In my experience, law firms are slow to embrace productivity solutions until they are under strain of rapid growth. They feel the pain when they struggle to keep up with incoming business.

In one instance, I can recall a premier law firm whose business was booming. It had grown to more than 400 attorneys, but its records management could not keep up. New business intake processes and conflict-of-interest reviews were slow. Attorneys were complaining. Costs were rising.

It’s a common problem. In the past, the firm might have just thrown more people at the problem and passed these costs on to the client. Not anymore. Law firms must institute productivity solutions that improve efficiency and lower costs.

 

The Legal Alternative Fee Arrangements Playbook

 

Chief legal officers do this by using technology, and they expect the same from their outside counsel. According to Altman Weil’s 2015 Chief Legal Officer Survey, nine out of 10 chief legal officers in corporations have improved the efficiency of their departments in the last year; 60 percent of them did so through increasing use of technology and 54 percent through reorganizing internal resources.

When asked what improvements they would like from their outside counsel, 50 percent of them said greater cost reduction, 46 percent said improved budget forecasting, 40 percent said more efficient project management and 36 percent said non-hourly based pricing.

The automation solution

Yet, half of all business workflows are still based on paper, and only 41 percent of organizations have automated most or all of their workflows, according to an IDC study commissioned by Ricoh.

Only 41 percent of organizations have automated their workflows.

In this case, the firm recognized that automation could solve the problem, and its management team hired an independent consultant to analyze its workflows. The analysis pinpointed inefficiencies in the processes used for screening incoming matters for conflicts of interest. It also highlighted several instances of redundant data entry in the new-business intake process. Based on site visits, focus groups, interviews and a survey, the consultant recommended digitizing workflows – a more efficient way of capturing and routing documents and a shift of responsibilities that would dedicate  staff members to specific functions.

These changes, including engaging outside expert resources, enabled the firm to perform the same amount of work with 3.5 fewer Full-Time Equivalent Employees. The consultant also suggested a more robust retention schedule and the digitization of more documents, which cut the costs of document storage in half.

The resulting efficiencies prompted the firm to digitize more of its workflows. It is now working to digitize the entire process of opening a new matter. With such automation, the firm can onboard new clients efficiently and cost effectively. If you’re interested in analyzing your processes to improve efficiency, talk to Ricoh’s professional services team.