Effective management of a law firm does not just mean strong financial management and innovative business development. It is also imperative that firms tighten up their systems and processes and make best use of technology in order to deliver a streamlined service to clients, focusing on the expertise of the lawyers and the firm as a whole.
High Street Processes
Life is not getting any easier for the SME law firm. Aside from structural changes in the market, those firms that engage in Legal Aid work are under pressure to become as efficient as possible, as the Legal Services Commissionís budget itself has been squeezed. This means that Legal Aid firms will need to computerise their processes as far as possible, and to streamline at every stage in order to make a margin.
Wills and Probate departments are likewise under pressure in the face of competition from various sectors, including accountants. They will need to find ways of developing an ongoing relationship not only with their clients, but also with the executors of the estate, to keep control and gain the potential probate in the future.
These are just two examples of the threats facing many high street firms. Part of the response must lie in reviewing and identifying areas for improvement in internal processes and client communication. Each task should be explicitly identified, so that the process can be mapped and documented.
It must be absolutely clear at what level of expertise tasks are performed. In certain areas, most notably Legal Aid, margins are wafer thin and so a structure should be defined in which simple tasks are carried out by more junior staff, or paralegals, and senior fee earners and partners are only involved when necessary. This also underlines that processes for performing tasks are clearly documented, to give all staff the support they need.
In many cases, case management systems can be used to streamline the process and to identify standards for stages of delivery. This is particularly important with work types such as Personal Injury, where the process can be lengthy and any delays will have a consequent impact on cash flow.
Contact with clients is vital, and case management can also be used to prompt communications at certain points in a case. The appropriate method of communication should be defined, so that the fee earner simply has to follow the process in order to complete the task.
In all areas, efficiency is the goal. Those firms that prioritise efficiency and streamline their operations will continue to profit in an increasingly competitive market.