Automating Law Practice: 7 SOPs and processes to automate your solo law firm and boost productivity? | TimeSolv

Automating Law Practice: 7 SOPs and processes to automate your solo law firm and boost productivity?

Written by Erika Winston

10 min read

Note: This post has been updated on 25th of November, if you are a returning reader use this link to jump on the extension of the post.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) form the foundation for every successful business. These established processes prevent errors, promote efficiency, and provide employees with clear direction about where to go and how to get there.

Your solo law firm should be no exception. Your practice is also a business and SOPS are essential to making it successful and lasting. Without standard processes, your firm may suffer from the consequences of inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and inefficiencies.

I know that creating policies and procedures may seem extremely time consuming, but it is absolutely worth it in the end. Not only will you have SOPs for current and future staff members, you will also have procedures in place should you later decide to expand your solo practice or pass it along to the next generation. SOPs minimize risk, while also allowing you to proactively prepare for the future.

The following are seven SOPs you can use to automate your solo law firm and boost productivity within your legal practice:

File set-up

It can be extremely time-consuming to set up a new file, especially if you choose to reinvent the wheel every single time. Sit down and write out each step of this task. Think of it as creating a checklist that you or support staff can follow each time a new file is opened. Think about such details as:

  • What forms need to be included in the file
  • Inclusion of the engagement agreement
  • What data is needed from the client
  • Contact information for parties involved with the case
  • Conflict checks to be done
  • Initial calendaring of scheduled dates

By taking the time to document the procedures for opening a file, you can easily delegate this task, whether you are contracting with a temporary admin or bringing on another attorney.

Retainer acceptance

I don’t have to tell you how important it is to manage your trust accounts correctly. Form the initial acceptance of the retainer to closing out the account, mismanagement of these sensitive accounts can have serious consequences. By creating an SOP, you can essentially give yourself a back-up plan to promote proper management at all times.

Just like with the file opening process, why not develop a checklist that you can utilize for each trust account client. Think about the proper methods for:

  • Depositing funds
  • Reconciling the account
  • Paying your fees from the account
  • Making any other necessary withdrawals from the account
  • Closing the trust account

This is an SOP that will not only save you time and boost productivity but could also save your firm from the costs of trust account mismanagement.

Invoicing

Invoicing is the instrument for getting your law firm paid, but many lawyers find this process time consuming and cumbersome. And as a solo practitioner, you may feel the pain of invoicing even more so than your larger counterparts. By creating an invoicing SOP, you can identify what invoicing process best works for your firm and duplicate it every single time you sit down to create invoices.

TimeSolv legal time tracking and billing software can be extremely useful in creating this process. They know that every minute you spend creating invoices is one less minute spent on billable tasks. They have developed a process to get your bills out faster. From flexible templates to LEDES billing and automatic tax calculations, you can create an SOP that promotes billing productivity.

Monthly reporting

Monthly reporting is an important part of successfully running and growing legal practice. You need to check the health of your firm on a regular basis so you can make necessary adjustments. A monthly reporting SOP will provide you with a reminder to regularly run the reports you need for your firm’s success.

With capabilities to run 31 different reports in 10 formats, TimeSolv offers the tools you need to complete monthly reporting. Include the software in your SOP, so you can efficiently stay on top of your firm’s performance with loads of valuable information right at your fingertips.

Closing a file

The procedures for closing out a file are just as important as the processes for opening them. Failing to properly close a file can leave you and your clients with unresolved questions and issues. This SOP can also include a checklist for inclusion in each client file. Your list may include tasks like:

  • Returning original documents to the client
  • Sending clients notification of matter closing
  • Advising clients of any next steps they need to take
  • Asking clients to complete satisfaction surveys
  • Asking for referrals
  • Sending final invoices
  • Noting the amount of time required to store the file

By creating a checklist for file closings, you can promote compliance in the process and take one less worry off of your plate.

Security procedures

Cybersecurity is a major concern for solo law practices. You have extremely valuable data to protect, so you need to put processes into place to promote security procedures. Your greatest tool in the war against cyber attacks is you (and your staff if you have any). The steps you take each and every day can mean the difference between a safe law firm environment and an atmosphere that invites cyberattacks. Here are some considerations for your cybersecurity SOPs:

  • Strong passwords
  • Changing passwords on a regular basis
  • Scheduled computer and software updates
  • Use of cloud-based services, like TimeSolv
  • Securing physical areas of the office
  • Deleting suspicious emails

As an attorney, you have a duty to keep client data secure. Cybersecurity SOPs can help you effectively meet this responsibility.

A little time spent now to create SOPs can save you a lot of time and trouble later. Don’t let the fact that you’re a solo practitioner keep you from running your law firm like a business – and successful businesses utilize SOPs.

