How to Take Your Law Firm to the Next Level with Three Systems
At Streamline Legal, Melanie helps law firm owners make their firms more effective and efficient all the time. She has seen firsthand what trips law firm owners up most often.
Based on this experience, she had identified the top three systems and procedures that law firms overlook that have the biggest impact on their businesses.
Today she is sharing what these three systems are and how to make the most of them. Apply these principles and they will truly take your law firm to the next level.
Why Are Systems So Crucial?
Melanie lives in the Midwest and, therefore, tornado sirens are not uncommon. However, about a month ago she and her family heard sirens around 11 at night. Melanie and her husband went to grab the kids and take them down to the basement.
Melanie’s daughter is a really heavy sleeper so she had to grab her and carry her down the stairs. They got all the way to the basement but, at the very last step, Melanie fell. She knew right away by looking at her ankle that it was broken.
Afterward getting care at the hospital, Melanie had weeks of recovery and heavy drugs ahead of her and she wasn’t able to work. This taught her the importance of systems. While she was recovering, her business was going on without her being there. The money was still coming in, her team’s salaries were still being paid, and her clients were still being served. Without those systems, they would not have had that same result.
Very few of her clients even knew what happened and those that did were able to just continue the work they were doing with the firm. That is the goal. We do not want one person to be able to bring down the whole business. This is why we need strong systems in place.
Now that we all understand the importance of systems, we can start working on them. The system we recommend starting with is intake.
If you don’t have new clients coming into your business, you don’t have much of a business. To build your business, you need consistent clientele coming in. Therefore, you need a process for people finding out about your firm, learning about those potential clients, and deciding whether to take them on. You want that process to be as smooth as possible for the clients, you, and your team.
When creating this system, remember that you don’t want the whole team to be in charge of it. Instead, pick someone who’s a specified owner of the system and then train one other person to be the backup.
The second most important system is billing. You probably already have a billing system that you’ve adopted by default. However, if that’s the case, your billing process is likely taking way longer than it needs to and you’re likely collecting way less than you’d like to.
Start by sitting down and writing out the steps of your billing process. Think about what you already do and then decide what the good steps in that process are. Don’t be afraid to change things as well to become more efficient.
We recommend doing billing twice a month. This may sound daunting because it takes you so much time. However, there are ways to speed up the process and reduce the waste of time:
1. Stop reviewing time entries multiple times. Have a specific process for writing in time entries so that there is no need for an admin to review anything.
2. Review your bills for red flags and things you may have missed. However, after this, don’t worry about the client thinking it’s too high and not wanting to pay it. If you send bills out twice a month, your clients are getting a more frequent update and they’re less likely to complain.
3. Use bulk actions. It’s not necessary to send your bills out one by one. You can send them all at once. Rethink those individual messages that are not getting you paid any more often than you think they are. All they’re doing is taking a ton of time. There are other ways to use bulk actions in your billing software so make sure you’re taking full advantage of all of them.
4. Utilize online payments.
Most law firms overlook file closing. At this point, the client had already paid you and you already did the work. However, not prioritizing this point in the process causes you to miss out on a lot of big opportunities.
When you end a file, you know the result. There’s a lot of great data there. This provides a great opportunity for recording data.
You can take this data and compare it to the rest of your cases. You can go into another case that looks similar and say, “We don’t know 100% what’s going to happen but, on average, this is what we can expect.” You can also predict how long certain kinds of cases will take.
However, if you’re not tracking that data, you can’t give that estimate to your clients. You are also missing out on peace of mind for yourself. This data isn’t hard to figure out; it’s just that you won’t have it readily available if you’re not consistently tracking it.
Additionally, most of the time when you’re at file closing, your clients are at their happiest. You’ve solved their problem and helped them get a resolution. Therefore, this is a great time to start asking them for reviews.
If you want to learn more about important systems to utilize in your law firm, check out Episode 015: Top 3 Systems/Procedures Law Firms Often Overlook but Have a Huge Impact.