At my Raleigh, NC law firm, my employees used to joke that I had a system for everything – even for going to the bathroom.
Which wasn’t true. It was the only thing I did NOT have a system for, at least in the law firm.
But until I had systemized everything, I was drowning.
Why You Need Systems For Your Law Practice
We all have systems that we use, whether we realize it or not.
A system means a set, standard procedure – a checklist perhaps – that you follow as part of your day to keep your life moving.
How can you do that? Below are the top four ingredients to create a perfect law firm.
My own systems start the moment I wake up – just like for most guys. As soon as I’m awake, off I go to the bathroom to care of the first business of the day. I don’t need to study a checklist for that – I do it on autopilot.
Some people have adapted this system slightly: If they can resist the “potty dance” for long enough, they’ll head into the kitchen first and switch on the coffee machine. Then they head to the bathroom.
But it’s still a system. That works.
You probably have a system for answering the phone. You probably say the same thing to callers when you answer to people you know, and something a little less friendly for calls with a blocked caller ID. You have two different but standardized scripts to follow.
Probably every law firm owner has those personal systems, like for the first business of the day, or how they greet people who call their cellphones. But what really gets me is that some law firm owners do NOT have those same rudimentary systems for their law practices.
Answering the Phone in Your Law Firm
You have a standard way you answer the phone for yourself. But have you standardized the way each and every employee answers the phone in your office?
Don’t you want everybody to say, “Good morning, Hardison and Cochran, how can I help you?” (Obviously, you want to replace the law firm name!)
Or do you want everybody to wing it? Do you want them to just decide for themselves what they should say?
So what’s wrong with somebody answering the phone with, “Law Office”. Or perhaps, “Whaddya want???”
When I frame it like that, don’t you want everybody in your practice to answer the same way? And with a smile on their faces and warmth in their voices?
Sure you do.
That’s why you create systems, procedures, scripting, training and manuals, so that everybody follows the same routine.
Systems for Everything
Of course, even as a very small law firm, early on, I had my own systems for things, whether it was how to compile a case-file, or how to handle a deposition, or how to file proceedings with the courthouse. You will have your own personal systems too.
But if you have employees, they’re either following your system – or they aren’t.
And if they’re each following their own system, then if you have 25 employees, you might have 25 different ways of performing the same task within your law firm. That’s crazy.
Do I have to explain why it makes sense that your employees follow a standardized procedure for court filings, or letters to clients – or anything for that matter? Surely you want consistency, right?
So hopefully, I’ve at least got you to understand why systems make your output consistent and standardized.
But having a system brings other benefits.
The Benefits of Systems
A system for performing a task – at least in my law practice – takes several forms, which I’ve already mentioned.
A standard procedure – a checklist – to follow, in order, to complete the task
Scripting – what to say and when
Training – ensuring that employees understand how to follow the system exactly, without any error or doubt
With today’s technology, it’s easy putting together a system that’s truly effective in supporting your employees:
You can easily take screenshots from software or websites that you use and include them in a procedure or operations manual.
You can record screen-capture videos – and narrate them as you go – to demonstrate how to perform a task
You can save your systems, procedures, scripts, training and manuals with computers – which not only allows instant access, it also allows you to edit and update without recreating everything from scratch (we’ve come a long way from typewriters, folks!)
[As of this month, our membership includes access to the perfect-fit systems solution. Our cloud-based platform enables every employee to contribute to, update, and learn from the systems relevant to their position. Find out more about our Personal Injury Touchstone System here.]
With a system in an operations manual, and standardized, prepared training materials that are ready to go, it’s easy to hire a new employee. Or replace an employee.
And that is so key if you want to succeed in business.