Three Challenges Faced by Small Law Firms Today
Running a small law firm in today’s competitive legal market is no simple task. Most firms face similar challenges regardless of their areas of practice. Firms often experiment and try different techniques or tools to address three of the most common challenges every law firm faces:
- Increasing revenue
- Improving productivity and efficiency
- Controlling costs
So, how do you address these issues? The key is to work smarter, not harder, and one important tool that allows you to do this is document assembly.
Increasing revenue depends on both finding and retaining clients. Once you have hard-won clients, it’s essential to provide them with the best service possible. So, how can you use document assembly to increase revenue? First, automated forms from publishers allow you to broaden the services you provide to your clients. Professionally made templates allow you to tap into the legal expertise of publishers that have worked hard to provide you with a broad range of legal documents and forms that make it possible to tap into practice areas such as estate planning, business formations, elder law, or family law. Having a broader range of services allows you to reach a much larger customer base. Without automated forms, firms may be confined to a narrower set of services.
Second, document assembly enables you to provide enhanced services to your existing customer base. For example, you can provide client-facing forms on your website or via email. These online methods make it easier for your clients to provide essential information in a convenient and flexible way. Once your client’s information is gathered, it can be synced with your practice management system and automatically generate first drafts or even finalized documentation that meets your clients’ needs. You spend less time on routine data collection and document drafting, freeing up your time for more complex client work.
Third, document assembly tools make it easier to provide free services that help attract new clients. An example that illustrates this comes from one of our customers that provides free business startup forms through its website. New business startups can input data through a web form, which then automatically generates the appropriate business documents. Very little time is needed by the law firm’s staff to then review the documents. The firm’s cost is practically nothing, yet the value to the business startups is high.
Improving Productivity and Efficiency
No matter which practice areas you focus on, your firm almost certainly generates legal documents nearly every day. Whether you produce lengthy and complex contracts or short and simple documents, your firm can benefit from document assembly. This technology helps to drastically reduce the time required to draft, review, and finalize legal documentation. Whether you use your own internally designed templates or you subscribe to fully automated form sets from legal publishers, document assembly can help you to be more productive.
For nearly three decades, document assembly has been used within the legal industry. It’s a proven technology that enables legal professionals to quickly generate error-free documents in the most efficient way possible. It’s common to hear of attorneys reducing their document production time from days or hours down to mere minutes. Yet, even though the time is reduced, the quality doesn’t suffer. In fact, the overall document quality increases with the use of document assembly.
Document assembly can be integrated with practice management and document management systems to help firms be even more productive. This creates a very efficient workflow. It also helps reduce the pain that comes from staff turnover. Document assembly forms capture the expertise and language needed for your legal documents and make it possible for new hires to immediately achieve productivity while generating error-free legal documents as efficiently and accurately as experienced staff.
Controlling costs is another big challenge for small law firms and the ability to reduce costs is essential when achieving profitability. The legal industry has changed dramatically in recent years and clients are putting pressure on firms to move to Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs) to reduce billing hours and costs. So, how do you cut costs and even pass those savings on to your clients, while still maintaining profitability? Document assembly is ideally suited to address this challenge. Law firms that use document assembly can dramatically reduce the time and costs involved in generating legal documentation for clients. When a fixed-fee service is offered, the only way to make it more profitable is to reduce time spent on routine work. Document assembly allows you to do this. Firms that incorporate document assembly drastically reduce the time and effort needed to create high-quality legal documents and the benefits are significant.
Document assembly technology is the key for small law firms when overcoming challenges like increasing revenue, improving productivity, and controlling costs. To see a very practical application of document assembly within a small law firm, read this shortcase studyabout H. Edwin Detlie, an attorney with two small offices in Iowa. He has incorporated both fully automated templates from legal publishers as well as his own internally designed forms to run a successful legal practice.