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How Lawyers Can Avoid Working on Unprofitable Tasks

Noel Peel

Written by

Noel Peel


September 5, 2019

Every law firm partner, associate and administrative assistant wishes there was some way to find more time in the day. Unfortunately, no one can create more time, but the good news is that everyone can use the time they have more efficiently. One way to save time is by creating processes for low-level tasks.

What is a Process?

A process is a system for completing a task that can be done the same way repeatedly. Every task you complete at your law firm has a process whether it’s formal or informal. For example, reading email has a process: 1. Open the email program, 2. Open the email message and 3. Read the message. That’s as basic as it gets for reading email but even this simple process can be made more efficient. For example, you might have your assistant scan the email first to identify the most important messages. Or, you might have you email program automatically flag emails from specific email addresses and delete emails marked as spam. Just adding these simple tweaks to the email reading process can save hours a year.

How Processes Help You

Efficient processes can help your law firm increase productivity and profits by doing the following:

  • Save time on repetitive tasks.
  • Reduce errors by automating important and repetitive tasks.
  • Allow you to delegate repetitive but important low-level tasks to less skilled employees.

At the end of the year, when you add up the minutes saved on repetitive tasks, you will find that your law firm has freed up dozens of hours so that associates and partners can focus on billable work.

How to Create a Process

Creating a process is a lot easier than many associates and partners imagine. Because you’re already using processes, all you need to do to get started is begin paying attention to what you’re doing.

Identify Any Task You Do More Than Once

Any task that’s done more than once can benefit from a process. For example, you know that you bill clients repeatedly. This means that your invoicing tasks could benefit from a process. In the case of invoicing, you might use legal industry-specific software, such as Smokeball, that automates much of your invoicing system, freeing up important time to focus on other profit generating tasks. Once you’ve identified repetitive tasks at your law firm at all levels (and this will be an ongoing process), you identify what can be automated or delegated.

  • Automate and delegate. Once you’ve made a list of repetitive tasks, automate and delegate those tasks when possible. There may be some tasks that can be completely or partially automated. Or, you may find that some repetitive tasks can be completely or partially delegated to an administrative assistant or outsourced. The goal is to offload what you can from associates and partners so that their time isn’t occupied by unprofitable tasks.
  • Invest your time. You can’t save time or money without first investing your time into creating and improving your processes. No matter how busy you are, invest at least 20–30 minutes per week working on your law firm’s processes.
  • Get everyone involved. Ask all of your associates, partners, and administrative staff to write down their processes for the work they do. This will help you better understand the processes that make your law firm efficient and processes that are hindering you. It will also make it easier to hand off work to temp workers or new hires when an employee leaves or is promote.

At Smokeball, we’re all about helping small law firms become more productive and profitable. Creating efficient processes is critical to the success of your law firm, so take the time to create efficient and profit generating systems.

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