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Establishing Proper Database Protocols in Your Law Firm

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Databases are only as good as the information inside of them, and databases are only as useful as the reports you can run on the information they contain.  Establishing proper usage database protocols can be an arduous task, but must be done to effectively utilize your law firm’s greatest technological investment. 

Run Every Report Available

Running every report available in your database gives you a view of which information is not being correctly entered into your database.  Even if some reports are not particularly useful to your law firm, run them all anyway to (1) locate data entry inconsistencies and (2) determine the parts of your database that are currently underutilized.

You can audit your staff’s database use by running reports on cell use by user. Use these reports to locate the personnel who are not utilizing the database appropriately and schedule retraining for those individuals.

Ask Your Personnel How They Currently Use the Database

The more you can tailor your protocol around actual, current use, the more effective your written protocol will be.   Gather your personnel and ask them how they currently use the database on a daily basis.  Write their answers down.

Questions to ask regarding daily use of the database by staff and attorneys include:

  1. Do you use the database to manage your To Do lists, or are you using Outlook tasks, calendar entries, or handwritten notes?  If you are using an alternative method for tracking your To Do items, why?
  2. Do you log in to the database first thing in the morning, or only when you need to access case information or documents?
  3. Are you saving documents directly into the database as soon they are create created, or are you saving them elsewhere only to add them later once finalized?
  4. Are you tracking your daily activities in the notes or comments section of a case?
  5. What reports do you run, if any, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?  What reports do you run and why?
  6. When you open a new case, do you confirm that all available data is entered into the database?  As you work up a case, do you ensure case information is updated in the database?
  7. Do you track the To Do items of your attorney or assistant?  Why or why not?  What do you track?  How do you use that information?

Use the answers to these questions to begin the discussion with personnel on how the database could be updated in order to meet their needs.  For instance, if a paralegal in your law firm only tracks To Do items on paper because of perceived database insufficiencies, ask what’s missing, and consider adding items.  If an attorney is not reviewing case data input into separate cells because she does not believe that the appropriate cells are available, then consider adding them.

Write It Down 

Write down and formalize all law firm protocol, including database use outlined with images where appropriate.  Begin this process by starting at the beginning – Intake.  Write down every procedure that needs to be followed by personnel from case opening through and including case resolution.  Articulate in details the steps one takes to successfully progress each case through each stage within your office.

After you have sufficiently outlined how a case moves through your database, write down specific protocol that must be followed in regards to naming conventions, data entry, case status updates, financial data entry, etc.  Use images to clearly show your personnel what is expected of them and what proper entry looks like. 

Much of this information is dictated by which database a law firm utilizes, the functions available in that database, and how a firm wants to use that database.  Every law firm should have its own unique protocol, which should be formally encapsulated in a user manual.

 We Can Help

Creating database best use protocols can be daunting, and often law firms don’t know what questions to ask or which aspects of a database need protocols.  The legal technology experts at Stacey E. Burke, P.C. can help you organize your database.

Sidebar stacey e burke About Stacey Burke

Stacey E. Burke is both an experienced trial lawyer and law firm business consultant. She works with lawyers and law firms around the world to improve their business development, marketing, and infrastructures.


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