There are approximately 1.3 million attorneys licensed in the US. Many of them work for law firms, government entities, or legal departments. A smaller percentage operate one-person practices or small partnerships.
Yet, regardless of where they work, almost every lawyer must contend at some level with the demands of law office management. More than almost any other profession, the law runs on paperwork.
Without good office management, law firms and legal departments would collapse beneath all of the disorder. If you’re starting a practice of your own, keep reading for some key tips on staying organized.
Devise a Filing System
If you join an established firm, you must learn their existing system for organizing legal files. With any luck, they’ll have a procedure manual that you can reference to keep you on track.
If you open your own practice, you need your own legal filing system that makes sense to you. Remember, it’s not just the hard copies you must keep organized.
You need a system to keep the digital files organized. Beyond that, the system needs a way of cross-referencing digital files with physical files. Give this some serious thought because you’ll likely end up dealing with thousands and thousands of digital and physical files over the years. You need a system that can accommodate the volume of files.
Look for ways to use technology to limit the amount of paper you must keep on-site or in secure storage. Billing software, for example, can often generate and send digital versions of your bills. Some can even accept and track payments.
While you must keep billing records, keeping them purely digital and backing them up saves a lot of space and headaches.
Keep the Right Supplies on Hand
Yes, you will have paper files. That will prove a lot easier on you and anyone you eventually hire if you keep the proper office supplies on hand. Think in terms of things like:
- File folders
- Tab dividers
- Exhibit labels
If nothing else, supplying the appropriate tools for the appropriate jobs improves efficiency. Not sure exactly what you need? You can see some examples if you view here.
Write a Procedure Manual
If you do launch a practice of your own, write a procedure manual that details your organizational system. While you might not picture hiring anyone else, you may one day.
That manual will help them navigate your existing files. Just as importantly, they’ll know how to create files that you can find.
Effective Law Office Management
In many ways, effective law office management is all about imposing an organizational system on the endless files and documents that will stream through your hands over the years. If you join a firm, you just learn theirs.
If you open your own practice, though, it’s all on you to develop a legal file organization system. Remember, this is a system that someone else may need to understand one day. So, write a procedure manual to explain it.
Looking for more tips on good legal office management? Check out the posts over in our Business and Law section.