The Top 5 Bad Work Habits in a Law Firm – and How to Kick Them
For a law firm trying to reach its revenue goals, time, processes, and people matter. But bad work habits can inconspicuously infiltrate your work environment and affect your staff’s productivity, your firm’s workplace culture, and your bottom line.
All of the habits that your employees have right now — good and bad — are part of their workday for a reason. In some way, these behaviors provide a benefit to them, even if they are “bad” in other ways. For example, a paralegal who opens her email inbox as soon as she turns on her computer each day might do this because she feels it that it helps her prioritize what is important to accomplish that day. However, looking at all of those emails can also distract her from more urgent tasks, monopolize her time, and stress her out.
It’s not a deliberate act of sabotage. Since that practice addresses a certain need in her workday (i.e. helps her organize her day), she’ll do it again the next day – even if it takes her down an unproductive path. And for this reason, it’s best to replace bad habits with more productive behaviors that address that same need. You can’t simply cut out bad habits because then you’ll have an unmet need.
Here are the top five bad work habits commonly found in law firms – as well as straightforward solutions for replacing them:
Bad Habit #1: Being Disorganized
In any business, disorganization creates waste and waste cuts into profits. If a law firm does not have the processes and technology in place to streamline and organize workflows, efforts are duplicated, deadlines are missed, and costly mistakes are made.
Paralegals and lawyers need to be able to determine at a glance what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it needs to be done by for each of their cases. Without this knowledge, cases stagnate and clients become unsatisfied. Organized caseload management is mandatory to keep cases moving forward, and it should be a priority for all.
Kick the Habit with Smart Reminders and Matter Trackers
You can help your staff become more organized and efficient by providing them with technology and processes that focus on automation and advanced analytics. Your case management solution is instrumental here. Ideally, it should be cloud-based so that each case file is centrally located and accessible by all. And it should automate and simplify repetitive tasks, such as document merges. Most importantly, it should provide your legal staff with organizational tools that can be used on a daily basis to reduce wasted time.
GrowPath has customizable smart reminders that automatically appear based on priority, case type, and actions taken to let your staff know what to do and when they should do it. These logic-driven smart reminders appear only when actions are needed according to the case workflow.
Each day’s tasks are laid out clearly for your paralegals and attorneys – irrelevant to-do lists are a thing of the past. When a case changes status, automated reminders are triggered for the new actions required, and urgent tasks are moved to the top of the list. You can customize dynamic checklists to fit your firm. So, if someone calls in sick for the day, you can simply select their user name and assign their reminders for that day to a coworker.
In our example of the paralegal checking her emails first thing, GrowPath’s Matter Trackers provide a more productive alternative for prioritizing one’s day. Matter Trackers give users a high level view of their entire caseload on one screen. It allows you to set custom trackers to alert you of upcoming statutes of limitations or to highlight when something has changed in a case file. Potential issues are flagged in red so you can prioritize them accordingly.
GrowPath also saves time by incorporating document creation and administration within the system, improves efficiency with features such as drag and drop functionality, and eliminates errors by automatically populating key merge fields and using standardized templates.
Bad Habit #2: Working in a Silo
An unproductive work habit that seems to be picking up steam with the remote and hybrid work environment trend in law firms is the development of the silo mentality. The silo mentality occurs when an employee or department operates in isolation (i.e. in a silo) – and it can lead to work redundancy, communication breakdowns, and operational inefficiencies. When individuals or teams focus only on their specific goals, the wider firm goals are lost and the big picture is ignored.
In addition to work silos being created by employees working remotely, a lack of established systems and workflows for collaboration can result in employees or teams working in isolation. Not having the right technology exacerbates the problem. Paralegals and attorneys need to be able to communicate effortlessly if you want to tear down the silos that may exist in your firm.
For example, when you have individuals or teams working in isolation, document management is often disorganized and decentralized, resulting in wasted time and work inefficiencies. The firms who still rely on paper documents are trapped in an antiquated time warp of paper shuffling and file cabinets, but even the firms who have made the leap to electronic document management often have misnamed documents and disorganized file directories which can delay response time and amp up employee frustration.
Kick the Habit with Streamlined Communications and Centralized Document Management
Having the right technology is essential for overcoming the silo mentality. Your case management platform should make it effortless for your paralegals and attorneys to stay in touch with each other and with their clients – on multiple devices, wherever they are. It should also efficiently organize and manage all case-related documents to enhance collaboration.
GrowPath streamlines communication by capturing emails, texts, and attachments within the case record. Its one-click communication feature allows your staff to connect instantly within the platform with clients, as well as with other attorneys and paralegals on the case, via a phone call, text, or email.
GrowPath’s advanced document management allows your firm to store all case-related documents in a centralized cloud-based application so your staff can access them directly from the case file, from any device. And documents are created and editing in Microsoft and stored in OneDrive which allows real-time sharing and collaboration across the team.
