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Law Firm Efficiency: 5 Ways to Boost Your Practice

August 09, 2022

 For law firms, especially small law firms tasked with managing administrative duties in addition to practicing law, efficiency is an irreplaceable component of success. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way we work, and as law firm leaders predict an uptick in business in 2022 and 2023, many attorneys are asking: How can we improve efficiency in measurable ways?

But first, what is efficiency? And why is it so critical to success? Traditionally, efficiency refers to the energy expended on a task in relation to its usefulness. At law firms, it can be linked to:

  • Innovation 
  • Client Satisfaction 
  • Profitability 
  • Company health and the health of the attorneys and staff 

Improving efficiency should entail improving processes and increasing profitability. When approached correctly, it becomes a critical (and measurable) part of law firm strategy. 

If you’re here, you’re likely looking for ways to improve the items listed above, so in this article, we’ll give you five ways to improve your law firm’s efficiency, encouraging you to take a close look at your time, your people, and your technology. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be well on your way to delegating important tasks and discovering easy-to-use research technology that streamlines your work processes.  

But first let’s take a deeper look at why you should be concerned with your law firm’s efficiency.  

Efficient Law Firms are Successful Law Firms

Efficiency is closely tied to technological advancement, innovation, and cost savings. Small law firms tend to be uniquely well-positioned to adopt new technologies that increase efficiency, and the benefits are both significant and measurable: 

  • Two-thirds of legal teams that hire small law firms cite “better client service” as a key reason for doing so 
  • Senior-level in-house lawyers “tend to work with small law firms because they are more innovative” 

In addition to increasing client satisfaction and fostering strong partnerships, efficiency can increase profitability by helping attorneys make the most of their billable hours, ultimately leading to a greater capacity for new clients (and greater profits).   

Fortunately, as automation, integration, and easy-to-use AI-powered research technology becomes increasingly accessible, both big and small law firms have an opportunity to directly incorporate increases to efficiency as a key component of strategy. 

5 Ways to Maximize Efficiency at Your Law Firm

How can you save time at your law firm? Below, we’ve identified five ways to improve and streamline your processes, while increasing profits.  

1) Know When to Grow

Attorneys know that only a portion of the day is spent doing what attorneys do best – practicing law. The rest of the day, especially for small law firms, is spent managing the day-to-day business and operations of your firm. It’s imperative to be able to identify the point at which these tasks are taking up too much of your time and energy, hindering your ability to serve your clients (and take on new clients). 

A good practice is to track the amount of time spent engaging in business practices. If non-billable business management tasks begin to encroach upon billable hours, consider scaling or hiring help. Hiring additional attorneys might seem like an obvious next step, but you should also consider support staff. For example, lawyer and corporate law firm consultant Ethen Ostroff highly recommends hiring virtual assistants to help manage day-to-day business operations.  

If you need help managing the business of your firm, check out the variety of checklists, guides, and articles on Practical Guidance.  

2) Hire a Marketing Specialist 

Efficiency is more than just reducing the time spent on tasks; it should also increase profitability. A marketing specialist directly impacts both aspects of efficiency by: 

  • Reducing the time you spend on marketing activities, allowing you to spend more time dedicated to billable hours  
  • Attracting potential new clients (ultimately leading to increased profits) 

You’re an attorney—not a marketer. A marketing specialist can help your firm adjust your social media presence, produce content that attracts clients, and create more traditional forms of marketing, such as postcards and billboards. At the end of the day, this is work you can delegate that will not only increase leads but also diversify them, growing your firm’s experience across practice areas.  

Finding a marketing specialist can be relatively simple. You can use avenues like LinkedIn or Indeed to hire a freelance specialist, or you can look into marketing firms that specialize in the legal industry. No matter what, you should make sure your specialist is equipped with both legal industry knowledge and marketing skills. Ask them questions about their availability and experience, and make sure they are ready to partner with you. Your specialist should enhance the voice of your firm and, ultimately, make life easier.  

3) Take Care of Your People (Including Yourself) 

Attorneys bill an average of 1,800 hours per year (that’s 35 hours per week, without any time off). Add in non-billable hours – that's quite a workload. Plus, we all know the last several years have been anything but normal, which means additional stress and challenges have been added to the average attorney’s workload.  