Updated on November 25

The foundation of a successful business requires Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These processes assist with the prevention of errors, while promoting efficiency and providing clear direction for employees. Solo law practices should be no exception. These firms risk falling victim to inconsistencies, inefficiencies, and unforeseeable mistakes without standardized processes in place.

Although creating policies and procedures can take time, the effort is worth it in the end. Establishing an effective SOP for current employees also establishes a blueprint for future staff. If you later decide to expand your solo practice, guidelines are already in place to successfully guide the firm’s growth. SOPs minimize risk, so you can confidently and vigorously prepare for the future.

The following are seven SOPs you can use to automate your solo law firm and boost productivity within your legal practice:

#1 Setting Up Client Files

An SOP for setting up client files can save a lot of time and frustration. Outline each necessary step so you can create a checklist to guide the process. When outlining your list, think about the following:

  • What forms are relevant to this specific file
  • Inclusion of the engagement agreement
  • Necessary client contact information and data
  • Contact information for other parties involved with the case
  • Conflict checks
  • Calendaring of scheduled dates

Having these documented procedures in place will make it easier to delegate this task as new matters are added.

#2 Retainer Acceptance

The mismanagement of a sensitive trust account can have serious consequences. From the initial acceptance of the retainer down to the maintenance and closing out of the account, correct procedures must be followed. Creating an SOP gives you the safety net of a straightforward plan that promotes proper management of retainers and trust accounts at all times.

Consider creating a checklist that includes the proper methods for:  

  • Depositing funds
  • Reconciling the account
  • Paying firm invoices from the account
  • Making any other necessary withdrawals from the account
  • Closing the trust account

A retainer account SOP saves time and boosts productivity, while also saving the firm from potential mismanagement risks.

#3 Invoicing

To put it simply, invoicing is how your law firm gets paid, but the process itself can be tedious and time consuming. Solo practitioners can often feel the burden of invoicing even more so than their larger counterparts. Taking the time out to create an SOP specific to the invoicing process can help identify which processes prove most effective for your firm. Creating an SOP also ensures the right processes can be duplicated for every invoicing cycle.  

TimeSolv legal time tracking and billing system can be extremely useful when creating an SOP. They understand that the less time you spend on invoicing, the more time you have to spend on tasks qualified as billable hours. Their process uses a combination of LEDES billing, flexible billing options, tax calculations, and other features to get bills out faster and clients paying faster.

#4 Monthly Reporting

In order to successfully run and grow your legal practice you have to establish monthly reporting. By checking the health of your firm on a regular basis, you create room to make the necessary adjustments within the firm. A monthly reporting SOP provides a reminder to regularly run the reports you need for your firm’s success.

With the capabilities to run 31 different reports in 10 formats, the tools that you need to complete monthly reporting are included with TimeSolv. As part of your established SOP, TimeSolv helps you easily stay on top of your firm’s performance with loads of valuable information right at your fingertips.

#5 Closing a File

The procedures for closing out a file are equally as important as the opening procedures. Clients and employees alike can be left with unanswered questions and unresolved issues if the files are not properly settled. Create a checklist that includes the following:

  • Returning all original documents to the client
  • Sending clients notification of matter closing
  • Advising clients of any next steps they need to take
  • Asking clients to complete satisfactions surveys
  • Asking for referrals
  • Sending the final invoices

Having a plan of action for closing out a client matter not only helps you stay in compliance but takes a huge weight off your shoulders.

#6 Security Procedures

Solo practices have to be diligent about cybersecurity. There’s a lot of valuable and private data to be protected. Putting processes in place to promote security procedures helps solo attorneys meet their ethical duties. Remember that your greatest tools in the war against cybersecurity are you and your staff.

The plan of action you choose to take can make the difference between a safe law firm environment and a potential breeding grounded for cyber-attacks. It is your duty as an attorney to keep all client data private and you can successfully meet this responsibility with a comprehensive cybersecurity SOP.

#7 Virtual Work Procedures

COVID-19 showcased the importance of having an SOP for virtual work arrangements. Solo firms operating without an SOP were forced to come up with processes and rules as they went along, which proved extremely difficult in the midst of many uncertainties and changes.

When creating a virtual work arrangement SOP, law firm leaders should consider the following: 

  • Security requirements
  • Communication expectations
  • Work hours
  • Client confidentiality procedures

Take the Time to Streamline your Law Practice with SOPs

By taking a little time to create comprehensive SOPs, solo attorneys can save a lot of time and trouble down the line. To be successful, even a solo law firm needs to operate like a business – and successful businesses utilize SOPs.

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