Whether you run a small office law firm or manage a larger legal corporation, law office management is essential to ensuring that the organization is effective for the sanity of its staff, the well-being of its clients, and the overall success of the organization.
Studies over previous decades have readily found that there is a direct connection between effective law office management techniques and lawyer satisfaction. In fact, strong law office management has the same potential benefits as properly managing any other part of your life. When your law office finds a balance between managing the needs of clients, the heavy workloads of cases, the ins-and-outs of bookkeeping, and the need and upkeep of technology; then you are more likely to find a greater happiness, satisfaction, and feel more fulfilled in your career and life overall.
In fact, effective law office management techniques can mean the difference between having a widely successful law firm, and being an organization that flops in the initial five years. It teaches you how to build and maintain client relationships, get more money for the hours you work, find an invaluable connection among your colleagues, be an effective leader, and discover more practical devices for tackling challenging situations.
Yet, what does effective law office management look like? Accounting Girl has the best methods for helping you improve the balance and effectiveness of your law firm – take a look:
Separate Administrative Duties from Office Management
While firm management and office administration tend to go hand in hand, your office setting will run much smoother if you draw a line between them. Administration focuses on setting objectives, framing policies, and general office organization; while business management includes the plans and actions taken after or while those initial elements are put into place. Each are necessary for the productivity of an organization in different ways and each has the potential to negatively affect time management if not strategically balanced.
General office management includes the small, yet vital, items that need to be done around the office and that should be delegated to a hired administrator, manager or assistant. This includes ensuring the office remains clean to provide a healthy space for employees to work and a good initial impression for clients, while also ensuring that desks and conference rooms are orderly to ensure the highest level of productivity. It also means maintaining an up-to-date and well-organized internal system for all forms of paperwork, particularly pertaining to client cases and court appearances. All employees should be able to easily locate all materials, while also ensuring that they are secure if personal client or business information is involved. It is also important that your paperwork management system includes at least two forms of electronic backup files, such as a large external hard-drive and cloud storage.
While there is nothing wrong with having everyone in the office pitch in, you want to ensure that the firm’s partners have the time and ability to focus on the workflow of the office and clientele. This may include having a consistent office policy that informs both lawyers and staff about dress codes, interacting with clients in and outside the office setting, how to manage the file system, and so on.
Utilize an Employee Screening and Management System
One of the best ways to ensure that your office runs smoothly is to begin with and maintain an office setting with employees that share the same organizational values, have the necessary skill sets and experience, and have a positive attitude that seeks to bring success and balance to the whole company. So, for office management this includes having a pre-screening and interview process that will determine if an individual will be a good fit intellectually and within the organization’s current culture, while also playing off your own company needs.
Once a new person is hired, it is then best to provide them with an employee handbook, outline workflow procedures pertaining to their position, and assign them a mentor that will guide them through the initial growth period. From there, all work should be properly delegated to keep the environment balanced and meetings should be held purely to fill communication needs, discuss major projects, client issues and solutions, or for team building to remain effective and brief as possible.
In today’s world, technology can be your best friend when it comes to maintaining and storing vast amounts of information. This is especially so for large or growing law firms that cannot easily stay organized through traditional methods. Along with keeping all the organization’s work backed-up in case of technological failure, be sure to integrate new technology into the office as well. Not only will it keep your business running more smoothly with the times, it will also make your office more efficient and productive, and keep your files more secure than ever before. Just be sure that you have programs and systems that cooperate with your organization’s legal, ethical and regulatory standards to prevent any potential issues in the future and as a failsafe if any data is lost.
Have a Legal Resource Database
Legal research, no matter how well versed in your field, can be a daunting task and eats up a significant amount of time if you can’t provide your full attention to the subject. In addition to having your designated work space prepared for hours of reading, note-taking and analysis, it can also be immensely helpful to have a legal resource database available to your whole organization. There are a wide variety of databases for legal research, such as LexisNexis, Westlaw, and the American Bar Association; all of which can be beneficial in quickly and thoroughly locating needed information. These can also be paired with the use of a time management application and Evernote for saving online content in one place.
Keep an Effective Marketing Plan
An effective marketing plan can ensure that you keep a steady flow of clientele and that your business development remains strong as well. We previously discussed “The Importance of Having Growth Strategies in Place for Your Law Firm,” which should include marketing to ensure that you are reaching as far as possible for new clientele and new challenges. This could be limited to community-based advertising over the radio, billboards (which are not as obsolete as you might think), television, and so on; or it could be through a website, social media, and Google Ads. Utilizing both can ensure that you generate new leads and prospects for future deals or new clients, leading to greater revenue and reputation.
Have a System for Financial Management
Financial management is a key component of any business, but particularly for a law firm that controls the financials of both a business and client accounts. No matter the size of your law firm, understanding the basic finances of your organization will help you better understand where your organization is, where it is going, and what you can do to manage your and your client’s money wisely. Doing so will teach you what financial strategies are working for you and what items you may need to change; whether it is keeping track of your accounting with QuickBooks, or some other method. If your company is growing or you feel that your financial management system needs updating, check out our past blogs on “Do I Really Need a Legal Accountant" and “Why Financial Reporting is Critical for Your Law Firm”. Accounting Girl might just be the hero you need to take your office management to the next level!
Want to learn more helpful tips on how to improve the efficiency and growth of your law firm? Accounting Girl can help make your business the firm of the future! Give us a call today and ask about our unique strategies and packages to find which one will help address your accounting needs.