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Is it more important for a law firm to do the right things, or is it better to do things right? Management gurus have long asked this very question. A common consensus declares that businesses which are able to excel at both are the ones that will eventually come out on top. While “doing the right things” is an idea that relates to effectiveness, “doing things right” is more about efficiency. Thus, when a law office has the proper systems in place, and more importantly is using these systems properly, they will see a rise in efficiency, which ultimately translates to increased productivity across the firm.

Most of the 2,200 law practices we’ve worked with often have much of the “doing the right things” part down pat by the time they come to us. They have an excellent team of partners, attorneys and support staff in place. They have strong relationships with long-time clients who value their service. And they’ve built a knowledge base from their experience within a unique set of practice areas that is both extensive and valuable. Where they typically need a boost is in the area of efficiency. And a law firm, like any other business, needs to maximize efficiency if it intends to compete and grow in the long run.

Time-saving technology tools like case management software help law firms meet this need. But there are so many of these tools available from so many different vendors – case and document management, time & billing, accounting, scanning, reports etc. – that it’s difficult to even know where to begin. That’s where an integrated practice management system comes in. Law firms properly utilizing these systems gain an advantage over firms who don’t, both in terms of efficiency and overall productivity. To better understand how, first let’s take a look at the relationship between people, technology and productivity.

Business managers often talk about three ways in which productivity can be increased: more labor, greater investment in technology, and third, increases in the level of efficiency between the two. It’s this final piece of the puzzle that is often the most elusive. You can have a strong team in place with great talent, and you can choose to re-invest your firm’s profits into productive technological assets. But for many businesses, and law firms are no exception, there is often a substantial gap between how much output a business is capable of and how much it actually produces. Business analysts refer to this relationship between people and technical resources as total factor productivity, which examines the level of efficiency between these two resources. In a law office, we can take the same approach to determine whether people and technology are being properly utilized to produce the highest levels of efficiencies, and ultimately profits, for the firm.

In a nutshell, to increase the output, we have to take a hard look at the input. There’s a saying “if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got.” What this saying lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in common sense. If shortcomings found in your management software is what you’ve “got”, than it’s time to consider what software convergence can do for your bottom line.

Unless your law firm is entirely different than most, there is a good chance from a people perspective that your lawyers and support staff are already doing all they can, regularly putting in long hours in order to stay on top of large and ever-increasing case loads. After all, lawyers have long had a reputation for being among the hardest working professionals of any industry. And given the high costs associated with adding additional staff, it would be no surprise that the greatest available margin for improving efficiency within a law office is often found on the technology side of the equation.

When we talk about efficiency, of course, what we are really referring to is time. After human resources, time could be considered the next most precious of all resources within a law firm. Squander it, and you’ll soon find yourself struggling to stay afloat. Manage time to its fullest, however, and you’ll reap the benefits in the form of higher profitability. Practice Management systems are designed primarily with this goal in mind – to help law firms work more efficiently in order to save time and produce higher profit margins.

The simplicity of these systems can be deceiving. A Practice Management system, by definition, encompasses a number of operating areas: case and document management, accounting and financial management, business intelligence and reporting, and even marketing and business development. For defense and transactional firms, time & billing functions are also included. For plaintiff/contingency firms, a system might include call intake and settlement processing features.

By yanam49

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