[Infographic] – Tips for effective case management
A lawyer on average manages 20-30 cases. Whether these cases are fully managed by lawyers or partially by paralegals, finding ways to be efficient, organised and precise are paramount. After all, managing cases effectively has a direct impact on their outcomes – which impact your ability to retain and attract clients. Having all these in mind, here is a detailed list of 9 invaluable tips with a full infographic at the end, to help you become a case management pro and deliver the best client service.
Tip #1: Organise your case files
As soon as you have a new client or a new case for an existing client, the first order of business is to organise the (physical and electronic) case file. To make things easier, you can use an intake form at the first meeting itself to gather the required information and use it to create the case file. When you start organising cases files right at the start, you can immediately see what is missing or needs updating, saving you time and your client money in legal advice and trial preparation, in case the case goes into trial. What’s more, using a common system ensures that cases are always filed the same way, making it easy for anyone in the firm with access to find information, even if they have not looked at that case file recently.
Tip #2: Maintain a customisable checklist
Working on a case requires carrying out many, and often, repetitive tasks. This means you have a long list of things to do and keeping all of them in mind is not easy, especially if you are working on multiple cases, simultaneously. You can make sure not to skip any task by having a checklist for each case. This checklist should ideally include all the steps to follow and should be used to track workflow progress of the case. This way you are aware of where you are and what you need to do. You can create a checklist with all the administrative tasks which are common across cases, and then customise it to suit the individual cases you work on. Maintaining a checklist, helps you track the status of the case so that at any time you can know where you are and what more to do.
Tip #3: Prioritise your tasks by case
When you have a long list of tasks for each case and many such cases to manage, it is important to prioritise tasks according to their importance and urgency so that you give attention to the right case at the right time. Most tasks are linked and need coordination. For an instance, for a case that will go to trial, a paralegal must gather information from witness reports on a certain date to give them to the lawyer on another date. By taking into account how tasks are linked, you can make sure tasks are completed in due time by the responsible people. Prioritising tasks helps you stay on top of key dates and never miss a deadline.
Tip #4: Assign and schedule tasks
To ensure nothing slips through the crack, tasks must be delegated to people with deadlines. Moreover, It is important to track deadlines at different levels of the firm. If a paralegal has to execute a task under the supervision of a lawyer, this task has to be scheduled (one action followed by the other) and assigned to the paralegal (to execute the task) and the lawyer (to review). By delegating and scheduling tasks and monitoring the time taken to complete them, you can improve efficiency and better estimate the time needed for the future cases.
Tip #5: Follow up on tasks
Working on a case includes a chain of events that involves reviews and back to back actions. After carrying out a task initially, you need to have a system to follow up with other parties (emails, phone calls etc) until tasks are complete. This means you need to speed up the communication process while making sure the processes in place are effective. This requires standardising communication flows throughout case management. For an instance, if you send an email asking a person to carry out a task by a certain date, booking this task as a reminder in your agenda can help you stay on top of things. Moreover, you should have tools to automatically save information you gather from face-to-face meetings, phone calls and emails must be stored in the cases they belong to.
Tip #6: Use templates for routine correspondence
No matter how many cases you work on at once, there are many routine tasks that are common to all. For an example, entering contact data must be automatic as it is a routine task for every case registered. Whether you are writing to clients, or you need to communicate court dates or send instructions on how to file a motion, once you’ve done it the first time, save it as a template so you can re-use it again when needed. Using email and document templates help you customise and use over again. This helps you save time to utilise for high value work.
Tip 7: Create a process for sharing documents securely
When working on cases, you have to correspond with other parties for feedback and approval and deal with sensitive information. You need to have processes in place to share documents securely with other parties including clients, third parties and/or other law firms. These processes must also allow you to track comments in real-time, speed up approval times, and even collect digital signatures, so that you save time on negotiations.
Tip #8: Move to the cloud
Using cloud-based practice management software can enable you have all your case information close at hand, even when you are outside the office. For instance, when a case goes to trial, the stakes are high. It is important to have access to information like the pre-trial memorandum, trial exhibit lists or contact information of witness lists, anywhere, anytime- whether you access it from a laptop or your mobile phone. When your cases are on the cloud, you can be the best lawyer you can be.
Tip #9: Conduct after-action interview
Conducting client interview after the case is done not only helps you gauge client satisfaction but can also highlight areas you (and the firm) need to improve. You may even be surprised to receive feedback from a client you were convinced was satisfied. By collecting client feedback, you can also learn to communicate expectations with your clients better. These reviews lead to greater efficiency and higher client satisfaction while helping you improve client intake.
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The way you manage your cases directly influences their outcome which in turn will impact the client-base, profitability and longevity of your law firm. Therefore, in order to grow a successful law firm, it is crucial to improve case management by adopting time and cost saving practices.
Struggling to manage your demanding caseload while keeping everything organised, attending to requests on time and keeping clients happy? Our Case Management Essentials Checklist is created to help lawyers and paralegals identify areas of improvement in file management, client service, time management and security processes so that they can recognise how adopting the right tools results in saved time, increased productivity and performance. Download it today!