By Guy Dawson
Thoughts on how this time of reduced activity presents an opportunity to train and upskill staff, switch focus from the areas of law practised and to diversify into other practice areas.
As is the case in all types of business lawyers are not only responsible for providing their services but are also the owners and managers of a business. Whilst a sole practitioner might understandably never have separated these roles or even considered them as separate roles, creating a successful practice is easier to achieve if this separation is understood.
Despite the encouragement to self-help with the writings of such luminaries as Dale Carnegie and Stephen Covey the one habit that remains rigid is the resistance to change which has now become central to the survival and future prosperity of most small practices.
Now is the ideal time to follow Carnegie and Coveys’ advice and take some time away from working in the practice to work on the practice which on abundant evidence is rewarded in multiples.
Firstly, the importance of office organisation is paramount. It provides the basis of profitable and worry-free practice. It is to be appreciated that profit is not necessarily related to size or location or how busy a firm may be. Comparative practice analysis has shown that busy firms are often poor profit performers due to poor office organisation and managerial practices. The more profitable firms simply better organise and manage their practices. The time is now available to have all members of the practice to re-examine practice organisation in order to achieve high levels of consistent and compliant production. This can be achieved through the adoption of LEAP’s matter and accounts management software and By Lawyers Practice Management Guide and Office Policies.
The By Lawyers system establishes the role of each person in the practice, allocates their responsibilities which are defined in position descriptions and provides the direction, ongoing support, and training needed. The Office Policies set out all the everyday rules such as client engagement, dealing with complaints and dress codes by which the office ship is steered each day.
Facilitated by sound office organisation is the consistent timely and thorough conduct of matters. In the past the approach to and sequence of actions taken in any matter was largely dependent on the experience of the practitioner handling the matter who drafted their own precedents good or bad. Over time practice has seen firms leave behind their members unedited personal writing styles to be replaced by professionally crafted precedent packages ensuring complete coverage of relevant issues and consistency across the practice.
By Lawyers precedents are presented in sequential order in a plan for the conduct of each matter from opening to closing each file from compliant disclosures and initial letters to final letters. All of the By Lawyers precedents contained within the LEAP software have been automated with fields and codes. On next use those details populate. By way of example a letter automatically inserts the matter reference, the date, addressee, re: line, the text of the letter and the sign off. The same applies to deeds, contracts, wills, trusts and every other of the hundreds of precedents available. The precedent is given an easily identifiable code and stored in the system allowing for ready accessibility by all members of the team at the exact moment in any matter when it is needed.
A general practitioner rarely requires an in-depth consideration of the law but rather needs access to the law, practice, and procedure relevant to the transaction in hand. In particular a practitioner who conducts a certain type of matter only occasionally, needs ready access to up to date commentary and precedents without time consuming research and trying to find a suitable precedent in an old file.
During this difficult time, it would be inappropriate to turn away work simply because it might be outside a firm’s considered specialisation. Most legal matters are intertwined and lead to other legal matters such as people getting divorced need to make new wills and may need to sell their house and purchase another one. Purchasing a business may require the formation of a company, a partnership, or some other business structure.
Enabling the practitioner to fully assist the client with all of their needs was met by the development of the By Lawyers system of integrating research commentary where needed amongst the precedents with outgoing links to legislation and case law if required. This system allows even the rustiest practitioner to successfully and compliantly navigate a less familiar area of law and retain the client
Every day By Lawyers reviews the currency of their commentaries and precedents and through a system of Alerts draws the practitioner’s attention to imminent upcoming changes in law and practice. This obviates the need for practices themselves to stay abreast of ever-changing law and practice.
By Lawyers guides are only available as a companion product to LEAP Legal Software and are perfect for those working from home or in the office. For more information visit leap.co.uk/bylawyers.