Defeating The Hidden Threat of Siloed Information Through Efficient Information Sharing
In any office setting, the use of disparate data storage and retrieval systems can cause chaos and inefficiency. Nowhere is this more evident than among attorneys in legal offices, where the importance of accessing needed documents and records on the fly— and having them ready at hand when needed— is paramount. Losing track of one’s data in a legal setting has serious consequences, resulting in wasted time, inefficient use of billing hours, and— potentially— lost cases.
The Perils of Fragmentation: “Little Bits of Data Here and There”
IT pros refer to the widespread storage of data in multiple archives with different retrieval platforms as “resource fragmentation.” Such fragmentation is the enemy of efficiency.
What is fragmentation, and how does it happen? Fragmentation occurs when unconnected systems haphazardly create, manage, store, and retrieve data. Files, documents, email chains, and digital memoranda get stored as little bits of data over here and little bits of data over there, with no central archive or standardized procedure to catalog and retrieve them. This dooms you to sift endlessly through vast piles of confusing (often conflicting) info from various sources, trying to decode and interpret it correctly.
Example: You might spend 4 hours editing a document only to find out that another attorney has been working on their own version of the same document, each copy retrieved from a different storage location. You must then spend another 2 hours reconciling the changes and harmonizing the two sources before the updated document is ready to use.
The inability to easily track versions of source information can cause missed deadlines, consolidation errors, and decreased productivity, resulting in extra work and a redundant waste of time and money.
These problems are magnified in larger firms with more complex cases and larger pools of specialized lawyers and staff.
Solving the Problem: Creating Efficiency From Chaos
Efficiency is created when the office staff can operate with the confidence of knowing that your centralized data storage filing system and archive is a finite resource: the “end all, be all.” That means it can be reliably searched, and there are no hidden offshoots, alternate versions, or unseen archives of variant data. The main info hub is not just a center of data, it’s the ONLY place where data lives. If a file or document isn’t here, then it doesn’t exist.
That eliminates wasted time sifting through scattered storage! It also means no more fruitless hunting sessions for information that “you just know has to be there” based on the employee’s memory.
Reliable Organization = Speed and Accuracy = Money Saved
In 2023, the average billable hour rate for US legal firms is roughly $300/hr. Can you imagine how much time and value can be saved for every minute of staff time NOT wasted digging around for hard-to-find documents across a confusing mish-mash of repositories?
Items that benefit most by centralization in a common info storage location include:
Documents: Claims, Facts/Issues, court proceedings, etc.
The industry is well aware of the need for better ways to process legal data resources: A recent survey of upcoming law students revealed that 52 percent are already making use of new, streamlined document review technologies.
American office workers in knowledge fields spend up to 17 work hours each week just reading, processing, and collating emails. Any help in reducing this time sink through better communication storage is obviously a massive money saver.
Centralizing and standardizing client communication allows for more efficient collaboration between team staff, keeping all involved personnel up to date and in the loop on various cases and negotiations. Co-counsel, paralegals, and office admins easily gain the context required to perform their portion of the work to keep every project on task.
Additionally, centralized client communications elevate the client experience by allowing your firm to interact as a cohesive unit when communicating with clientele. Team members interfacing with clients will have all necessary context to make the client feel they are a central priority, not forced to relay the same info over and over to different people.
Pro-Tip: Consistency of communications is a HUGE mark of professionalism, one that separates “good” law firms from truly great ones.
Centralizing communication also ensures that if a lawyer leaves the firm, there will be minimal gap or delay in case activity while the replacement lawyer gets up to speed. Other team members will easily be able to pick up where the departing lawyer left off.
This also allows for better access and transfer of matter notes and case updates, enabling these resources to be edited and updated in real-time… to include and transmit additional context notes for internal usage.
Standard Operating Procedures: This is the Way
All firms naturally develop uniform methods of performing basic tasks. Creating and maintaining a centralized database of how-to instructions and step-by-step guides to company procedures and accepted practices, and keeping it accessible to all team members at all times, ensures repeatable consistency and increase professionalism… yet another way to improve the client experience.
Don’t just leave these hard-won procedures and best practices in your key stakeholders’ heads! What if they get hit by a bus? How will you ensure that your firm consistently implements the same processes company-wide?
