How much does inefficiency cost your law firm?

Over the last week I had two very unrelated experiences that were big eye openers.  The first happened on a phone call yesterday when I taught a lawyer how to cut and paste information into his bio on LinkedIn. He had been practicing the law and using computers for decades, but didn’t know you could highlight information, right click, select “copy” and then right click again and “paste” the information somewhere else. He was amazed by how easy it was, it was as if I had just taught the first caveman to make fire. The second experience happened in Tapei, Taiwan. I was speaking to a group of lawyers about incremental innovations (like faster internet, better software) and I compared these to breakthroughs like the introduction of the fax machine or the introduction of email. I broke the lawyers up into groups and I asked each group to come up with their best ideas for incremental innovations. What small changes could they make to their daily processes, with the help of technology, that would help them them be more efficient?

The best idea that came out of the ten groups? Learn how to use Outlook. One highly efficient partner color codes his emails in four ways: one color for him, one for his assistant, another for his secretary and the last one for his associate. 3 out of 4 of those he never reads, the subject line is enough for him to send it on the right person to take care of it. Other set up folders that filter out all of the distracting messages that don’t need quick responses.

This example made me ask the question, what types of efficiency gains could lawyers experience if they simply understood how to use the best features of software like Word and Outlook? Partners don’t need to attend Word or Outlook training, I don’t think that would work, they literally need someone to sit down with them and follow them throughout their day to see what processes they are currently doing manually that the existing software could help them improve. These are two very simple pieces of software, we aren’t even talking about CRM systems like Interaction that firms aren’t even scratching the surface with.

Lawyers need to learn how to better utilize software, and I’m not sure the best way to help them get there. The problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know. The lawyer I taught to copy and paste, had heard the term before, but had no idea there was such a simple solution. Another issue is that most law firms don’t have efficiency aligned as a priority. The lawyer that bills $750/hour takes 20 minutes to print and markup a document to have their secretary retype it when they could have copy and pasted it in a few clicks. Teaching that lawyer to copy and paste may have just saved their clients hundreds or even thousand of dollars. But it cost the firm.

Efficiency and innovation are mission critical concerns at almost every other type of company, its about time that law firms start taking them seriously as well.


2 Responses to “How much does inefficiency cost your law firm?”

  1. Adrian, good stories. The one about being taught to cut and paste, sometimes eliminating the need for assistants to retype caused me to think about a work experience I had in my early days. I was in B2C (Business To Consumer) marketing, so we had promotions constantly. Of the many t things I was responsible for, I would create the “memos” that our customer service reps would use to learn about that promotion…pretty much the 4 Ps of marketing that promotion, with some computer codes sprinkled in.

    When we would have a new promotion, I would just go in and modify the last document with updated information as I already had the format in place. Our Division President used to get so bothered because “you have a secretary to do that!” Each time, I would tell him this was much more efficient as his scenario would have me marking up an old document with the new information (that I had in my head), or recreating it entirely, each time, then giving it to someone to edit, then marking it up again, and so on, until it was ready for distribution. Not efficient at all…for anyone involved.

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