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Creating a System-Drive Law Firm…One Policy at a Time

Have you ever had a question that is brought up over and over again? You answer the same question, sometimes every week, and you wonder why your team keeps asking the same damn thing. When this happens, you need a policy.

A policy (a/k/a system) is a clear instruction from you to your team about how you want things done. The policy leaves nothing to the imagination and is reinforced with weekly meetings with your team. Once you have a system-driven law firm, the need to make decision and answer questions is reduced to only those issues that are unique and uncommon.

Implementing and Reinforcing Your Systems

Begin by creating one policy at a time and sit down with your team to discuss the policy at a weekly “Training Day”. Write one policy a week, share it with your team and get their feedback. Your policy might need work and if so, who better to tell you than your team.

Once you’ve created 5-10 policies for your law firm, organize them on a centralized database (Tettra is great for this!) Tettra helps you to transparently share, modify and manage your firm’s policies. When a team member needs to know how they are supposed to do something, refer them to your law firm’s office policies on Tettra.co.

Thank you to Connecticut injury lawyer, Ryan McKeen, Esq. and Colorado family law attorney, Christ Nicolaysen, Esq., for this idea!

By way of example, this is our law firm’s 4 step policy for out-of-office appointments:

Travel for Out-of-Office Appointments

Your job is to make John’s travel as easy as possible. For appointments outside the office, it is your job to get highly specific directions for every step of John’s travel.

Why We have This Policy: When John has an appointment outside of the office, he does not want any guesswork about where he has to go or what he needs to bring. It is your job to make sure the travel instructions are clear, easy to understand and confirmed with the expert.

These 4 steps must be followed for every out-of-office appointment.

Step #1: Call the Expert 24 Hours in Advance to Confirm

Call the expert at least 24 hours before the appointment to confirm the date, time and location of the meeting.

Ask the expert if the location of their office has changed; experts often change office locations without telling anyone. Begin by calling the expert to confirm the location of the meeting, e.g., “Is your office still located at 506 63rd Street, suite 203, in Manhattan? What are the intersecting side streets between 63rd Street at this office?”

Step #2: Ask Whether John Needs to Bring Anything to the Meeting

Always ask the expert if they need John to bring anything to the appointment, such as medical records, deposition transcripts or a check to pay for the appointment. If the expert expects John to bring a check to the meeting, you should prepare the check and make sure it is brought to the meeting or received by the expert prior to the meeting.

Step #3: Make the Travel Instructions as Specific as Possible

When you reserve a train to Manhattan, John will need step-by-step instructions from the train station to the expert’s office:

  • How to get from the train station to the subway,
  • Each entrance and exit point for the subway, and
  • Walking directions from the exit point of the subway to the expert’s office.

These directions must be as specific as possible and entered into the calendar. Similarly, make sure you include detailed instructions for the return trip from the expert’s office back to the train station.

Step #4: Enter the Travel Instructions in the Calendar and Confirm with John

Send an email to John to inform him that the appointment has been confirmed and include the travel instructions in your email and the calendar. In your email, confirm with John that he has the travel instructions and knows where to go.

Enter the travel instructions in the calendar and provide a printout to John with the instructions and anything else he needs for the meeting, e.g., a retainer check or a binder of the medical records. The medical records or deposition transcripts should be well organized in a binder and easy to carry.

Confirming the Travel Plan with a Signed Checklist

You should provide John with a checklist, signed by you, confirming that all 4 steps have been completed for the out-of-office appointment. This signed checklist is confirmation that you’ve followed each one of the steps.

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.