By Legal Futures Associate Insight Legal
If there’s one critical business lesson for us to take from the last 18 months, it is the vital importance of having the right software in place to tackle whatever changes and challenges come your way.
Your office likely looks quite different to what it once did and your working methods may have changed, but in a time where change is the only thing that is certain, operating an organised workplace has never been more pivotal to success.
A successful law firm must be two key things – efficient and effective. At a time when demands on firms have never been greater, this article puts workflow capabilities at centre stage and explores how software helps us to navigate a successful course whilst thriving in the hyper-competitive legal landscape of present day.
The problem of disorganisation
Fully understanding the benefits of workflow begins with an appreciation of disorganisation. Untidy piles of paperwork, cluttered desks and unanswered, ringing phones may instantly spring to mind here. However, a disorganised office is not necessarily as visible as this. Stereotypical dishevelled appearance aside, a law firm’s disorganisation may manifest in diverse ways, be it making mistakes in documents and losing files or missing deadlines and failing to inform clients about landmarks reached in matters.
For end users of legal services, these signs are no less visible than the chaotic-mess typecast. Client outcomes are impacted negatively by errors, delays, confusion, oversights and general topsy-turvy-ness. Needless to say, an unhappy consumer will not bring repeat business or refer your practice to others.
The signs of disorganisation are equally visible to senior leaders. With a lack of efficiency, both billable hours and caseload volume are capped. This, of course, limits revenue. A high client churn rate means overspending on attracting new business and struggling to compete with better-organised rivals. Lack of audit trailing and monitoring of case progress makes it easier to breach regulatory rules which can lead to intervention by the SRA, CLC or other supervisory bodies.
Disparate systems for working and for storing information results in the inability to collaborate, arrange cover during staff absenteeism and gain a coherent picture of overall practice performance. Heavy staff turnover is another unavoidable consequence because it’s demoralising and demotivating day to day, which places unnecessary strain on your HR resource for incessant recruitment. The list goes on.
In sum, disorganisation is damaging for business.
Getting organised with workflow
A solution presents itself in the form of workflow. The word workflow itself presents certain connotations. Some imagine the workflow systems of old, which were no more than a prescribed checklist of tasks and events. Almost a tick-box exercise.
Put simply, a workflow maps out in advance the sequence of actions relating to particular case types. But far from the systems of the past, modern software and well-designed workflows offer a guiding hand and a supporting framework for staff whilst catering for potential deviations in cases which are more complex in nature. A workflow does not have to prescribe the entire case from start to finish, and it would be naïve to think that every eventuality in every type of legal case can be defined in this way. What is certain though, is that no matter how complex the case, there are certain elements where defined process is absolutely critical.
Take client onboarding, engagement and client care for example. Can your law firm afford not to have clearly defined processes for your staff to follow at this stage when compliance is of the utmost importance? Workflow can be bought out of the box, tailored to your ways of working or written completely from scratch, depending upon your unique set up, so there really is no reason why any firm cannot benefit from these essential tools.
Whether you are committed, open-minded or reserved about workflows for your business, it is useful to illustrate how it offers automation support during a matter’s entire lifecycle. It is also reassuring to understand some of the steps to implementing workflows, and where you can see immediate benefits.
Start by identifying each phase in your workflow from beginning to end. These are the repeated processes pertinent to particular categories of matters. Conveyancing is a prime example of how logical parts of a property conveyance can be created via workflow as they rarely veer from a standard course. Even if you are running a type of case that does not follow the same path every time, breaking down a case into phases that can be started as and when needed allows you to plan and control even complex and irregular types of matter.
For each of the aforementioned phases, attribute tasks to yourself and others with timely reminders. These are defined actions required at that specific phase. Note any dependencies or associated actions, say a related Probate and Property Sale. With proper workflow solutions, actions can be triggered in one matter once a milestone has been reached in the other.
Many of the required tasks necessitate completion of prescribed or customised documentation, whether it is from an integrated legal forms library or your own branded templates. The correct document can simply be assigned to a task, opened at the right time, automatically populated with case information straight from your database, calculations done automatically and submitted to the relevant recipient.
Workflows are not just about documentation, either. You can set prompts for gathering information, make relevant hyperlinks available to users at key points in the matter, submit already populated payment requests to your accounts department, and even link directly to property search providers where required.
The benefits of workflow and organisation
Workflows occur across every kind of business and industry. A business becomes effective by organising their processes, their requirements and their responsibilities, and becomes truly efficient by making them streamlined. Many of the benefits of an organised office are glaringly perceptible. Cast your mind back to the chaotic mess which can be resolved by electronic filing, paperless office vision and clear desk policy – part-and-parcel of workflow. However, the impact of an organised office runs far deeper than mere aesthetics and it is workflow that brings about this transformation.
It is the ability to avoid repetitive work for greater job satisfaction. It is the ability to free your schedule of administration so there is more time for the practice of law. It is the ability to do what you do to the best standard – quality documents, every appointment remembered and milestones met. It is the ability to centrally store your digital assets with no more misplaced files. It is the ability to connect all employees regardless of location, gain a unified firm-wide view and present your brand consistently. It is the ability to retain clients due to service level improvements. It is the ability to comply with regulators’ guidelines because there is simply no room for slip ups. It is the ability to retain staff as your office is a nice environment and there is flexible working. It is the ability to accomplish a whole lot more besides.
If you are not yet familiar with Insight’s Enterprise module, comprising a series of pre-built workflows and also the tooling to create your own, head over here.
Enterprise might just be the key to your organised office.