Pro Tip: By creating approved-practices instructional documents in as many formats as possible to catering to various different information retention styles, you ensure your time-honored methodology is successfully transmitted to new team members to live on as part of your firm’s daily workflow.
These SOP documents can take many forms, including:
- Step-by-step written instructions
- (Services like Scribe automate the process of creating how-to instructionals by intuitively generating how-to documents in multiple formats)
- Workflow diagrams
- (Programs like Rewind.ai automate the process of creating workflow docs by automatically recording your mouse clicks and capturing screenshots of each step)
- Live video or screen captures
- (Applications like Screencastify can screen record and overlay contextual information on videos, such as arrows or callouts, to increase info delivery)
Pro-Tip: As this treasure trove of instructionals grows more comprehensive, archive it somewhere it can be accessed with a single hyperlink. This link can then be distributed as necessary, reducing staff burden when onboarding new employees.
There are many new tech solutions to enable the above processes, and their use is growing. A recent survey of 490 law firm practitioners revealed that 84 percent reported using legal technology to increase their organizational efficiency, with 77 percent additionally claiming that use of legal tech in their firms was increasing.
Very few firms operate with a single centralized calendar system, resulting in a huge waste of time (and billable hours).
Personal Tip – I talk with many legal firms, and I can’t tell you how many times the managing partner wants to bring in another firm member to our next meeting, but they have to “send emails back and forth between all of us just to get a calendar event scheduled.”
A fully integrated calendar system tracks the availability of team members and monitors their whereabouts, easily correlating meetings, court filing deadlines, and court dates. Reminders can be automated firm-wide, saving your team from any missed actions or forgotten follow-ups.
Centralized data management enables you to track actionable info directly from vendor and client contracts: contractual terms, out clauses, auto-renewal dates, expirations, scheduled price increases, etc.
All this data can be auto-extracted into spreadsheet form, and even set up to cross-edit included vendor and client contracts both ways, retroactively updating both the central database and relevant individual documents whenever the active spreadsheet is edited.
Pro-Tip (For corporate general counsel firms): Such an integrated system can provide extra value creation as well as improve the experience of your clients. For instance: use your contract tracking software to manage your client’s contracts for them as you do for yours, tracking the same metrics and updates for them.
Tracking major milestone events positions your firm to advise the client proactively, potentially creating additional business opportunities for the client.
This high-value solution solves a major problem for your client while greatly increasing their perception of the quality of your legal services, providing an additional reason to have a touch point with them. Any such client retention driver will result in stickier relationships = win/win.
Other statistics, data points, and metrics that can be tracked with such a system include invoices, bills, and billable time log entries, allowing improved central oversight across any number of vital systems.
A centralized client database, accessible to all, allows for easy and efficient conflict checks, as well as a more seamless delivery of collective legal services by your firm as a whole. Such a system will also encourage your attorneys to stop being so territorial, fostering a more cooperative team environment.
The system should be a centralized resource where all new client inquiries live. It should monitor new client leads and their current status, enabling users to track when the last client communication took place and providing automated reminders (based on select trigger events) to follow up with clients as soon as possible, to prevent potential client loss.
Research shows that law firms who follow up with new leads within 5 minutes of initial contact can triple their sales volume. Any time longer than 5 minutes results in an 80% decrease in lead qualification.
The ABA reports that 42% of law firms take more than 3 days to return a call. In such scenarios, many prospective clients will move on in their search for counsel. In fact, about 85% of new clients won’t bother calling back.
The first step in compiling useful and informative management reports is identifying what items and metrics are important to track.
You’ll gain more efficiency by automating your data collection processes. If you try to rely on a strictly manual retrieval process, chances are your efforts will lack the consistency for the collected data to be useful. Plus, odds are good that you have more important things to do than transcribing notes and cutting/pasting the data into documents (Remember: you’re a busy lawyer who wants to do more lawyering)
It’s also important that you centralize ALL of these items. Not just one. They work together to create “one source of truth”.
Integration, Compartmentalization, Information Salvation: How We Handle It
As a full-service IT solution for legal firms and professionals, Paragon Tech offers advanced diagnostic analysis to determine what data logjams and roadblocks exist in your organization, develops a strategy, and then executes that strategy so that your firm can eliminate fragmentation and deliver awe-inspiring client outcomes. This happens without your firm having to lift a finger. We do ALL of the lifting.
Schedule a call with us and let us eliminate your information silos!