Bad Habit #3: Making Gut-Based Decisions
There are plenty of articles out there arguing the pros and cons of making gut-based decisions, but when it comes to running a law firm efficiently and profitably, you need to rely on hard and fast data in your decision-making. And this is true at various levels within the firm:
- Is your intake team using data to determine whether or not to pass along a caller to an attorney? Or are they going with their instinct on whether or not the caller may have a case? Attorney time is a precious commodity that should not be wasted, so you need to be sure that any intake calls forwarded to them have potential to become a high value client.
- How are you dividing up your marketing budget? Do you “have a good feel” for which markets you should air commercials in or are you using data that shows where the ROI is solid? You need to know which marketing initiatives are resulting in leads, as well as which leads are converting into clients.
- Are you sure the employees you are giving raises to are your true top performers? Do you have stats to prove it? Gut-based decisions can lead to inadvertent (and morale-crushing) favoritism.
Making gut-based decisions can be costly – and unnecessary if you have a good case management system.
Kick the Habit with Analytics
Data-driven decisions can help you sign the right cases, control spending, identify top performers, find bottlenecks in cases, increase productivity, and control spending. And your case management software should provide your firm with superior analytical tools that help you identify potential issues, manage workflows, visualize data in real-time, and create automated, customizable reports to help make informed decisions based on facts.
GrowPath has superior analytical tools which help law firms identify potential issues and manage workflows more efficiently. Our Office Optimizer solution provides analytics that help your firm:
- interpret and communicate unproductive patterns that might otherwise be missed
- target marketing efforts efficiently
- improve lawyer and paralegal productivity
- manage resources and costs effectively
The data you need for informed decision-making is there in your firm; you just need software, like GrowPath, that makes it accessible and allows you to view it in easy to understand and manage dashboards.
In addition to reports, your case management platform should have tools that utilize data to simplify daily tasks. For example, your intake team should be equipped with data when talking to potential clients. GrowPath’s patented Lead Scoring Tool uses artificial intelligence to alert your staff when an intake reaches a certain score. In addition, the patented Buzzwords feature helps your team identify high-value intakes that are often otherwise missed.
In terms of improving employee performance, GrowPath’s Productivity Tool gives managers insights into the activity levels of individual team members as well as entire departments, whether their staff is working in the office or from home. It provides specific data on key productivity metrics, as well as gravity reports that help them measure and compare employees’ caseloads.
Bad Habit #4: Not Protecting Data
Your firm has an ethical obligation to maintain client confidentiality as laid out in Rule 1.6 in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. However, in today’s work environment where paralegals and lawyers have access to client files on their phones and laptops, client data can easily be compromised if a devise is stolen.
Kick the Habit with Cybersecurity Features
Your firm should enforce protocols to protect client data such as:
- Requiring all cellphones to be unlocked only with a passcode
- Using a program to wipe data from mobile devices in the event that they are lost or stolen
- Encrypting smartphone data
- Using two-factor authentication
- Utilizing secure file sharing
- Installing GPS tracking
We go a couple steps further – GrowPath has military-grade, patented security features. One of our recent cybersecurity patents adds a layer of security via a unique image credential that protects your firm’s data even if your phone is unlocked or someone manages to access your laptop. Another two cybersecurity patents deal with data obfuscation and image authentication. Big words that translate into safe data.
Bad Habit #5 – Failing to Communicate
A top complaint about attorneys is that they do not communicate effectively, or enough, with their clients. Clients often feel neglected and uninformed of case progress, and this can lead to bad reviews. Bad attorney-client communication habits include:
- Not returning phone calls
- Not informing clients when settlement checks are received
- Not explaining processes
- Taking too long to respond
- Failing to put fee agreements in writing
- Not sending timely termination letters when declining representation
Your case management solution should enable your attorneys, as well as your paralegals, to stay in contact with your clients. An enhanced flow of communication will, in turn, increase client satisfaction. And happy clients tend to return when they need help in the future, as well as refer their friends and family to your firm.
Kick the Habit with Automation
Automation is key for fighting many bad habits. Superior case management solutions automate workflows, processes, and follow-ups to ensure all things happen within the case, when they need to happen – and this includes communication.
With GrowPath, you can stay in touch with your clients via email and text without doing a thing, and all communications (including emails, texts, and attachments) are automatically stored correctly within the case file. You can also ensure that clients automatically receive an email or text when there are changes in their case.
It’s easy to set smart reminders to alert you when a certain amount of time is up or when a check comes in, which helps you keep clients up-to-date and in-the-loop every step of the way. All interactions are captured in the platform so that you can tell at a glance where you left off in your last conversation and what needs to be addressed next.
Kick Your Firm’s Bad Work Habits Today to Realize Increased Profits Tomorrow
If you notice any of these five bad work habits in place at your firm, take action today to replace them. Your case management system can help you streamline processes and improve communications, and both your employees and clients will benefit – not to mention your bottom line.
GrowPath can help. Schedule your free demo today.