Streamlining Workflows – How Law Firms Can Get More Done Faster
In every law office, there is a flow. How cases are handled from intake through disbursal in a PI firm, for example. There are workflows within that larger flow, like the steps paralegals take with evidence gathering, insurance inquiries, demands, and so on.
How much of that work is about moving the case forward, and how much of that work is mundane, repetitive tasks? The 10,000 workers polled for Asana’s 2022 Anatomy of Work Survey revealed that roughly 58% of their work was busywork. These are the grinding tasks that people do in order to get to the work they should be doing.
Your law firm is a business. Most of the conventional wisdom around streamlining business processes may apply, but law firms also face unique needs and challenges. Let’s take the idea of streamlining business processes and make it more relevant to your law firm.
Streamlining Business Processes for Law Firms: A Brief Guide
Regardless of the type of business you’re in, there are essentially two ways you can streamline essential business functions. You can eliminate unnecessary tasks, and you can make necessary tasks more efficient. That’s it. Almost all work processes have elements that can be eliminated or streamlined.
Streamlining processes begins with identifying the work that needs to be done, the work that is necessary but tedious and repetitive, and the work that needs to be eliminated – also known as busy work.
Identify the Work That Needs to Be Done
The essentials are the same for almost every law firm, depending on their practice area. The steps required to get a case signed, serve the client, overcome obstacles, and reach a satisfying conclusion will be roughly the same and repeatable within a practice. There are just some things you have to do in almost every case.
Obviously, the legal exercise may vary from case to case. At every step in the case management and business processes, however, you can narrow the focus to what absolutely must be done.
Examples include record collection, demand letters, and communications to the client and other parties. Streamlining business processes may seem obvious, but it’s worth exploring. Many efficiency gains hide in plain sight.
Identify Necessary, But Tedious and Repetitive Work
To crib an example from above, let’s talk about demand letters. Is each demand letter unique? Parts of it are, because every case is unique. But there are pieces that will be the same. It’s a form letter, after all. Does someone need to enter the client’s name, insurance company’s name, date, and essentials every time?
The letter needs those things, but the task is repetitive. What about communications to client? These are repetitive tasks as well, and the information exchanged is often a template, so to speak, with unique information sprinkled in. Could this be a text instead, and could it be automatically triggered and sent? Could calls be scheduled more efficiently? Can you eliminate some of the steps needed to call, like looking up and dialing the number – can you call with a click?
Identify the Work That Needs to Be Eliminated
Busywork is the enemy of productivity and morale. When you devote time to streamline business processes, you begin to see busywork as potholes, roadblocks, and anything that keeps people from doing what’s needed.
Hunting for files. Emailing someone to request a version of something. Getting an email requesting a version of something. If you ask your people what work processes frustrate them on a daily basis, you’re very likely to identify some existing processes or tasks that need to go.
Solutions for Streamlining Workflows in Your Law Firm
As makers of case management software, we’re all about solutions. Rather than go into specific product features and try to sell you something, we wanted to approach it from a wider perspective.
Let’s start with the glaringly obvious one.
Eliminate Wasted Work Wherever You Find It
Eliminating wasted work sounds obvious, but again, you have to look at your firm’s business processes and workflows from top to bottom, and from beginning to end. You’re probably going to find more waste than you think. Here are a few examples.
Endless, Pointless Emails
People spend a lot of time in their email. How much of that time is wasted? Most firms lose at least hundreds of hours a year because of repetitive, unclear, unneeded, or otherwise useless emailing.
Try this: create two email folders. One folder is for strictly necessary email – that is, something that could not be communicated or completed in any more efficient way. The other is for everything else. At the end of a week, do the math. Most people will find that at least half, and usually a lot more, of their email is a waste of time. This leads us to the second example.
Casing Files and Data
How many emails are just people asking for things that they can’t find? Whereas the root of pointless emails in general may vary, organizational deficiencies certainly contribute. People spend time hunting for information they need outside of email as well. If your firm has “versions” of the same thing in the same file, that’s an obvious pain point.
File organization and access are key components to any business, and streamlining business processes effectively means examining how you’re organizing – if you’re organizing – and what you could do better.
Inefficient processes are often learned responses to flawed tools, lack of employee training, or the inability to adapt existing processes in the face of changing business needs.
Automate Processes and Workflows Whenever Possible
Process automation – also called workflow automation – doesn’t require a robot or an AI, just an intelligent set of features and a clear process workflow for staff to follow. Smart automation helps ensure streamlined workflows function. When you have repetitive tasks automated, it frees up valuable hours your staff can spend working on important things.
Simple Automation Example: Demand Letters
What if you could automatically populate demand letters and send them? Even if your staff currently work from a word processing template, they have to key in the client’s name, contact information, numbers, and generally parrot information from various parts of the case file. Case management software should automatically populate that information. If it doesn’t, why not? Are you using it correctly?
Advanced Automation Example: Evidentiary collection
Typical business process management software won’t handle something this specific to law, but evidentiary collection is full of smaller tasks that could benefit from automation. Automatically remind staff of pertinent deadlines. Automatically generate forms, demands, spoilation letters, and so on. Automatically follow up on medical records and related tasks.
Automate File Organization
A lot of streamlining processes come from reining in chaos. Nowhere is this truer than in information and document management and organization. Software is key here – a centralized management system means there’s only one version of a document, and it updates automatically whenever someone adds to the file. Period. No versions. No emails. No hunting. One. File.
Automate More, and Get More Done
Think about the milestones, triggers, and moments in a case when action is needed, but extrapolate: what if an action isn’t strictly necessary but would improve customer satisfaction? What if you could automatically text clients when the status of their cases changes? What tasks could you automate and how?
Automating repetitive tasks helps ensure your workforce operates efficiently. Automating client service tasks increases customer engagement. No matter your perspective, automation takes the busywork out of legal work.
More Advice for Law Firms That Want to Streamline Workflows
Our familiarity with streamlining business processes – and business process management for law firms in general – isn’t accidental. It’s our product. We make case management software, and we include features that increase its scope to something more akin to business process management software tailored specifically to law firms.
Project management software and customer relationship management tools are, generally speaking, an orbit we inhabit. We believe that to grow and be successful, law firms should be run like businesses. That doesn’t mean we believe that all process management technologies apply to law firms, which truly require a bespoke approach (hence, GrowPath).
That said, if a solution doesn’t solve your problem, it’s not a solution. If it introduced meaningless steps, it’s not a solution. Most software, if it’s used properly, should streamline something in your business process or day-to-day workflow. Otherwise, why use it?
Our Experience Streamlining Processes for Law Firms: Is It Your Software?
We’ve worked in the trenches with law firms who were transforming their business processes, and we apply what we learned for all of our clients. We’ve streamlined business processes. We’ve improved internal business procedures. We’ve automated workflows. And we’re still developing to make our solution better every day.
We listen to the problems and frustrations of law firms. You’re reading this because we’ve been asked about it. The whole point of case management software is to streamline processes for law firms – whether they’re legal processes or business processes.
And sales message aside, is the answer to streamlining processes in your law firm simply new software? In creating our case management platform, we’ve incorporated all of our learning from business operations, accounting processes, human resources, marketing management, and business productivity.
Streamlining business processes effectively makes your law firm more productive. That’s what we’re all about. If you feel like your firm should be more productive, or if your software solution doesn’t streamline processes like you think it should, maybe we can help.