Does this sound familiar?
“I need systems!”
I hear that at least once or twice a week—much more if you count what I read on social media—from solo lawyers trying to grow their law practices while keeping their sanity.
But when I ask: “What do you mean by ‘systems?’” the answer often is full of “ums” and “ers” and “you knows.” What’s clear is that, while most solo attorneys know they need to be operating with greater efficiency, and that requires a more systematic approach, they aren’t quite sure what that means exactly. Most conflate “systems” with “automation,” but these are not the same thing.
So, let’s see if we can figure this out together:
1. What is a system? Of course, there are different definitions for the word “system,” but for our purposes, a system is an approach, or methodology, for tackling repetitive tasks in a consistent manner no matter how many times they are performed or by whom. In other words, it’s the opposite of “recreating the wheel.” We build the wheel a certain way once, we document the process along the way, and thereafter, others can follow our model and build the wheel the same way no matter how many times they do it.
2. How do you start creating systems? Systems start with documenting processes and creating procedures. You can perform a task over and over again the same way, but until you document the process so that others can follow your methods without having to stop you every few minutes and ask you questions about it, you don’t have a system.
3. Do you need automation to create a system? No. Systems can be manual. If you’ve ever watched “How It’s Made,” you’ll see that there are still many products built in factories where some or all of the process is conducted by human hands and not machines. It’s the same with your firm. You do not need to invest in software to create a workflows, for instance. Attorneys have run law firms for years without technology, and yet, they still had systems in place to ensure work was completed in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
4. But do you need automation in your practice? Yes, because automation is a wonderful thing, most likely your competitors are using it to their advantage, and there are numerous tools out there that already exist to keep you from having to “recreate the wheel.” For example, case management software Practice Panther already has built-in workflows. I’m sure lots of others do, too. There is automation for lead generation, task management, case workflows, client communication—all kinds of tasks! Often times, this is what attorneys mean when they are asking for advice on systems. However, if you do not know what system, exactly, you need to automate, you’ll struggle to find the right automation tool to help you do it the best way possible.
5. Where do you start with creating better systems in your practice? If you desire to be more systematic in your approach to running your law practice, start by making a list of what you think you would like to create a system for. What tasks get repeated over and over again in your office? Have you documented your process for completing those tasks or is it still in your head? Do you have to answer a lot of questions for your staff about a repetitive process each and every time they do it? If so, then you know it is past time to write it down. Better yet, ask them to write down what they do, step-by-step, and then you look it over to make sure they haven’t missed anything.
If you need help getting clarity on exactly what systems you need to create in your business, how to create them, and how to choose the best automation tools, I’d love to help. Click here to schedule an appointment with me for a complimentary consultation.