What is efficiency
In this article we discuss the importance of law firm efficiency. Efficiency within the context of business is described in the Cambridge dictionary as “a situation in which a person, company, factory, etc. uses resources such as time, materials, or labour well, without wasting any.”
Efficiency is, therefore, the amount of time it takes to complete a given task well, and when using this term in the context of a law practise, the amount of time needed to carry out a case from receiving it, all the way through to obtaining a paid invoice upon completion. The more efficient and streamlined a law firm’s practises and ways of working are, the better the overall functioning and success of the company.
The importance of law firm efficiency
Even though the importance of efficiency within law firms is glaringly evident and apparent, many companies have ignored paying the proper time and attention required in this particular area. Lack of efficiency can result in serious issues, both in individual cases, and to the firm itself as a whole, and with increased competition, can even result in business failure and closure.
Improving efficiency is therefore vital to the smooth and successful operation of a law firm, and up to 94% of leaders believe that a focus on enhanced efficiency will remain a permanent feature. Therefore, those that are successful in this improvement will be the ones who have an advantage.
Poor efficiency can cause result in serious issues such as:
Poorer quality of work – Solicitors who have the time to focus solely on their clients tend to produce work of higher quality compared to those who have to deal with other administrative tasks on the side. Low quality work leads to dissatisfied customers which is bad for the Law firm’s overall reputation and results in fewer future business prospects.
Burnout – Lawyer burnout is a genuine and serious issue within the legal profession. Not only is the job itself highly stressful, demanding great focus, time and attention, but for lawyers working in small firms, they often have to deal with administrative issues alone. Larger companies have the luxury of hiring more staff; however, solicitors at small firms often have to add tiring and time-consuming non-billable work into their daily workloads.
Client complaints – Both of the above ultimately lead to client dissatisfaction and complaints. Lawyers in an inefficient law film will be unable to meet client demands and get excellent and immediate results, thanks to higher workloads and less time. Ultimately if a lawyer has to spend less time on non-client work, the more time they can spend on delivering billable tasks, at a much higher quality.
How law firms can be more efficient
Don’t just track your billables, but keep track of all of your time in general. To identify the areas you are spending valuable hours the most, you need to track how all of your time is spent to rectify, improve and tackle the problem. You cannot become more efficient as a law firm if you don’t know what the problem is, and cannot identify weak spots in the first place.
While no one enjoys tracking their time and can seem like additional work at first, you don’t have to do this forever. Track your time for a week or two, and this simple, but necessary exercise will show you exactly where you are going wrong.
Be open to change
Many law firms have fallen behind because, simply put, they haven’t adapted to the changes going on around them. What once worked for a traditional law firm ten years ago, no longer works now, so it is imperative that leaders look towards current trends within the industry to keep up, keep relevant and, therefore, maintain efficiency.
Does your law firm use up to date marketing techniques to promote itself effectively, or do you still rely on traditional and out-dated methods? Social media isn’t just for personal use or media companies. With theft, personal injury cases and general criminal injustices on the up, contacting law firms is on the rise, and the best way to make your company reachable to potential clients is through social and digital media. Law firms are having a significant moment and are more in demand than ever, so it is vital to hire a marketing and social media expert to build an active firm profile so that you seem reachable while promoting your services.
Efficient and effective outsourcing
At some point or other, every business needs to look outside and outsource additional talent to add to their pool of staff. Whether that’s hiring help in the form of a paralegal or administrative specialists, it is vital to be wise and strategic when it comes to making any additional hires. You want to add value to your firm, so it is imperative to hire the right person not to cause even more inefficiency, especially as additional hires cost a lot of time and money to make.
Outsource talent that will expand your business and are quick learners, and look to add staff to non-billable and non-client areas such as HR, admin, and marketing. This will free up your solicitors so that they have more time to focus directly on the client and their needs while avoiding burn out from extra, unnecessary work.
Look to technology
Technology exists to help us overcome barriers and resolve various problems, and is a tool that all law firms should fully utilise. Every successful company uses high tech equipment, whether that is via advanced laptops and computers in the office, a stable internet connection, or software tools with the sole purpose to revolutionise the way that a department operates. And yet, while legal firms look for new ways to increase efficiency, less than 30% have a department or even a single designated employee, that is tasked to drive innovative technology throughout the firm.
The few that do, however, tend to see an increase in both profits and efficiency. Mundane processes that take up a lawyers time can be automated through various artificial intelligence software currently on the market. This will lead to an improvement in overall productivity and allow them to spend time elsewhere, such as improving work quality, chasing leads for new business and earning new clients.