AJS Part 2 of Practice Management

It’s not just fundamental. It’s also interesting…

As we said, February is all about foundations. The foundations of a legal practice (and therefore of a business). 

Last week we delved into and discussed (at some length) the basic (and foundational) principles that you need in order to effectively manage your legal practice. In fact, we believe that without those foundations in place, managing any business successfully is almost impossible. 

After all, “you can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure” (Gordon B. Hinckley).

If you think of your legal practice as a superstructure, you need to have a solid foundation in place before you are able to build a monumental building. Which makes perfect sense. Therefore, to well and truly run your practice in a way that is so epic that you exceed your own expectations, you need to master the basics first – luckily, we covered those for you in Part One. Whew, done and dusted!

Now to further our discussion on legal practice management we urge you to change how you think about practice management.

For instance, if you think of legal practice management in the same way you would consider any project management (within any business), practice management may start to make a little more sense (and may even go so far as to pique your interest). 

In a business, each project is unique. We can agree on that point. And because of that, it will differ from other routine business operations. Ditto for any legal matter you may be dealing with in your legal practice and/or legal department. They are all different, right? And because of that, managing a legal case or matter (and therefore your law firm) closely resembles that of managing any business project (and therefore any business). 

It thus stands to reason that the same business principles will apply to both project and practice management. For example, the success of both project or practice management (as a whole) is achieved according to accepted criteria – achieving the desired outcome within an agreed timescale and according to the projected or agreed budget. Time, cost and quality are the building blocks of every project, business and legal alike. 

Agreed?

And we believe that it is within this vein (and with this thinking in mind), that separating the legal practitioner (who focuses on the practice of law) from the legal practitioner responsible for the running of the legal practice, is key to managing your legal practice as a successful business. Which is exactly what it is.  

Again, we reiterate the following quote – 

“Law is not a profession at all, but rather a business service station and repair shop” – Adlai E Stevenson

After finishing Part Two, we hope that you will learn how to adapt and change how you manage your practice in accordance with how the world (and businesses) are evolving. Because, as we have said before, your legal practice will be an ever-evolving “thing” too.

To help you take a keen interest in the business side of your legal practice, we have set out some of the more interesting topics below – 

Staff management 

Whether you are hiring new prospects or managing your current staff contingent, how you manage your staff is key to proper practice management (and therefore a successful business). And that will, no matter what business you are in, start with decency and respect. We shouldn’t have to even say it. They should be readily accepted (common) principles, but we think it’s worth mentioning…

It is crucial that employees know exactly where they fit in the organization, what is expected of them, how they must do things and if automation and the adoption of legal technology into your practice have become the norm (which as a legal tech company ourselves, we certainly hope it has), they need to be informed and educated on why legal tech (that perhaps automates repetitive tasks) will be beneficial both to them and to the company as a whole. Your staff must also be trained in how to use the legal tech properly if they (and you) are to succeed.

It is absolutely clear that focusing on employee well-being (which includes a focus on their mental health as well) will not only increase how well a company does (and how much it can get done) but it will also add to the promotion of overall employee satisfaction by ensuring that employees are able to upskill and focus their attentions on the work they were not only employed to do, but want to do. 

And the result? Satisfied staff which translates into a happy working environment and therefore an ultimately successful operation. 

Technology

Legal tech provides essential tools needed by legal professionals to ensure that they are working optimally, efficiently and are remaining relevant at all times. Being early adopters of cutting-edge legal tech is key and legal practitioners should not shy away from technical terms, simply because they don’t understand them. 

You see, the point of legal tech is to alleviate backlog, incomplete documents, and repetitive tasks in order to promote efficiency and cost effectiveness allowing the legal practitioner to not only effectively manage their practice but also properly practice law.  If looking at the Top 7 Legal Tech Trends for 2022 is anything to go by, further technological innovation is here to stay – so it’s time to either jump on the band wagon or get out of its way. 

