What is a typical day in the life of a lawyer? Stress relating to building a strong practice, client generation and retention, recurring revenues, work and life conflict, multi-tasking, changing laws, abundant and evolving technologies, the list is endless. These factors are like a persistent headache that is acknowledged, but no medical help is sought until it gets worse. Most of the attorneys are in a state of chaos; struggling and have no clue how to handle these scattered puzzle pieces. Most of the times this chaos is in the absence of the missing piece – solid business process.
First Thing First- Cut it Across
The solution is simple but challenging to implement, and once implemented, it is a cakewalk. Attorneys need to make that intentional divide between (a) running a business, and (b) running a practice. The most common mistake attorneys do is not able to make a distinction between business and practice. While one is the commercial activity by nature the latter is academic, and data driven in nature. And there are different types of tech-solutions available for both. Attorneys need to identify what will work best for them in both of these distinct exercises.
Business Efficiency – Identify what is not working for your law firm. Is it not generating enough leads? Leads not translating into business? Are you spending too much time on client communication? Is the time and effort estimate not in line with the actual time spent? Are there any inconsistencies in the billing procedure? These are just a few examples. We recommend that law firms perform a “Process Audit” to identify the gaps. Once the gaps are identified, finding a solution is easy as the market is flooded with many tech-solutions. A legal design and process specialist can help with this effort. At the completion of a process audit, a legal design and process specialist will help design the best business automation plan for your law firm and recommend appropriate tools and strategies’ to increase efficiency and profitability.
Focus on the Core Practice – Do what you have spent your time, effort and money on getting a law degree and an extremely difficult license to practice. While the processes designed and implemented for your practice will help you run your practice smoothly and seamlessly, you can focus on your core value proposition, providing legal advice and creative problem solving for your clients. Once you have reduced your cognitive load from the automation of key business processes, you will notice a considerable amount of time being spared from administrative and housekeeping matters, which means more revenue generating hours.
Implement the LPO model-Why Outsource?
Legal Process Outsourcing (“LPO”) is a buzzword amongst corporations primarily to reduce the legal costs. LPO is the practice of a law firm or corporation obtaining legal support services from an outside law firm or legal support services company. The need to outsource the legal support services arose from the ever-rising legal costs. The supporters of the LPO industry spend money on the training and technology component while outsourcing legal support services. While these can be well budgeted by the large corporations they may not be a feasible option for the solo practitioners who struggle with the dual jobs of running a business and a law practice. My recommendation here is not to outsource your core competencies as an attorney, but rather the process audit and implementation of appropriate technologies to improve your client experience and manage your practice more effectively. The word “Process” is not just defined simply as a series of steps or actions to achieve a particular task; it in fact simplifies the whole gamut of actions and activities involved in completing a task.
Whether you are beginning to start your practice or running and managing your existing practice; getting the fundamentals of the process implemented will help you achieve your desired outputs.
Data Driven Law Practice – The new age practice of law is data driven, and data is just about everywhere. The fundamentals of the process are most relevant in a large data driven environment in legal space. Whether you run a litigation or corporate advisory practice, there is no escape from data that is growing and will continue to grow at an exponential rate.
- Data collection – client information, legal research
- Storage of data – agreements, contracts, legal memos, trial documents
- Sorting of data – contract abstraction, e-discovery, key contract terms, contract renewals
- Processing of data
- Data analysis – legal research memos, legal opinions, legal strategies, contract negotiation, contract drafting
- Data presentation and conclusions
Legal Design & Process Specialist
To find answers to all your practice woes reach out to a Legal Design & Process Specialist (LDPS). This new legaltech professional knows and understands both the legal processes and the technology. Some of legal-tech and legal marketing firm companies like California based One400 have fine technologists who are well versed with the latest legal-tech offerings. Stanford Law School is championing Legal Design Thinking for lawyers to help them devise sustainable business strategies while advising their clients. They propel human-centered design and agile development methodology to design new solutions for legal services. They also have a dedicated Legal Design Lab that is dedicated to building a new generation of legal products & services.
Legal Design –LDPS will understand the requirements of your practice areas and services offered and will help (a) design the legal services through tech innovation. The design will largely chart the process steps (macro-micro) for each of the service offerings.
Recommendations – The process specialist will list its recommendations based on the process audit, and will suggest the best suited tools, software, etc. The market is flooded with various options that can be super confusing.
Implementation – The legal design will be an end-to-end solution starting from lead generation to closure of the case.
Training – The real test of any system designed or re-engineered is on its successful running. The training on how to use the system is an important and very often most ignored component. Whether, it is the owner of the law firm or his partners, associates and/or employees; everyone should be trained adequately before on-boarding. This has proven to reduce the error rate; increased efficiency and increased rate of actual billable hours.
In closing, while the process audit and implementation is something that you can take on yourself, oftentimes having an outside perspective can help identify things you may not have considered. Additionally, the idea behind improving the business process is to free up your cognitive load so that you can focus more on your core competency and value proposition. Outsourcing both the audit and implementation will help you reach the desired outcome more quickly and effectively.
About the Author
Charanjot Pastagia is a lawyer from India with 19 years of experience in corporate, civil and commercial law with a particular interest in technology. It was during her three years with the Chicago based offshore legal services provider Mindcrest that she first learnt of the benefits of technology in legal services. Additionally, she was the process and workflow designer on web-based and technology enabled projects for legal and regulatory compliance, contract and incident management; and legal research including multi State surveys. She was actively involved in bringing the tech-element to her India based law firm and creating the process framework for internal and external projects. She has also worked with the venture capital firms and their portfolio companies in designing and implementing their compliance management, deal management, and document management systems.
She firmly believes in making complex things simpler. And she does this with the process-oriented approach and use of innovation in the legal services.
She is currently based out of Irvine, California; married to a semiconductor designer and is a mom to a seven-year-old daughter. In her spare time, she spends time in organizing and helping around the local community events.