Organizing Your Law Office for Effective Management
People who work in an organized office tend to be more efficient and productive than those that work in a messy office. Having good organizational systems in place helps you avoid clutter and confusion while increasing productivity. A lack of such organization could lead to less productive work days, frustration, and could expose your practice to a malpractice claim.
Think about it this way. If your office is not organized, then your staff is not as efficient. Since time is money, disorganization costs you money. You are paid for the legal work you do. You cannot charge customers for your lack of organization. When files are missing or documents are misplaced, you stand to lose money and time during the search or re-creation of files.
You also stand to lose clients because being disorganized could jeopardize their cases. Imagine losing an important, irreplaceable document or forgetting a deadline... These cannot only cost you your clients dearly, but put you at risk for malpractice suits.
Clean It Up
The first step in organization is the clean up stage. Here, you must get rid of the "garbage". Once things are clear, you can put a new plan in place. Here are some steps for cleaning up your office space:
Get rid of the clutter. Start with one section of the office and slowly work your way around to de-clutter little by little. Make sure nothing important gets thrown out during the removal process. Remove anything that makes the area look cluttered.
Determine whether to: keep, remove/discard, or store the items (many items may need to be destroyed due to confidentiality). Touch each item only once and make an immediate decision. Try not to over analyze whether or not to remove something.
Now that your office no longer has items that are not being used or needed, it is time to organize what is left.
If you have not already done so, you will need to create standard procedures for your office. To stay organized, each person in the firm will have to follow these rules. These may include such things as:
- How to open new client files
- How and when to order supplies
- How to close, archive and destroy client files
- Billing and written fee agreements
- Scheduling for new clients
- Scheduling for existing clients
- Preparing trial notebooks
- Engagement letters
- Disengagement or termination letters
- Non-engagement letters
Check with your current carrier to see if they have samples for your review or use.
4. Create a Filing System
Having a good filing system will keep your firm organized more than any other part of your plan. This system needs to be used throughout the firm so anyone, at any time, can find what they need. Be sure that your files are secured and that you have a way to protect confidentiality. Many firms find that color coding is a good way to know case status and/or case type.
5. Don't Forget Technology
Technology can help you to be better organized. For example, billing software can track billable hours better than keeping tabs on paper because it keeps up with exactly what has been done and by whom. There is also software to manage case files, documents, schedules, docket calenders and conflict checks. Using such technology will help everyone stay on the same page and improve communication. Other software to consider includes:
- File sharing
- Project management
- Paperless depositions
If you don't know how to use technology more effectively in your firm, contact a professional technology consultant to help.
Look at the Layout
It could be the layout of your firm is hindering organization. Your space needs to be functional so you can be organized and efficient.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you make changes to your space:
- Furniture needs to serve a purpose and be functional.
- Vertical storage units offer better storage space.
- Have both closed and open storage space. Some items need to have easy access while others need to be secure.
Consider creating your own office plan tailored to your needs. Ready-made plans may be "cheaper", but will not take into account your specific needs.
Be Personally Organized
In addition to having your office organized, you will need to be personally organized as well. Here are some tips to help that happen:
- Spend a little time each day to go through items on your desk. Determine priorities and sort files as needed.
- Create a daily "to-do" list that helps you remember things you need to do each day.
- Update your to-do list when new tasks come up.
- File every day. This will avoid an overflowing inbox and prevent you from having to search for paperwork or files that should be put away.
If things are disorganized, it may seem like an overwhelming task to get them back in shape. However, taking these simple steps will get you on the right track and allow your firm to be more efficient and productive. Small changes to your daily routine can dramatically improve upon the organization of your firm. Your firm is likely one of your biggest assets and largest revenue production source, so it is safe to say that it’s worth the extra time to keep it tidy.