By jumping on the bandwagon, you will realise that automation is a huge part of this whole legal tech “thing” and we believe it is the only way to ensure that you are always working optimally, ensuring predictability and accuracy in the most crucial aspects of your practice, with products such as –

  1. AJS Express – a web-based, flexible, full featured system that allows for document management, time recording, contracts management, FICA management and an asset register, to name but a few things;
  2. AJS Pro – a web-based, flexible full-featured accounting and practice management system geared towards mid-size firms, that also includes an impressive integrated process automation, user task and notification tool; 
  3. AJS Enterprise – a comprehensive legal and professional accounting software package serving mid-size, large and major international firms with an impressive integrated process automation, user task and notification tool;
  4. AJS FLOW – a powerful workflow automation tool that makes it easier to automate repetitive processes and increase output by improving control and ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks. Perfect for any process that has a defined set of steps or stages, thereby eliminating “busy” work and allowing lawyers to focus on the work that they choose to provide, and 
  5. XpressDox – is a powerful document assembly system handling your document automation needs with ease. You can create and run templates and you can save assembled Word/PDF documents to your local disk, a network drive, or the Cloud. It can be used as a stand-alone product, on a network, via the web (own-hosted or XpressDox-hosted), or even from within your own application or website.

We have said this many times before, but the clients of tomorrow and employees of today will demand that law firms are technologically advanced and more so, capable. Increasing sophistication in client technology adoption will apply pressure on law firms and lawyers, who will be selected for their technology-enhanced services and ability to focus on complex higher-value work to solve their clients’ legal and business problems. Rather than on the menial, labour intensive work. So, let your legal tech do just that!

Part of managing a legal practice also involves being flexible

Predictably, the advent of law-related technology and the ever increasing need to keep up both with technological trends but also with our technologically advanced clientele creates an interesting conundrum of challenge vs opportunity for law firms. And how one legal practice reacts to this (almost) futuristic type thinking will determine how successful they will be in the years to come. 

Using technology to enable easy access to documents, case management, document automation, legal accounting and practice management, has the corresponding impact that the practice of law has started a wave of change that shows no signs of abating. The legal profession has seemingly had a much needed image makeover, where it has embraced a type of flexibility and “go with the flow” attitude (not something ordinarily associated with legal practitioners – let’s be honest). 

Legal professionals have become agile and flexible, following in the footsteps of the companies they serve (because they have had to). And it’s clear that the way companies conduct business has evolved over the years – with fingers in many pies, most companies are flexible in the work they do, the businesses they invest in and the products they supply. And their legal advisors have had to take on the same approach – evolve and be flexible with your approach or disappear into oblivion.  

Being “flexible” has never been more relevant. Or necessary. And the same will therefore ring true for how a legal practice is managed. Sure, there are the basic foundational principles (which we discussed last week) but the one little extra ingredient (the one people don’t talk about) is the need to be flexible with how you approach the running of your business

Because being flexible allows you to handle change with precision, accuracy and (most of all) grace – being prepared for whatever life throws at you (because you know it inevitably will). And we would venture to say that precision, accuracy and grace is probably not how we would describe our reactions to the changes experienced two years ago. So, let’s learn from the past by being flexible, adaptable and open to change (instead of fearing it). 

It’s an interesting and exciting time to be alive and to run any business, but especially a legal practice. The legal profession has come such a long way. It will be interesting to see how both the business of law and the practice of law continues to evolve. 

In conclusion

As you can no doubt tell, effective practice management incorporates many different aspects into what is essentially “managing a business”. Some of it is obvious – like cash flow and other things like legal tech are a little more complicated. And let’s not forget the extra little ingredient of being flexible and open to change adding a dash of spice to the mix. But it is all relevant. And it is all necessary to ensure that your legal practice is properly managed. 

It’s funny, with the way the world is moving and how it has changed over the years, it seems that “old dogs can learn new tricks”, because the legal profession has undoubtedly changed. And the way practices are being managed have changed (and evolved) with it too.

And this shows a kind of revolution in how we are all doing things.  And that is exciting – keeping everyone on their toes, law firms, legal departments and legal tech companies alike. 

 “Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on this earth is in a continuous state of evolving, refining, improving, adapting, enhancing…changing. You were not put on this earth to remain stagnant.” ― Steve Maraboli 

So, whatever you do, don’t remain stagnant. Embrace change and be flexible with how you manage your practice. 

If you have any questions about practice management, contact AJS today to see how we can help you.

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