Running an efficient legal practice requires a substantial deal of thought and planning. Your office must operate smoothly for all your staff, and also keep back-end operations like billing, research, clerical support and conference room management running without a hitch.
Therefore, the importance of organization in a law office cannot be emphasized enough. A disorganized office breeds clutter, confusion and inefficiency, which in turn costs time, money, and eventually, your reputation in the legal community.
Thankfully, it’s not impossible to establish and maintain a properly organized office system. The steps below will very likely be enough to guarantee long-term productivity and success.
Step One: De-cluttering
Before you can organize, you must first clear out the clutter. You’ll only be able to implement an effective organization plan for your office after you’ve had a clean slate.
Go through everything to identify what you need and what to toss aside. The “one-touch” approach can be very useful for this step. Pick up a file and make a quick decision whether to keep it, archive it or destroy it. Once you’ve decided, execute your resolution immediately and don’t look back. Keep in mind that a law office should only have open, active files. Mixing closed files with open ones will lead to time wastage when sorting through them to find what you need.
Step Two: Organizing
Once you’ve cleared out unwanted files, documents and books, move on to organize the remaining items. Start by creating standard operating rules and procedures for your staff to follow. That way, you can nurture consistency and clarity throughout the office. Ideally, your policies should be directly tailored to your firm and the type of law your practice.
After streamlining staff operations, come up with a suitable filing system. A proper system is that which applies to all files to ensure continuity and seamless teamwork. Don’t forget to set up a security plan for both your digital and paper files.
Having an efficient law office isn’t very useful if you don’t keep your personal space organized as well. Therefore, also sort out your desk and perform filing each day, so that your filing basket never becomes overpowering.
Step Three: Making Use of Technology
Today, nearly all law firms use some technology. If you’re underutilizing tech, you’re missing out on a chance to make your law firm better.
Modern matter management tools help firms to manage all activities across the board, including compliance, contracts, advising and litigation. With law office billing software, for instance, you can track billable hours in a much more refined way than paper billing.
Special case management and scheduling programs help to reduce paper, provide instant access to information and improve communication in the office, while project management software makes it easier to manage delegated tasks and track progress. Lastly, paperless depositions can save your associates hours in the preparation of paper exhibits.
Evidently, software solutions are essential components of a proper organizing strategy. A competent tech consultant will help you determine the systems that will be beneficial to your firm.
Staying organized in your law office may seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve allowed things to go out of hand. Nevertheless, a strong will to plan and the right technology are all you need to get back on the right path.
Rebecca Miles is a corporate attorney, who has been practicing for more than a decade. When she’s not attending client meetings or showing off her skills in court, she likes to read and write about issues in the legal practice and the professional world in general.