A new month, new year, a new decade – a fresh start and endless possibilities. New Year’s resolutions and beginning-of-the-year goals put a pep in early-January steps. But how do you keep the momentum going, to avoid reverting back into old habits? It’s easier to implement change if those around you are supportive. Better yet, inspire those around you to also embrace positive change. Let’s take a look at three ways to start off 2020 by taking steps to transform your law office into an impactful and impressive force within the community.
Organize the Office
Even those who aren’t neat freaks can appreciate a clean environment. For many employees, a disheveled or unkempt environment fosters anxiety and a decrease in productivity. Also, what is the client experience if they walk into your office and see stacks of paper or boxes? The message is that you are unorganized. The client might think that you miss deadlines or simply don’t know how to run a business. It isn’t hard to see that a messy work space can be a detractor for both employees and clients. So how to you rectify this?
The first step would be to purge what you don’t need or what isn’t working for you. Go through all the clutter and keep what is important, store what you need to, and let go of the rest. The less things to keep clean, the better. Ensure client documents are stored out of sight, to ensure client confidentiality. Find out what your local bar rules are for the length of time you must keep any paper client files after the case is finished. Store these files out of sight of the public. If you don’t have an appropriate space within your office, could you find another location for these files? Can they be kept digitally?
After you purge and reset, define workspaces. This entails thinking about the activities that happen in each area of your office. Place appropriate supplies and equipment in each area to set it up for success. Maybe you need to revise your filing system. Maybe it’s time to go paperless.
Once you have organized your physical office, organize your digital office. Make sure each employee has access to the hardware and software they need to be successful in their role. Remove employees who have left the company from rosters and admin access. Make sure digital client files are organized. If the file is closed, maybe it should be kept in a different digital location than open files. That way, you can quickly see how many open files you have at any given time. Many practitioners use client management software. Now is a good time to evaluate if yours is working for you, if staff needs further training to utilize advanced features, or if it is time to switch providers. If you don’t have a system in place to keep up the organization of your digital office, make one now and assign someone to this responsibility.
Make your employees actually want to work there
We’ve all had jobs we’ve loved and jobs that we’ve absolutely hated. Foster an environment where your employees with think the former about your firm. How do you do that? A first step would be to take stock in your employees and see who is happy and meeting goals in their position. If there is a bad apple in the bunch, someone with a bad attitude who isn’t happy or exceling in their position, might it be time for them to move on? Once you have a solid team on the roster, treat them well. Pay them what they are worth, don’t overwork them, and communicate to them that you appreciate their efforts.
One way you can decrease work anxiety of your employees is to be efficient. Waiting until the last minute to meet deadlines can be very stressful. If you have known about that deadline for weeks, why wait until the last minute? Keep things flowing smoothly by meeting deadlines early. Also, have roles defined well. Who is responsible for each task that needs to be done? Do they have a protocol or process to follow? How will you know that the task has been done? Is there a mechanism for feedback on protocols and procedures?
Another way to foster employee satisfaction is to give them the tools and training they need to be successful. Many employees want to grow and learn beyond the scope of their current position. You can introduce new techniques and concepts by mentoring an employee. If they haven’t handled an appeal before, introduce them to such a case and walk them through the process. If the new associate hasn’t handled an elder law case yet, but has a desire to do so, mentor them through a proactive planning case to get them started. For the non-attorney staff in your firm, invest in the Elder Law Immersion Camp for Non-Attorneys, where attendees will learn about the various trusts offered in ElderDocx, engage in proactive and crisis planning case studies, and learn how to draft a Medicaid Asset Protection Letter and Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. Not only will your staff become more knowledgeable and effective for you, they will appreciate that you have invested in their education.
Focus on client satisfaction
Satisfied clients will elevate your firm – they will refer other clients to you, they will treat your employees well, and they will also give a good report to potential referral sources. How can you increase client satisfaction?
One way to increase client satisfaction is to be transparent with them regarding fees. Go beyond the black and white of the retainer agreement and really explain the costs to the client. Even better, give them any tips on how to reduce their overall cost with your firm.
If you are able to do so, be willing to meet with clients in unconventional ways. If they are homebound, offer to meet them in their home. Be willing to meet on a Saturday morning or before working hours on a weekday. If you and your client embrace technology, you can even meet via video conferencing. Being flexible with your time tells clients that you value them and are understanding of their schedule as well.
Ask clients what you can do better to make their experience better. Most clients wouldn’t complain unless there was something terribly wrong. But if you proactively ask them for their opinion, you give them a platform to give you tips from their perspective and it doesn’t come across as complaining. If you want the best results, you may want to make the feedback anonymous. Getting this valuable constructive criticism can help you improve your processes and enhance the experience for future clients. The client can also tell you what they really liked about their experience – and you can use this information to know where your firm’s strengths are and reward employees for their good work.
2020 can be a year of growth for your firm. It is important to proactively think about how your firm can be better and set goals to reach those objectives. On your to-do list should be objectives about how to get more organized, how to increase employee satisfaction, and how to elevate your client experience. Once you have your intentions in mind, make a plan on how to achieve those intentions and put that plan into action.
Elder Law Immersion Camp for Non-Attorneys