Law Firm Workflow Management 101: What It is and Why You Need It

No matter the size or age of your law firm, you and your team have a lot to handle. From client communication to admin to time tracking, it’s easy for tasks to fall through the cracks. Over time, these missed steps can add up, causing stress and inefficiency, and—even worse—negatively impact client interactions. This is where law firm workflow management comes to the rescue.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of workflow, don’t worry. Here, we demystify what “workflow” means when it comes to practice management, along with six ways that legal workflow software can significantly improve your firm’s internal processes, save time, and ultimately result in happier clients.

What is Workflow Management?

The term “workflow” describes how a process or series of processes interplay to trigger next steps and tasks. Simply put, workflow is the way work happens at your law firm, including all the steps from start to finish. And whether you have consciously designed it or not, how your firm manages matters is essentially your current workflow. You have a system (however organic) which your team follows to decide who does what, when documents get created, which templates are used, and at which points progress gets communicated with clients.

However, just because your law firm has a workflow, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually efficient or effective. Your current workflow might have bottlenecks where communication tends to fall apart, or there might be some steps missing that could help the process move along much more smoothly. “Workflow management” is how you find and rectify those issues. It’s the process of identifying, optimizing, and automating the steps you need to ultimately produce an overall better outcome for your firm and your clients.

What is Legal Workflow Automation?

Legal workflow automation utilizes technology to establish a series of law firm tasks that can run independently of manual intervention, freeing up time and reducing human error. The software you choose for automating your workflow should adapt to your firm, meaning that you should be able to customize the steps and activities and bake them into your system.

When a law firm adopts configurable practice management software, the first step is to map out the steps of the “ideal” processes for different matter types. These mapped steps are used to build systematized, automated workflows into the software. With the right technology, each matter type can have a specific workflow that guides staff through a series of steps. At each step, the workflow automates certain actions, tasks, and notifications, such as automated email updates, document creation from templates, or prompts to users/clients to enter required data at specific milestones.

Benefits of Workflow Management Software for Law Firms

Here are some of the top benefits of a practice management software that both supports and improves your law firm’s workflow.

1. Frees Up Your Team from Admin Tasks

Law firms often spend too much time and resources on the administration of a matter or case, rather than the work itself. In fact, a recent study found that workers waste more than 40% of their day on manual admin processes, such as data entry. By automating these repetitive or redundant tasks in your firm’s workflow, your team is freed up to focus on more meaningful, productive, and profitable work.

2. Creates Consistency

As any business grows, it’s vital to establish standardized, formal processes in order to keep track of them. Workflow management first helps you document your firm’s processes to ensure that they don’t live only in one staff member’s brain. These formal processes can be trained and adopted across your entire staff and any new hires who join. Workflow automation doubles down on the consistency—it won’t skip a step, break a rule, or copy down a name incorrectly.

3. Increases Transparency and Control

Workflow management gives you a much clearer understanding of your processes and systems. Workflow automation software roots out all tasks, big and small, from the shadows and gives you much more control over access to data across your staff. Your team also has a better understanding of their individual roles and what they are expected to do.

4. Reduces Errors

While it’s impossible to eliminate errors entirely, workflow automation can help you proactively prevent most errors from happening in the first place because it creates a single source of truth for data. For example, document automation tools can pull live data from your matters and directly into preconfigured document templates with just one click, eliminating the need to re-enter data multiple times and create opportunities for typos.

Legal workflow automation software also makes it much easier to pinpoint where mistakes began when they do occur. And when you know where an error originates, you can also adjust your process to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

5. Enhances Collaboration and Connectivity

No matter their role, employees feel empowered when they have a clear sense of how to accomplish their work successfully. Workflow management gives everyone on your team a structure to follow and alleviates confusion about the who, what, where, when, and how of your processes. Rather than multiple tools, emails, chats, and project boards, your team can collaborate in one organized workflow system.

6. Improves Client Experience

Client experience is made up of hundreds of touchpoints that all intersect with your firm’s workflow. Beginning with the first response a client receives after submitting an inquiry, the challenge is in how your team keeps up with expectations for each of these touchpoints.

A well-designed and automated workflow connects all the aspects of your firm’s client activity – client intake, conflict check, matter set up, matter management, client data capture, document production, file storage, communications, time tracking, billing, and accounting. Making sure these processes work together so that the client experience feels seamless and organized is the difference between frustrated clients and consistently great experiences.

Make Your Workflow Work for You

Workflow management and automation elevate the productivity and quality of work produced by your firm – creating consistency and improvements in the timeliness of matter progression and in overall client care. Ready to find out how Actionstep can help you streamline your firm’s workflow to reach your goals faster? Talk to our team today to find out how we can help.

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Written by The Actionstep Team