As computers have proliferated our society over the last 60 years, one main fear has remained prevalent: computers will one day take our jobs. We fear that there will no longer be a “personal touch” to our business transactions, and that we will all just be talking to machines. In the professional services space, automation and computerization are all the more scary, as customer relationships are paramount.
As professional service providers, lawyers pride themselves on giving clients top-notch, personalized care, and thus, many fear the practice of law becoming “too automated.” The valid fear decreased personalization keeps many law firms from fully utilizing legal technology to its optimal capacity.
What if I told you that in reality, increasing your firm’s technological efficiency actually creates more time for you and your staff to spend on face-to-face communications with your clients? Below are a few easy suggestions you can implement today to drastically increase efficiency in your law office.
Each client’s case will be different. Each client’s needs will be different. However, using forms can help you streamline the intake, filing, and litigation process, while reducing error.
Using the same intake form every single time means that your intake coordinator gets all of the correct information every single time. The familiarity with standardized documents (and the corresponding procedures) enables your intake process to move quickly and efficiently. It also means that if you decide to take the case, you can begin drafting initial pleadings immediately, because all pertinent information should be contained on the intake form.
Lawyers should assist their intake staff in the creation of different intake forms for each type of potential new case (i.e. personal injury, divorce, commercial litigation, etc.). Put some time into thinking about each piece of information you need to make an educated and quick decision on whether you will take the case or not.
I recommend the consistent use of motion and pleading templates. You can create as many templates as your law firm needs. Think about which jurisdictions you practice in, and create forms that incorporate all the rules of that jurisdiction. What is the font size? Do I need a certificate of conference? Can I e-sign or do I need an original signature? Do the lines need to be numbered? How many?Having all of these rules hammered out in a form means that you, or your assistant, won’t need to reread the rules with each pleading. This is especially helpful if you work in several jurisdictions.
Include stock language, leaving blanks for specific information. Create a caption template and use it on every form. Not only will this eliminate the time needed to look back in your files for a motion “kind of like” the one you want to draft, but it will keep your documents from becoming corrupted over time.
If you your law firm does not have document management software or a case management system with an automated form option, create your templates in Word and label a folder on your network “Forms.” Make sure that each form is labeled correctly and succinctly. Using forms also means your firm’s work product remains uniform.
THE VALUE OF AUTOMATING FOR LAW FIRM EFFICIENCY
While automation may appear impersonal at first glance, establishing internal consistency means allows your staff to recapture time, and spend it working on files, talking to clients, or planning ahead for future deadlines.
CONTACT THE LAW FIRM WORKFLOW EFFICIENCY CONSULTANTS OF STACEY E. BURKE, P.C.
If law firm technology and efficiency overwhelm you, or you simply want to focus on your caseload instead of your infrastructure, you can contact Stacey E. Burke, P.C. We specialize in maximizing law firm productivity through streamlining technology and internal processes. Give us a call, and we can help you.