We’ve hit day 13. Things should be humming along. We’ve improved business by leveraging the web traffic you already receive and we’ve taken steps to improve the information flow in your office. Over the next two days we’re going to kill multiple birds with one stone by making the first big fundamental shift in your office. We’ll simultaneously improve customer service and make your practice more efficient at the same time.
Every attorney considers him or herself to be proactive on their cases. A big majority of law offices, however, devote large chunks of their days to putting out fires and trying to get things done at the last minute. Putting a few procedures in place to ensure that work is completed in an organized and flowing manner, as opposed devoting one’s time to whatever deadline is looming that day, will go a long way in allowing you to handle more cases with less resources. My family law practice typically had over 400 active cases at a time for four attorneys – we managed this and maintained a high standard of practice by reducing administrative time (which we’ve done and will continue to do throughout this series) and by making sure cases proceeded in an orderly manner. While the first step to achieving this efficiency may seem simple, I’m amazed at the number of law firms that neglect it.
Attorneys can make their offices more efficient by reviewing their calendar on a weekly basis
Taking a few hours to review what’s ahead for the next week will save your office tens of hours, per office member, during that following week. How often have you received a phone call (or placed one) from opposing counsel asking to continue a hearing set for the following day? This often leads to multiple people in your office dropping what they’re doing for a period of time to deal with the continuance. In addition to the time devoted to dealing with the continuance, the distraction factor makes it harder to get back to what you were doing in the first place. How often have you had to call opposing counsel the day before a deadline to request an extension and devote a sizeable portion of your day to getting that extension? A weekly review of your calendar can do two things. First, it can help ensure more things go out the door on time so you don’t have to ask for as many extensions. Second, it reduces the level of profit-killing distraction in your office. Again, most attorneys fail to review their calendar on a weekly basis. As a result, they spend a large portion of their day looking like this guy:
Every Thursday morning everyone in your firm should get to work roughly 30 minutes early to conduct a calendar review. And yes, you should do this even if you’re a one-person operation. Thursdays are the ideal time to do this – if you need to get a continuance for the following week then good luck trying to get it done on a Friday. Also, Thursdays are late enough in the week that the items on your calendar won’t change dramatically between Thursday morning and Monday; there’s no point in reviewing your calendar at a time when it’s more likely to alter. Go through everything from that Thursday through the following Friday. Ensure that things are in order for the next week. This includes making sure everything needed to meet a deadline is already obtained or in motion and determining instances where you might be double-booked. Make notes on extensions that are needed, hearings that need to be continued, and instances where you know you need to obtain something from the client to meet a deadline.
As soon as you get out of the meeting the first order of business for your, and everyone at the meeting, is to complete all the “to-do” items you listed. Call opposing counsel and get necessary extensions. Write any necessary stipulations and get them circulated, etc. Do this, AND COMPLETE EVERYTHING ON YOUR LIST, before moving on to other matters. By doing this you’ve just eliminated many distractions for the following week and you’ve done so in an orderly fashion. You’ll be amazed at the number of hours this will save.
It’s critical that you deal with all of the to-do issues immediately after the meeting. If you say you’re going to deal with them later then what are the chances they’ll actually get done? Those chances are slim to none and you’re right back in the position of having large portions of your day eaten away by dealing with a crisis and the distractions that go with it.
This weekly review also helps with customer service. Do you think clients want to be called the day before (or morning of) a hearing to find out its being continued? Do you think they want a frantic call from your office the day before a deadline telling them everything you need from them? The client will be much happier if they find out about the continuance a week in advance and that they have a week to gather any necessary information. This will make clients happier with your services which will lead to more referrals.
Day 13 action items for attorneys wanting a more profitable law firm
Decreasing the disorganization present in most law offices will increase profits dramatically. This reduces the amount of time that is wasted which allows you to handle more cases. It also improves customer service and leads to more referrals. Today’s steps are simple:
- Schedule a recurring Thursday morning calendar review meeting for the entire office. This needs to be done whether you are a one-person shop or a large firm. Make notes of items with immediate need, such as hearings that need to be continued or deadlines which require your office to obtain information and/or an extension.
- Immediately after the meeting you and your office need to devote yourselves to completing the “immediate to-do” lists you develop in the meeting.
You’ll be shocked at how much more efficient this makes your office.