Start Planning For 2014:
Make Your Law Firm The Best It Can Be

paperless office

(Photo credit: thaths)

The holidays are almost upon us. No doubt many of you are probably feeling overwhelmed with all of the end-of-year responsibilities, both personal and professional.

But mark my words–now is the time to start planning your law firm’s next steps. Otherwise, if you put it off until January, before you even know it you’ll be caught up in the day-to-day grind of running your law firm and practicing law and will find that you have little time to devote to managing your firm’s practice. Instead, you’ll find yourself putting it off once again, telling yourself that someday…maybe someday you’ll focus on taking steps to improve your law firm’s procedures and technology tools.

So seize the moment and do it now, while you can. The holiday slow down is the perfect time to create a plan of action for next year, so take advantage of this opportunity. And, if you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions.

Assess your practice areas

It’s never too late to shift the focus of your law practice to incorporate new practice areas. So if, after assessing your firm’s performance this year you think it might be time for a change, then consider some of the predicted “hot” practice areas for next year.

According to this recent Attorney at Work post, here are some practice areas to consider:

  • Energy
  • Regulatory
  • Health care
  • Financial services
  • IPOs
  • Litigation
  • Labor and employment
  • Intellectual property
  • Real estate
  • Corporate

Go paperless and mobile or go home

If your firm hasn’t yet gone paperless, 2014 is the year to do it. That’s because digital documents give you more flexibility and 24/7 accessibility. Once you’ve moved all or most of your law firm’s documents and files to the cloud, you’ll have the convenience of being able to access your firm’s data wherever you happen to be from any Internet-enabled device.

For tips on how to setup a paperless system for your law office, check out this very thorough post by Sam Glover at Lawyerist. According to Sam, the key is to create a system that works for your law firm, stick with it and think about “paperless” in the right way:

(T)hink about the word paperless as meaning less paper, not no paper. In addition to originals you have to keep, keep whatever other paper you want to, for whatever reason. Just remember that your digital file is your “real” file. In a paperless office, there should be only two kinds of paper outside of the inbox:

Paper that has been scanned and must be saved; and
Paper that has been scanned and may be shredded.
Everything that is not in your inbox or in your filing cabinet should be shreddable, even if you do not actually shred it.

So, take the next step and go paperless. And then, once you’ve done that, consider other ways that you can innovate in your practice.

Innovate in the delivery of legal services

These days, there’s no excuse for failing to use the latest technologies to deliver responsive legal services to your clients. Competition is fierce and incorporating web-based software to facilitate collaboration and communication with clients is the key to succeeding and meeting clients needs in this 21st century legal marketplace.

So, make sure that your law firm is innovating in the delivery legal services to clients, as explained in this recent Global Legal Post article:

Both private practice and in-house Lawyer need to reassess the legal services delivery model and make fundamental changes if they are to reap the benefits of innovation.

One of the best ways to do this? By using intuitive and powerful law practice management software, as I explained in my recent post:

(B)y using modern law practice management software with built-in client portals, client communication is simplified. Secure online portals provide your clients with instantaneous access to information about their case. Your clients can log on day or night and quickly and easily find answers to many of their most common questions. They’ll no longer need to contact you to find out their next court date or obtain a copy of a document from their file. Instead, your clients will know exactly what’s going on with their case since you’ll provide them with 24/7 access to their file.

Of course, you’re going to need clients to deliver legal services to, so business development is important, too.

Bring in more business

Don’t forget about business development in 2014. After all, you can’t practice law without clients. So, reassess your marketing plan and come up with a few new ways to gain exposure for your law firm. Prioritize your goals and then establish a business development plan for 2014.

For some ideas, look no further than this recent post from Attorney at Work, which suggests a number of business development areas to focus on in 2014. Ideas include:

  • Increasing personal interaction
  • Providing better client service
  • Engaging in credentialing activities
  • Improving your platform.

But don’t stop there! For even more ideas, don’t forget to watch the video of our latest webinar with Jared Correia, an experienced law practice management advisor, where he explains how to set the stage for success in 2014 by taking advantage of your law firm’s resources and using what you learned in 2013 to map out the future growth of your law firm.

–Nicole Black

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