It’s the time of year again for making grandiose promises to ourselves for self-betterment. Personally I’m not a fan of the New Year’s Resolution. Its not that I’m perfect or don’t want to improve. To the contrary, I believe in continuous improvement. Nevertheless, taking the time to reflect upon one’s flaws and weaknesses sometimes is hard to come by. New Years is as good a time as any to set some time aside, look deep within one’s soul, and resolve to make some real changes. I’ll let you decide for yourself how you need to improve, but I will suggest some changes you can make to your legal office that will result in continuous improvement through the coming year:
1. Make your firm more efficient.
Sounds great, but how? Here are three humble suggestions:
a.) Improve your lighting.
Obviously no one can work in the dark, but did you know that 68 percent of employees complain about the lighting in their office? Why? Usually the lights are too dim or too harsh.
Proper lighting decreases accidents, helps workers stay more alert and less drowsy, and be more productive. Some research suggests that simple changes in lighting can boost productivity by up to 20%.
And while you’re reviewing your office’s lighting situation, look into your offices temperature as well. Remember how cold the law school was to supposedly keep students alert? Bad idea. People make way more mistakes in a cold environment than in a warm one.
b.) Improve your workstations with dual monitors.
We wrote previously that one good gift for attorneys would be a dual monitor set-up. You don’t need a special occasion to do this of course. The research shows that dual monitors improve productivity by up to 50%, so this is a great investment for boosting your firm’s output and efficiency.
c.) Go paperless
Is your firm paperless? Well, some firms say they’re paperless, but as we’ve written before, if you have a printer in your office, you’re probably not paperless. Of course, it probably isn’t realistic to be 100% paperless. Nevertheless, it has enormous benefits, including labor savings, saving printing costs, more organized documents, improved document security, and more. We’ve found that one of the last bastions of paper in the law firm are depositions, whereby perfectly electronic documents are printed out ad infinitum, lugged around an airport, used in a deposition, just to be scanned BACK into electronic format. Oh and don’t forget about the document disposal. Luckily, paperless depositions are the future of the legal industry, and this horror story will soon be relegated to the pile of stories about “how we used to do it back in the old days.”
2. Improve your marketing
a.) If your firm doesn’t have a website, start there. (seriously a website may be more important nowadays than a business card)
b.) Assuming you have that, work on improving the amount of visitors to your website. This is akin to bringing more people into your storefront. Are they all going to buy? Of course not, but more traffic equals more sales. There are plenty of firms in every city that can help you get started. Just google “Law firm website”…if you’re going down this route I recommend going with someone local that you can meet and look in the eye. We also have a few articles from our resident legal marketing expert:
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3. Save clients money
In general it’s good to save your clients' money, but it is best to do so in a way that the client actually sees. If a client sees how you reduced their costs then you’ll make them happy. Happy clients are repeat clients and they also are referring clients. So resolve to do things that save clients money in ways that you can demonstrate to them. Here are some ideas:
a.) Fixed fee arrangements.
Fixed fee (or capped fee) arrangements are becoming more and more popular because they allow clients to budget for legal services. Spend some time figuring out how you can offer these types of arrangements in ways that don’t cost you significant amounts of legal fees, but also benefit your clients. For litigation you might not provide a fixed fee for the entire case, but you might offer fixed costs for various stages of the litigation. The American Bar Association has a good post with additional information about such arrangements.
b.) Streamline discovery.
Many lawyers conduct discovery with a philosophy of “leave no stone unturned.” Sometimes this strategy bears fruit, but often it simply results in a lot of additional costs with little to show for it. So instead of spending your time looking at everything, speak with your clients about the relative cost of “complete” discovery and the potential benefits. It’s a risk-reward analysis. But when you bring your client into the decision and share with them the risks and let them make the call they will certainly feel like you have their interests at heart over simply billing hours.
c.) Conduct Remote Depositions.
Traveling lawyers cost clients a lot of money. Traveling to a deposition is particularly expensive because you usually ship documents and have to arrange for local court reporters and sometimes local counsel. Save the money by conducting remote depositions. It’s easier than ever to conduct a proper remote deposition with AgileLaw’s paperless deposition software. We've previously written in more detail about how software for remote depositions cuts costs.
d. Offset paper costs by going paperless.
See above. If you can show how your paperless process reduces the client’s copy costs they certainly will be happy. If possible show the savings on your bill. Even if you just estimate the number of copies you would have made it shows the client that you’re saving them money.
4. Invest in your people.
a.) Implement (or redouble) Your Firm’s Mentorship Program
If you’re like 71% of Fortune 500 companies, your firm has a mentorship program. In a law firm, the senior paralegals should be mentoring, coaching the young paralegals. The partners should be doing the same for the associates. This isn’t necessarily a one-way street either. Even the most seasoned attorneys can learn something from more junior attorneys or paralegals who may have gotten other, unique experiences elsewhere.
The benefits of a mentorship program? Increased employee engagement, retention, increased diversity, creating a culture of learning and continual improvement, and more.
Not convinced? Then get this adage tattooed to your forehead:
CFO : What if we invest in our people and they leave?
CEO : What if we don’t and they stay?
b.) Institute a reading program.
One great tool of a healthy mentorship program is to promote continual improvement. Implementing a reading program is a great way to do this. I’m a big reader and when I was in the Army the best bosses I had assigned us books to read. It goes beyond just assigning a list of books.
1. You should provide the books. Don’t come up with a list of books to assign your office and then make everyone spend their own money to comply. If you really believe in a book, buy it and either give a copy to your firm, or provide everyone their own individual copy.
2. You must provide mentorship and guidance. You shouldn’t just say ‘read this book’ and expect people to learn or realize what you think they should learn. Use the book as a template for a mentorship program. Discuss the book, its lessons, and tie them in with your work, your firm, and your own experiences. This will make the lesson much more memorable and lasting.
I suggest creating a list of books you’ve found the most impactful in your career and life. But if you need a jump start, here are some places to start:
These are just a few simple ideas for growing revenue, increasing profitability, and simply making your law firm a much more efficient, pleasurable place to work!