The New Normal: Run Your Law Firm Like a Business in 2017 // Part 1: High Efficiency

March 15, 2017

image of Thomson Reuters Time and Billing on three mobile devices

Editor’s Note: Jared Correia is a paid guest blogger.

Those attorneys who take stock of what they’ve done in 2016 will generally look back at internal figures, most likely revenue numbers, potentially on a per-month basis.  How did you do, financially and strategically? How can you improve at the end of one year and the beginning of another?  Even if revenue alone doesn’t tell the whole story, most small law firms don’t capture much data beyond that, or build out reports based on other considerations.  Nor do small law firms often consider industry-wide trends.

Fortunately, Thomson Reuters offers a quick level-setting quiz to tell you how you’re doing in keeping up with other firms. Where can you focus to improve your bottom line, and your efficiency?

One thing that is clear from the numbers is that lawyers need to figure out how to spend less time on non-substantive work.  Efficiency is a clear differentiator between law firms labeling themselves as successful, or not in the State of U.S. Small Law Firms Study Report.

In an environment where cost pressure constantly rains down upon small firm lawyers, finding the time to bill for more work by adding efficiencies is one of the best ways to combat stagnating legal fees — especially for law firms wedded to hourly billing models.  Law firms that can rein in their time and reduce costs can pass those savings onto clients, and retain more of them.

Apply these overarching time management upgrades to your small law firm, and make efficiency a driver of your law practice:

Convenience Store-house.  Dealing with a patchwork of technology can slow you down.  Managing all of your relevant law firm data from one place, accessible by all of the members of your team, means that everyone will get the data they need faster, so they can get back to billing.  Logging into and toggling between multiple programs is disadvantageous, especially as compared to consistently processing case information through a single, law practice management repository, available via multiple devices, like Thomson Reuters’ Firm Central.

Turn the Page.  If you’re still leafing through paper files, that’s yesterday’s news.  Even if your law firm does not become entirely paperless, just placing a larger percentage of your documents into electronic format will consistently save you time.  At a very basic level, it’s far easier to search for words and phrases across thousands of electronic files in seconds, than it is to locate and scour through various files, and maybe never even find the haystack needle you were looking for.

Do One Thing.  Effective multitasking is a myth.  You can’t fully concentrate on two things at one time.  If you’re in the middle of drafting a complaint, you get pinged to open an email, and you do, you won’t get back on task for at least 25 minutes.  Tactics for increasing your focus can spin off in a number of different directions.  Turn off your email notifications.  Establish ‘power hours’: when do you work most efficiently?  Block off one or two hours to focus on one thing.  Create task lists based on importance versus urgency.

Reducing the time you spend on tasks surrounding your substantive work can increase your revenue, referrals and personal satisfaction. And by staying focused on the legal tasks at hand, you’ll set yourself ahead of the pack as the legal market continues to evolve.