly leaving everyone else behind. There are many others looking to follow. Our research found that 45% of North American law firms are planning to implement workflow technology in the next 24 months – a stat that rises to 70% for mid-size firms.

The article that sparked my response was a daring testament to a bold change that is facing this industry and they weren’t wrong. If we think of this solely from the client’s perspective, it seems like a no brainer.  Why wouldn’t they want their work to be completed in the most efficient way? Having real operational data at your fingertips will empower you with the ability to review trends around historical practices as you work on continuous improvement.

Many in operations have been mandated to make bold changes but they continue to hit roadblocks that interfere with outdated practices. The road is not an easy one but to make real meaningful change we really need to step outside of the comfort of old practices and step forward into the new legal era.  

About BigHand Workflow Management

To provide the best client service while supporting your bottom line, it’s vital to ensure your teams are working efficiently and smartly. Ineffective and outdated methods of delegating tasks makes it easy for things to be overlooked, means your workforce isn’t properly optimized, your tasks aren’t being delivered on time, and your bottom line is suffering as a result. BigHand Workflow Management is a task management solution that lets you turn your tasks into fully auditable, digital workflow entries. You can create tasks from voice, email, electronic or paper-based requests – from document production requests to reprographics and travel bookings.

BigHand Workflow Management