8 Ways You Can Improve Your Law Firm’s Processes to Increase Client Satisfaction
You can’t avoid business processes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t process improvement.
Business processes are a fact of life. Even if you run a tiny law firm, there are steps you take to complete your work. Business processes involve things as simple as keeping the printer stocked. It’s also what keeps your client’s information protected from outsiders.
But sometimes these processes can muck up our work lives. If a business process is too complicated, then tasks fall through the cracks. They might not even get done.
With your firm on the line, it’s important that you keep an eye on your business processes. Here are eight ways to see process improvement at your firm.
What are Business Processes?
There are two kinds of business process: formal and informal.
Formal processes are the procedures you’ve written down (or you should have). They can be things like what to do with invoices, or inputting client data. They can also involve how to handle current case paperwork, or archiving old files.
These formal processes are important for legal teams. They protect you from lawsuits and other disasters.
Informal processes are the ones you created to manage your day-to-day routines. These can be processes like who to contact in an emergency, or how to take meeting notes.
Why You Need Process Improvement
Nothing is perfect, and that includes business processes. But when something is seriously wrong with your processes, it affects your firm. It can cause stress, inefficiency, and lose clients. You can lose good lawyers, increase costs, and miss deadlines.
That’s why important to review process improvement plans. If everyone follows a well-established set of instructions, then there are fewer errors. This will make your firm a good place to work and increase client satisfaction.
How to Develop a Process Improvement Plan
When you’re developing a process improvement plan, it’s vital to go through all the steps.
1. List Your Current Business Processes
You need to make an exhaustive list of your business processes. At this point in the plan, nothing is too small or insignificant.
Once you make a list of every process, rank it from most important to least important. Do this with some key members of your team, so you don’t leave anything out.
Make a note if there are any major problem areas that you need to address.
2. Map Out the Processes
Now that you’ve listed your processes, the next thing to do is map out the steps. Again, it’s important to be as detailed as possible. Include every step, including every sub-step.
Talk to the people in your firm who handle these processes about how they get stuff done.
At this point, you should begin to see areas that need improvement. Don’t get ahead of yourself though. While it’s tempting to fix things as you go, you need that big picture before you move on.
3. Highlight the Problem Areas
Now that you have everything mapped out in an easy to understand format, you can break out the red pen. To help you assess areas for process improvement, ask yourselves:
Where and why do team members get so frustrated?
How about clients, where are their chief complaints?
Once you pinpoint a problem, trace it back to its roots. Is it a process problem, or a people problem?
4. Set Up the Experiment
TheScientific Method isn’t just for your third-grade science fair. It’s also a helpful tool in process improvement.
To get started, write down an easy to understand baseline for everyone. For example, you notice that case files are not going to the right archives. Count how many case files got mishandled. This is your baseline.
The next step is to make a change in your business process, and see how it affects your baseline. Are you seeing improvement in filing? If not, revisit your solution and try again.
5. Don’t Forget to Consider the Client
You can’t have a successful law firm without any clients. That’s why it’s important to make business process improvements with them in mind.
If the process improvement is internal, it might not affect a client directly. But if your process improvement plan affects your clients, you have to let them know.
Send out an e-mail, or call them to let them know about any changes they might experience. If the changes involve a client process, make sure to get feedback from them.
6. Get the Resources You Need
Now that you know what the problems are, and how to fix them, get the right resources.
For example, if you want to improve your documentation, you might check out HotDocs. But whatever you decide on, be sure thatit fits your budget.
7. Implement the Changes
Changes in a process will always get some push back. That’s because people don’t like change, even if it’s needed.
To make sure thechange in process goes smoothly, be sure to communicate with your team and clients.
You also need to make it clear that the changes are mandatory. You can’t measure how well the changes are working if you still have some staff who’s doing their own thing.
To help them, offer classes and seminars. Be patient with them, and yourself, during this time of change.
8. Review and Keep Improving
After a few months to a year of the new processes, take the time to review the results. Did you meet your benchmark goals?
If you didn’t, start the process again from a different perspective. Even if you did see improvement, it doesn’t hurt to tweak the processes. Nothing is perfect, but you wouldn’t be where you are if you didn’t try.
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