With another year drawing to a close, now is a great time to take a step back from the daily cut and thrust of lawyering and have a think about legal practice management. In other words… your practice as a business. A little health check goes a long way – some of the benefits include:
- developing a more satisfying and rewarding legal practice;
- identifying areas of change to improve efficiencies;
- improved communications with partners and staff;
- improved communications with potential, new and existing clients;
- improved risk-reduced practice procedures and processes to help safe-guard against professional negligence claims;
- developing a more profitable practice which attracts and retains competent attorneys and administrative support.
Here are six key areas to consider when revisiting the way your firm operates. Answer yes or no to the questions below to check up on the health of your firm.
1. File Management
Do attorneys and administrative staff have easy access to each other’s work, including email correspondence with clients?
Do you have a file management policy and does it include regular and systematic reviews?
Is your practice consistent in maintaining electronic files or hard copy files?
Are file notes taken regularly and consistently?
2. Client Care
Do you only accept matters within your area of expertise?
Do you conduct conflict of interest searches before accepting a matter?
Are clients’ instructions documented?
Are staff trained in managing client expectations?
Are you able to discuss costs with clients in a straightforward discussion?
Do you confirm instructions in writing, including client expectations, the scope of work to be done, time limits and the consequences of missed time?
Upon conclusion of a matter, do you ask for feedback to determine client satisfaction?
Does your practice have a complaints policy?
3. Practice Communication
Does your practice have a centralized diary?
Are formal staff meetings conducted regularly?
Are records of staff meetings kept and distributed?
Is a procedure in place for the delegation of work?
Are support staff regularly supervised and communicated with?
4. Document Production
Does the practice have a policy on drafting and checking documentation?
Are you and your staff trained in using software to produce documents efficiently?
Do you use automation to reduce the time spent on forms and letters?
5. Education and Training
Does your practice have am education and training policy?
Do you maintain a continuing legal education register?
Have identified specific training areas for both attorneys and support staff?
Do staff provide reports on courses and seminars to share within your firm?
6. Business Plan
Does your firm have a business plan?
Is the business plan reviewed regularly?
Does your practice have a vision statement?
Do all staff know your firm’s values?
Does your practice have a current financial plan?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you’re probably plain sailing your way to 2014. If you answered no to the majority of questions, now is the perfect time to get legal practice management back on the agenda.
Good luck and may 2014 be a productive and profitable year for your firm!