Our law firm has roughly 200 employees. Many of them work directly on behalf of clients. As the head of our firm, I want to know how do I track my paralegal’s performance as a way to track who is doing what and where we had any potential workflow productivity issues. Not necessarily to play gotcha. (Although I do want to be able to dive deep and find out if I have a problem with a paralegals performance – more on that below.) Mainly I want to know that key work is getting done and key performance indicators for paralegals and attorneys is being met. I also want to know who my most productive people are so I can study what they do right and use it to teach others. And I want to use this data to make sure that these employees are properly rewarded at bonus time.
In this two part series, I will discuss how I use data to track and measure paralegal and attorney productivity on a firm and individual level. This first post will show how I make sure the critical work gets done by individuals regardless of their role in the firm. The second post will cover how I use this data to improve firm productivity as a whole. Let’s jump into my three steps to tracking individual productivity.
Step 1: Setting KPIs for Your Paralegals and Attorneys
Start by establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) for each position where someone works on cases. At our firm, we like to focus on file movement measures rather than revenue figures. Why? Overemphasizing revenues instead of file movement is a mistake that I believe many law firms make.
While we all want revenue growth, we have seen firsthand that focusing on the right processes that allows the revenues to naturally follow.
Revenue figures can be misleading because a few big hits can cover a multitude of sins and mask some fundamental problems. I want files to flow through our system at roughly the same rate that we bring them in. If this doesn’t happen, logjams can surface down the line creating bloat in the system, and this can lead to extra work, time, and frustration by fellow teammates to try to remedy.
When establishing KPIs, your key measurements may differ, depending on your workflow and who is responsible for what in your firm. For our PI staff, each week we measure:
- How many files complete treatment
- How many files are completed and ready for a demand
- How many files disburse
We keep two key principles in mind when setting a KPI key performance indicator for paralegals.
- It should reflect how the employee is performing – above, at, or below par
- It should directly correlate to the firm’s success goals
The KPIs for our PI staff meet these tests. Good paralegals will stay on top of their clients’ medical treatment and move files to the next stage of a case as soon as they are ready. They will get the files ready for demand promptly and accurately. And they will schedule disbursals after a case settles. Each of these measures propels file movement for our firm, and the better our paralegals are, the more files they will be able to move.
Similarly, for our PI attorneys, we measure each week:
- The number of demands they send out
- The number of cases they resolve
Again, these are factors that our attorneys can influence or control, and they allow us to make sure that the attorneys are keeping pace and not causing a logjam or bloating our system.
Step 2: Track What Work Is Getting Done
Every practice is different, and what you want to measure is up to you. But, once you have arrived at the right measurements, you need to be able to see that the work is getting done. I use our software’s Matter Trackers to display all the KPIs I want to see for any period of time I want to measure. Then I can quickly and easily see what was completed this week, this month, or whatever period of time I choose. This makes it so I can then compare the completed work with the number of files in the system. I know what is being completed on pace, and where we may be falling short. If we are falling short, I want to be able to dive in and analyze why, and if there is a problem, fix it as soon as possible.
I like to review all this information for the firm as a whole. But I want each employee to see how they are doing on their KPIs. And, whether someone manages a few people or a larger group, I want them to be able to see what those people are able to get done, and in what time frame.
Information is power, especially when it is relevant and customized to meet the needs of each individual.
Step 3: Uncover What Needs to Get Done
Besides measuring what has been completed, I also want clear vision of what needs to be accomplished to keep files moving. I want anyone who works on cases to be able to easily see, at a glance, what is due and needs their attention. If they have 100 cases, what tasks are most important? I don’t want them to have to try to guess or to arbitrarily work on whatever happens to come across their desk. We have given them the tools to help them prioritize strategically and take action on issues that need immediate attention to keep files moving.
As with the KPIs, what needs to be done, by whom, and when, depends on your practice and workflow expectations. Yet, once you have decided on them, it is easy to have the information available in real-time, at all times, to whomever you want to see it.
At our firm, for example, everyone sees their own list of action items. Lawyers see theirs and those of their paralegals. Department heads see their entire department’s lists. I see everyone’s. If someone’s list is out of control or needs attention, we can jump on it preemptively, get them help, and assess whether they need more training, fewer files, or whether some other solution is called for.
As you well know, there are many moving parts to workflow in a busy law firm. When everyone can see for themselves what key things they have addressed, and what they still need to do, our experience has been that they tend to focus on prioritizing those key things. And having the ability to check, at a glance, what is being done and what needs to be done allows me to solve problems before they spiral out of control. That leads to better results and peace of mind for me.
Jim Farrin is CEO of GrowPath. He is also Founder and President of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. His law firm has recovered more than $1 billion in gross for over 43,000 clients over the last 20 years.