Systems approach to practice management

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

When attorneys in transition decide to launch a new law firm, their best friends are business systems in marketing, management, technology and finance.  I offer these four focus areas based on experience in advising my own law firm clients and also as supported by the ABA Law Practice Management section, of which I am an active member.

Systems are a set of interacting and independent entities designed to work as a coherent entity.

A marketing system compiles and implements actions necessary to achieve one or more marketing and branding systems.  Marketing plans cover between one and five years and may be a part of an overall business plan.  Return on investment can be judged by human capital gains and goodwill generally.  One of my marketing systems includes a weekly calendar for new blog publication and distribution.

A management system is a framework of processes and procedures used by organizations to complete work and meet goals.  Management activities include staffing and human resource functions, balancing work and administrative balance, acting as firm representative in business settings.  One of my management systems includes a Microsoft Online SharePoint portal through which virtual interns can access documents and our agency calendar.

A technology system aggregates the plan for tools, techniques, and methods of organizing data electronically for the quicker transfer of information and increased work production.  Technology assessment and audits often bring light to new time and cost saving opportunities as technology continuously evolves to meet consumer demands.  One of my technology systems is a cloud e-mail and document archiving service to protect my documents from computer crashes.

A finance system wraps around accounting software used as a main application for processing accounting transactions including billing and accounts payable functions.  Whether drafting a law firm budget or hedging future settlement returns against current expenditures, systems for billing, accounts receivables, and future income should be transparent and memorialized.  One of my finance systems automatically transfers money from my payroll account, to my savings account, after first passing through my personal checking account where I receive payroll.

Your systems are works in progress that need frequent maintenance and updating.  Developing law firm systems to meet your individual needs is more appropriate than simply copying what others have done.  I have observed many different systems in client law firms.  Some are quite advanced and high-tech, while others are very simple and require little technology.

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