How Law Firms Can Avoid Paying the Price of Poor Productivity

With most law firms losing millions of pounds annually due to poor productivity, forward-thinking practices should look to smooth their processes in new ways.

Guy Phillips, Vice President International Business at NetDocuments, offers Lawyer Monthly his advice for firms looking to optimise their productivity and value in a changed industry.

The aphorism ‘time is money’ is particularly true for law firms. In fact, productivity is critical to a lawyer’s success. However, surprisingly, an average law firm could be losing out on £2.7 million of lost revenue every year due to lack of productivity.

In a recent analysis of Thomson Reuters’ State of the Legal Market report, a top law firm stated a barrier to achieving productivity is manual processes taking up a lot of time. According to another report, more than 48% of a lawyer’s time is spent on a mix of continuing education, office administration, billing tasks, configuring technology, and collecting on accounts, with only a third of their time spent courting clients for the firm. So how can law firms boost productivity at a time when working practices for many have changed considerably over the last 12 months?

Wasted time on mundane tasks  

Most of us have repetitive tasks that need doing. However, it is not often that these tasks end up taking almost half our time. And as important as these administrative tasks may be for running the business side of the firm, many of them can be automated.

With pressures driven by COVID-19, ensuring productivity (and revenue) is not wasted is more important than ever. This is particularly vital as fixed fee billing is becoming more common. With pressure to do ‘more with less’ due to the wider economic slowdown, clients are scrutinising where their spend is going and demanding greater predictability when it comes to fees. Firms therefore cannot afford to waste time on the mundane tasks such as scanning, attaching and searching for documents. As we head into 2021, lawyers must ensure they are as efficient and productive as possible.

With pressures driven by COVID-19, ensuring productivity (and revenue) is not wasted is more important than ever.

Avoiding the risk of burnout

It’s not just profits that could be damaged from lack of productivity. If lawyers are spending too much time on tasks that could easily be automated, they risk burn out and becoming de-motivated. As an industry already threatened by burnout, this is something that needs to be addressed. Lawyers want an environment that allows them to use the skills and knowledge they have spent years developing  during their legal education.

Finding the right tools to boost productivity

Digital tools can play a huge role in improving business processes and helping to decrease the manual workload. Ultimately, giving lawyers more time to focus and utilise their skills, knowledge, and expertise to provide strategic and valuable advice for clients.

So how can you choose the right tools to help deliver the productivity promise? Before adopting a new piece of software there are three critical considerations to keep in mind: anywhere access, software integrations, and legal workflows.

  1. Anywhere Access – With the move to hybrid working, the requirement for anywhere access has never been felt more acutely. Cloud-based platforms can provide the necessary anywhere access lawyers need while maintaining a robust security posture to protect information.
  2. Software Integrations – To decrease the amount of time lawyers spend configuring various pieces of technology, law firms need to ensure selected software integrates together to help improve productivity. This is most easily achieved by selecting a “centre of gravity”, such as a document management system, that supports integrations from a wide variety of legal technology applications in addition to everyday software like Microsoft Office.
  3. Legal Workflows – Legal work requires a unique workflow and specialised attention to detail and organisation. This is why it’s critical that whenever a new piece of technology is selected for the firm, a core consideration is whether the software was built to support legal work and will smooth, rather than disrupt, lawyers’ current flows.

Completing the productivity puzzle

By carefully selecting the right technology with a focus on access, integrations and workflow, firms will be able to automate tedious tasks. This will be key in increasing overall productivity, helping firms to prosper in an era of rapid change. Not only driving efficiency, reducing burnout, and boosting profitability but also building better relationships with clients. As clients expect an exceptional level service with competitive fees, they are also becoming aware of the tools that are used to help drive this. This makes it even more imperative for firms to be equipped with technology to demonstrate that they can deliver the best level of service to employees and clients alike.

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