It isn’t shocking to learn that a 2021 Gartner survey of over 200 corporate lawyers revealed that 54% of respondents were “exhausted to some degree” and 20% were “highly exhausted.”  

What does this mean for efficiency at your firm?  

No matter if you own a large law firm or if you’re a sole attorney, the exhaustion and burnout resulting from the last few years impacts your employees (and just as importantly – you). It’s important that you encourage and/or practice a healthy work-life balance. 

 A refreshed attorney is an efficient attorney.  

Efficient attorneys make the most of billable hours, saving time, earning more money, and making the most out of life.

4) Prepare for the Future of Law

Up to this point, we’ve talked about the importance of managing the business of your firm and knowing when to scale. As you prepare for growth, it becomes important to think about the attorneys you will hire and, related, who is entering the talent pool.  

How do soon-to-be attorneys work? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Perhaps most importantly, what kind of technologies are they familiar with? And how can you use that familiarity to benefit your firm?  

For the past six years, law students have voiced a consistent preference for LexisNexis, often citing “ease of use” as a primary reason for their loyalty. Taking this into consideration can have multiple benefits for your firm as it prepares to grow, including decreased training time.  

5) Embrace the Future of Legal Technology

One of the largest, most immediate ways to increase efficiency is to fully embrace the capabilities of legal technology. Modern legal technology can streamline your legal research process in a variety of ways, from integrating multiple applications into one platform to incorporating AI search technology to help you quickly find the most relevant results. Importantly, embracing new legal technology does not have to be difficult. In fact, a primary benefit of new technology is that it is often intuitive, with a minimal learning curve and a large potential for streamlining your workflow 

How?  

Here, we’ve highlighted three cutting-edge, easy-to-use legal tech features: Application Programming Interfaces, AI-Powered Search Technology, and Automated Forms and Templates.  

Application Programming Interfaces  

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a software intermediary that can allow you to integrate applications and data into your existing digital workspaces. APIs are a great way to run searches, use multiple applications, and access additional data without ever leaving the digital spaces you and your colleagues use the most (e.g., a company intranet or dashboard). Ultimately, this can help you conduct streamlined research tasks by reducing the time spent juggling multiple applications. You can even get alerts to changes in cases, legislation, and more delivered directly to your workspace.  

The best part? You don’t have to be a tech expert to start incorporating APIs into your day-to-day operations. LexisNexis has recently launched a Global API Developer’s Portal that allows attorneys to integrate several different LexisNexis offerings, including (but not limited to) Lexis+™, Context, and Lex Machina®, directly into a firm’s digital work environment.

AI-Powered Search Technology  

Legal research is a large (and often time-consuming) part of an attorney’s job – but long-gone are the days of pouring over books in a library. Now, AI-powered, natural language search can help you quickly sift through “vast amounts of information and analysis” to produce “actionable insights.”

With the development of natural language search on legal research platforms like LexisNexis, you can simply type a question; the search technology will: 

  • Filter out noise words 
  • Provide a consistent set of results regardless of the order of the words in your question 
  • Utilize artificial intelligence to help you find the most relevant results 

Once the question is asked, advanced legal technology continues to simplify your process. Data visualization tools help you find relevant information that may have otherwise been buried in a long list of results.  

 

With search features that are intuitive and easy-to-navigate, you are ultimately able to cover more ground with your research in less time. An added bonus? You don’t have to lose your place – easy-to-use search technology also means that you are never timed out of your open tabs 

Automated Forms and Documents 

How much time do you spend on document creation? Creating forms is a large part of any attorney’s job, and the work can be tedious. However, new technology allows you to automate your document creation process. This can increase your firm’s efficiency in two potential ways: 

  • You reduce the amount of time you spend on document creation, allowing you to take on more clients 
  • You can delegate document creation to support staff with confidence, knowing the automation tools will reduce the risk of error 

Some legal research platforms even have automated forms integrated directly into the research experience, adding an additional layer of efficiency to the process.  

Improve your Firm’s Efficiency with Lexis+

Ready to start improving your firm’s efficiency? LexisNexis is here to help. Find quick answers to tough questions with a fully integrated, AI-powered experience on Lexis+Claim your free trial today.   

 

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