Why Does A Lean Law Practice Matter? - How to Start a Law Firm

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Why Does A Lean Practice Matter?

By: Gary Allen

This is part of a series – read more 

Chapter 2

Creating a lean law firm is not just about saving money. It’s about ideals like quality of life and justice for all. It’s about making legal services more affordable at the same time as creating more cash flow. Yes, they are compatible. If you know why you’re creating a lean law firm, you’ll be more apt to follow through on the steps

Lean Fundamentals?

Now that we understand what exactly a lean law firm is, we can delve into why it’s important to get there.

Think about: Why do I want to have a lean law firm?

  • Happiness
  • Extra Time
  • IT Security
  • Lower Overhead
  • Improved Cash Flow
  • Peace of Mind

For the end result of:

  • More focus on practicing law
  • Creating time in your life for serving your community
  • Better serving clients
  • Focus on your family / personal life
  • Less financial stress
  • More money in your pocket
  • More time for pro bono services

We have a client who used to have over $11,000 in overhead each month. He left his big law firm and now works with a partner and only $2,500 in monthly expenses. He no longer has a secretary, but since he upgraded his technology and his work habits, he no longer needs one. He is hardly a techie, by the way. He has more work than he can handle and more satisfaction with that work, knowing that his overhead is extremely low. By the way, he does pro bono work and contributes significantly to his community.

Long-term survival

Corporate legal budgets are being slashed. Legal questions can be answered with a Google search or through companies like Legal Zoom. Automated legal services are the future of the business. People will still need lawyers, but not as much.

Will you be on the front end of automating or will you throw in the towel after years of pretending it’s not on the horizon? What are you going to do about the falling demand for legal services?

For small law practices to survive, they need to think about the following practices and how to employ then: (As we expand this series, we’ll have articles on these specific ideas. Please check back.)

  • How to offer more fixed fee services
  • How to outsource litigation support and transactional due diligence
  • How to become a customized version of Rocket Lawyer

Not just for the sake of efficiency, but also ethics

Every week, we hear about a new set of law firm breaches – the most egregious being the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers. At LeanLaw, while we believe that if a hacker wants to break through your security, they will be able to do it eventually. But the real issue that you must care for is this: have you done everything you can to keep your security up to date? This is not for you to figure out on your own, but rather, have an expert employ best practices for your law firm security so that if you are hacked, you have a reasonable story to tell your clients. Mossack Fonseca, the law firm behind the Panama Papers had not updated their security in years.

  • ABA Model Rules Regarding Technology
  • Rule 1.1 – Competence
  • Rule 1.6 – Confidentiality
  • Rule 5.3 – Supervision of Non-lawyers

Bottom Line: Data security is your ethical responsibility to your clients. Law firms must make reasonable efforts to secure client data. The good news is that it will also make your small law firm more productive and even save you money in the long run. Three birds, one stone. Go do it.

Next, who?

Who is a Lean Lawyer? Is that you? Could it be you? For sure.

Many Lawyers think that in order to manage automation and data in the cloud, one must be an IT expert. This is not so.

You can do it, with a little help: you may think that automation and technology are beyond your understanding. Perhaps you think you are too old or just not the kind of person who can deal with the cloud, technology, RAM and more. To believe that is a choice.

LeanLaw knows that passing the bar is much more technical and complex than setting up a lean law firm and that much less capable people that ANYONE who padded the bar can learn to use this technology. Like you.

A lean lawyer is someone who appreciates the return – more free time, reduced overhead – on practicing lean. You don’t have to understand how the technology works, you just need it to work.

Hire a local expert to help you set up your firm this way. Whatever you pay this person will pay dividends if you’re set up correctly.

This is a team effort.

Your entire staff has to buy into the effort to transition into a lean law firm: it needs to be a multi-directional conversation. If you include all the stakeholders (partners, paralegals, assistants), it will become part of your law firm’s culture, and a piece of empowerment for everyone who works there.

With a leader

By assigning a leader to the lean mission and empowering the group to do it, you create an appreciation from the staff that you’re willing to change, too. A new process is imperative, and this is where you can challenge your team.

By the way, the leader does not have to be a partner or even a lawyer – just a detail oriented person who is motivated by success. Good ideas can come from anywhere. If you enable people, it becomes an empowerment and allows them to get excited and own it. A lean team will help facilitate culture and the macro behavior change that’s going to be central to success.

And if you’re a solo, get a trusted tech partner.

80/20 Rule

There’s always that one partner that won’t change. What do you do about him? One attorney who has a lot of voice, he is in his 60s and says things like, “there is absolutely no way am I going to change my process.” Know this guy?

Create a one-off for that person. Don’t hold back the whole firm back: Twenty percent of the room is going to be inefficient but 80% can be much more efficient.

Bad technology and legacy workflows demoralize people. Doing grunt work when you know there are good tools to manage it can zap your staff of energy. Let the minority stay with their legacy technologies.