Law Office Management: Best Practices
By Mary Elizabeth Hammond
Your firm’s law office management and organizational procedures can mean the difference between running a profitable business or running your business into the ground. There are several complex components involved in successful law office management. These elements include client communications, firm finances, staff workloads, team relationships, and other strategic business practices.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about law practice management including:
- Why high-quality management is important
- How to create a standard set of procedures (SOPs) and track key performance indicators (KPIs)
- How to leverage legal technology to make law practice management simple
Why is High-Quality Office Management Important?
Law office management centers around the day-to-day business procedures that keep your firm afloat, such as:
- Client relationships
- Billing and collections
- Trust accounts
- Staff workload and management
Building a high-quality law firm management system is essential for reducing inefficiencies and errors that cause poor client relations, creating a positive work environment, staying in compliance, winning or resolving more cases, and ultimately increasing revenue.
6 Best Practices for Management in a Law Firm
Build and maintain a profitable law firm with the following best practices.
1. Create Law Office Procedures
For operations to run smoothly and consistently, create SOPs that define:
- How you want your firm to run
- How your law firm is organized (an org chart)
- The ethics you want your team to follow
- The return-on-investment (ROI) you expect from efforts such as marketing, social media, etc.
- How your team will interact with clients
- Disciplinary actions if someone fails to follow policies
These procedures are unique to your law firm and may differ based on firm size, practice area, and revenue goals. During your SOP development, outline how you’ll manage tasks such as:
- Case management
- Client onboarding
- Document management
- Time tracking
- Scheduling and calendaring
- Trial preparation
2. Use Legal Technology
Managing your SOPs is much easier with a powerful tech stack. Nearly 90% of 2,000 surveyed legal professionals claim to be using cloud computing software to help run their firm.
Your ideal tech stack will be unique to your firm. For example, a litigation firm would greatly benefit from a legal research tool to support their arguments in court. Or a family practice that specializes in divorce could use a contact management tool to organize and review the contacts they deal with daily.
Below are recommendations for choosing technology for your firm’s main operational functions.
- Email—Choose an email provider that your team will use. Popular choices include Gmail and Outlook.
- Cloud storage—Every law firm needs secure, reliable, and accessible storage for its records. Lawyers often rely on DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or a case management solution.
- Document creation—You’ll need a word processor and a spreadsheet program such as Google Suite or Microsoft Office 365.
- Accounting—Law firms need to keep accurate books and ensure practices are compliant with trust accounting regulations. Legal accounting technology can put safeguards into place to prevent accounting errors and potential malpractice. Consider using QuickBooks, Xero, or MyCase Accounting.
- Client intake—Ensure prospective clients can easily reach you with effective client intake services. Certain legal technology, such as MyCase, enables you to embed a client intake form directly into your website and automate responses when that form is filled out.
- Billing and payment processing—Use a reliable payment processing solution to securely accept online payments while ensuring compliance with ABA and IOLTA guidelines. Billing software can also provide automated invoice creation and invoice reminders.
According to the 2021 Industry Report, 77% of 2,000 surveyed legal professionals reported that their firms are using online payment processing software.
- Case management software—Integrate your tech stack and keep all of your case details and documents in one secure location. Case management software, such as MyCase, can help you take care of all of the practices mentioned above. On top of that, you can create automated workflows to increase efficiency and productivity within each task.
Bonus: Discover the best apps to increase your firm’s productivity in this post.
3. Focus on the Client Experience
When setting your SOPs, keep your client in mind. In today’s digital landscape where online reviews can greatly impact businesses, client expectations are higher than ever. People know they can go elsewhere to find the service they want. Focus on your client experience through:
- Client communication—Part of your standard practices should include how you will communicate with clients. For example, the rules of professional conduct for the Missouri Bar and Judiciary rule 1.4 states the necessity of lawyers providing “reasonable” and “timely” client communication. Don’t leave your clients in the dark, ensure that your standard practices include regularly updating clients.
Tip: Utilize legal technology to text your clients—making communication quick and easy.
- Consistency—Clients will feel at ease if they believe they can rely on you. Improve client relationships and show consistency in your practices by ensuring that your team always arrives on time for appointments, sends out accurate and on-time invoices, and regularly checks in with clients.
- Ask for client feedback—Consistently improve your client service by seeking and implementing client feedback into your SOPs.
Bonus: Build stronger relationships with your clients with these practical tips.
4. Security Management
Security measures for client communication and records are imperative to successful law firm management—lawyers have an ethical and legal obligation to protect client data. The American Bar Association Modul Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.6 states the importance of confidentiality: “A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized access to information relating to the representation of a client.”
Implement secure practices by using software that can encrypt sensitive information and allows you to control who can access highly confidential files.
5. Develop Your Team
Invest in your attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, and other staff members to build a team you can rely on. Once you’ve hired an all-star team, keep morale up by focusing on:
- Professional development—This can include funding for education, professional training, sending employees to conferences, and one-on-one meetings with senior members to discuss employee goals.
- Employee health and wellness—The legal industry is known for its ability to burn out workers. Implement processes that can prevent burnout before your team starts showing signs of it. This may include activity challenges, gym reimbursement, mental health resources, retreats, and wellness events. Refer to the CDC’s recommendations here.
- Employee benefits—Let your team know that you value them with a generous benefits package. This may include health, dental, and vision insurance, paid time off, company holidays, a 401K package, and health savings accounts.
- Team building events—Develop your relationships with some good old team bonding. Working cohesively as a unit is much easier when you feel connected.
6. Track Results and Adapt
For effective law practice management, you’ll need an objective view of how your firm is performing and where it can improve. Make it a standard practice to track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as revenue, collection rate, cases, and billable hours logged. Tracking these KPIs will provide a performance baseline and allow you to make data-backed decisions moving forward.
For practical tips on measuring and assessing law firm KPIs and creating a performance management plan, refer to this article.
Start Improving Your Law Office Management Today
Successful management in a law firm starts with the right tools. A cloud-based legal management software, such as MyCase, makes it easy to run operations smoothly. Use MyCase to:
- Connect and collaborate with clients using features such as built-in text messaging and a client portal
- Get paid directly through your site with a MyCase Payments link
- Keep finances on track with MyCase Accounting
Try a risk-free 10-day free trial to see firsthand how MyCase can help you manage a profitable and efficient law firm.
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