Get more efficient

Issue February 2015 By Damian Turco

We can agree that being more efficient means doing things with less effort and time. In our line of work, being more efficient also probably means making more money or making the same money in less time or just being able to provide a better service to our clients.

So, how do we become more efficient? Well, let's start by thinking about how we got to our current level of efficiency. Look around your practice and give it some thought. Your practice can be broken down to hundreds or thousands of processes, each on presenting a potential opportunity for greater efficiency. To make it manageable, put the different processes into a few larger categories. For instance:

  1. Business development
  2. Consultations
  3. New client intake
  4. Research, drafting and other substantive case work
  5. Communication with clients, opposing counsels and the like
  6. Case management
  7. Accounting
  8. Document management and retention

These are just suggestions and might not be the best categories for your particular practice, but they provide some guidance.

Your process is now to assess your practice's efficiency by going through it in parts. Your object is to find opportunity for improved efficiency as you go. That improved efficiency may be gained with the application of a technology, such as a software program, or by simply rewiring the process, adding more structure to ensure quicker completion.

Let's take the example of prospective new client consultations. How does it work now, start to finish? Are you personally involved in scheduling the consult or is that role done by a receptionist or through a scheduling module on your website? Does the client come to you for the consultation or do you go to him or her? Or, do you do predominnently consultations by phone or video chat? How long do your consultations usually last? Fifteen minutes? A half hour? Until the prospective client stops talking? When clients sign up with the firm, do you personally go through the retainer agreement and any other documents with them or does another member of your staff do that? Do you capture all the facts presented by the client in the consultation process for use during the case or is it more of a conversation that requires the client to retell the story to another employee at a later time if retained?

Consider these questions and any others that come to mind and continuously ask yourself, "Is there a way to do this more quickly of save time in another process without sacrificing quality?" If so, what are the options? Brainstorm the viable solutions, choose those you feel will work best and then move on to the next section of your firm until the review process is complete. When you're done with this part you'll have a list of several things to change. You may, at that point, decide to change only a digestible handful. That's fine. Finding ways to work more efficiently is one of those things that we know we should do but chronically push off. Starting the review process and then scheduling it to occur periodically is a great start. Good luck!   

Damian Turco owns Mass Injury Firm PC, a Boston-based personal injury law firm, representing the victims of negligence across Massachusetts. He is the vice chair of the Law Practice Management Section.