Do you empty the waste baskets in YOUR law firm?

How efficient is the workflow in your law firm?

Have you ever worked for a small family business? I mention this because the subject I am going to address here is usually easier to identify in a small family business than in a larger corporate environment. It happens everywhere. It’s just easier to target in small environments.

When I was younger, I worked for a restaurant. My job was dishwasher, bathroom cleaner and bus boy. I’ll never forget my first day in the kitchen. The chef thought he’d teach a rookie a lesson and handed me pans that he had taken from the broiler handle first. I can still hear the sizzle and smell my flesh burning. Ahh, the good old days.

But, back to my point. There was no manual of workflow or management. They thought about how to make the food, but the other aspects of running the business just seemed to evolved without much rhyme or reason. Everything got done, eventually, but young kids were dropping off bank deposits, and the same person who sliced the tomatoes also changed the fryer oil.

We work with many law firms that had experienced the same evolution. One of the first things I do when I begin coaching a client is a simple exercise. I have the law firm owner do a little exercise listing all the things that are done by the attorney and which things are done by everyone else. What makes the company money? What activities does the attorney spend the most time doing? What does the attorney like doing the most? The goal is to identify a few things and develop a simple task list of items to be done.

What happens next is we look at the task list and ask questions and create a plan:

  • Is the right person doing the right job, based on what they like doing, and what are they spending the most time doing?
  • Are everybody’s goals in line with what makes the company money?
  • Develop job descriptions of those tasks.

What we usually learn is Employee X may or may not be doing only case manager work; he may be doing other work that that we’re not aware of. Employee Y may be doing things that Employee Z should be doing. We also have often discovered that at some level, X was managing written communication, and the mail, and faxes, because Employee Y had done such a poor job with it, and Employee X just got frustrated and decided to take that on herself when her main job was to assist the attorney in the litigation process.

The idea is to pull the job descriptions, make clear guidelines of what jobs and tasks are to be completed by which people and make a clear guideline to each of, “OK, this is what your job is, and this is what your job is.” Then, each staff must be trained accordingly.

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