THOMSON REUTERS ELITE

FALL 2015 EDITION

Forefront
 

Workflow Technology Delivers Improved Client Service and Law Firm Efficiency

The struggle for law firms to produce the best work possible with the same or fewer resources continues, as competition among firms tightens. This is a service industry, where the commodity being sold is people and their expertise. An obvious way to improve service delivery is to adopt new technology to create efficiencies across all areas of the firm.

While this might seem daunting, workflow technology can create a monumental shift in how firms operate. Whether it is creating a document, adding a client, opening a new matter, requesting a conference room, submitting expenses, or any of the hundreds of tasks lawyers and their staff perform every day, this shift will benefit clients through faster turn-around and quicker resolution of issues. It also will allow firms to better manage resources, improve communication, and operate more efficiently, including providing a powerful means to centralize various back office functions

Redundancies, Costs, and Lost Opportunities

Many lawyers and staff know that their processes and technologies are inefficient, but they aren’t sure how to improve them without causing major disruptions and spending huge sums of money.

In many firms, one assistant supports three or four lawyers. Each lawyer may have a different way of conveying information or preferences for how tasks are handled. Assistants must adapt to each lawyer’s style and circle back with questions or find more information. Assistants may not know which items are priorities and may have to regularly revisit a single item on their to-do list before it’s completely finished. Imagine this scenario multiplied every day across firms.

As a simple example, booking a business trip, a task that seems relatively straightforward, can quickly become complicated and time-consuming. When booking a business trip, a lawyer needs to figure out when the trip needs to take place and send that information to an assistant. The lawyer may send incomplete or inaccurate information and fail to indicate if the trip should be billable. The assistant may start to book the trip, then realize she doesn’t have all of the information she needs, such as necessary arrival times, locations of meetings, and frequent flyer information. She has to then circle back to the lawyer. Assuming the assistant gets the right information on the front-end, the lawyer may be following up multiple times to see if the trip has been booked. In a worst-case scenario, two assistants may get the same request, and both may book the trip.

While one business trip may not seem like a major inconvenience or cost, the costs and time involved with these kinds of scenarios can add up significantly when repeated over and over. across lawyers, staff, and offices. In addition, consider the potential improvement that centralization and specialization of back office staff may represent.

How Technology Can Help

By installing workflow software that standardizes processes and centralizes functions, firms can save time and money. Custom forms can be implemented in the system so that firms can ensure that critical pieces of information must be completed before the task can be submitted. With tracking software, lawyers can prioritize work and follow the progress of tasks, and assistants can see at a glance what still needs to be done, thus eliminating the need for phone calls, conversations, and emails.

Workflow software also allows firms to centralize processes. Rather than have each assistant responsible for booking business trips, designated assistants can take over booking all trips. This will make them even more efficient. It will also create beneficial redundancies, so there are no gaps when one assistant is particularly busy or out of the office. While many lawyers are nervous about sending jobs to someone who isn’t down the hall, it’s reassuring to know that the status of everything can be monitored with the click of a mouse or a glance at their mobile device.

The technologies and processes firms adopt must be flexible, so they can begin with their greatest priorities and then expand into other areas. With the right software, small changes can pay off in a big way, both for the firm and for clients.

 

BigHand

The BigHand Group supports over 200,000 professionals globally, across 1,950 organizations, and is based out of Chicago, Temecula, London, Sydney, Eindhoven and Toronto. BigHand's voice productivity technology combines workflow digital dictation, Smartphone applications, document creation and speech recognition to offer the legal marketplace a technology that allows attorneys to use their voice to get more done while improving operational efficiencies and reducing overhead costs. Click here for more information.

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