It doesn’t take much to open a law practice. Lawyers don’t need big expensive equipment and tools like in a dental or medical office. They can start practicing law with just a computer with access to the Internet and a few software programs. But a successful law practice does not end with having the right hardware and software. It’s the systems and procedures that will help lawyers move their cases along smoothly and provide the infrastructure for growth.
Without a system to take in and onboard new clients, lawyers may not capture relevant information like deadlines and important dates. Or it may lead to delayed or insufficient conflict screenings. It may also result in an inconsistent usage of written fee agreements or engagement letters.
Without a system to maintain regular communication with clients, lawyers won’t be able to be responsive to their clients’ needs and inquiries, which can result in poor client relations.
Without a system to manage files, lawyers may find it difficult to retrieve documents that are not properly named, organized, and stored. Not being able to find important documents can lead to missed deadlines and affect your ability to represent your clients.
Without a system….you get the picture.
Systems and procedures are not just a practice management tool; they are also a risk management tool. When procedures are thought out and written down in an office or procedures manual, lawyers will not have to scramble to come up with a way to do things or reinvent the wheel for each new client or matter. The manual can be used as a tool to train new staff members. Most importantly, lawyers can reduce their malpractice risk by having reliable systems in which to practice law.
Where to start?First, review your existing office systems and procedures. Typical law office systems include:
Then, start listing or mapping out the procedures you want to implement for each system on a notepad or on your computer. To get a good idea of what your procedures should look like, explore our practice aids by category based on these different office systems (e.g., client relations, docketing and calendaring, file management, conflict of interests, etc.).
You may start by creating checklists for each system, and then build the checklist into a manual. Tips on how to create a checklist are available here.
The lawyerist.com has an excellent resource on how to create a law office systems and procedures manual available here.
Finally, please do not hesitate to contact our practice management attorneys who can help you with this process.