When the must-dos and did-you-checks pile up, checklists perform the vital function of setting out requirements and standardizing processes. Using these checklists to follow steps developed to complete a recurring process improves efficiency and reduces the potential for error.
Here are some checklists to create or find that will not only enhance the productivity of your law firm but also help to grow your practice:
#1: Opening client files
Onboarding new clients can take considerable time. To open client files as smoothly and quickly as possible, use a step-by-step guide describing how to open a client file. It can provide clear, easy-to-follow directions, facilitate the delegation of administrative tasks to appropriate staff members, and simplify the overall process.
Following a checklist when onboarding new clients can also help set expectations for the attorney-client relationship from the start and make your new client’s experience as positive as possible.
#2: Conflict checking
The failure to recognize conflicts is one of the most common mistakes that could result in a legal malpractice claim against a lawyer. Law firms need to have conflict checking policies and procedures in place to identify potential conflicts. Even better if these can be condensed into a simple conflict checklist.
Memory alone isn’t enough to determine whether a conflict exists. If a conflict is discovered it after representation has begun, it can be harmful to the client as well as the firm’s reputation.
Most attorneys receive little or no training in how to manage a trust account (IOLTA) before opening one of their own. And yet, mismanagement of client retainer funds can have disastrous consequences.
Following a retainer checklist will help ensure the proper deposit of a client retainer into a trust account, confirm that you are processing the initial receipt of the retainer correctly, and also verify proper management of the account.
When reviewing court documents before filing, the list of things to confirm goes far beyond spelling and grammar mistakes. Correct case citations, objective substance and tone, readability, and absence of legal jargon are just a few of the critical details to look for when editing.
One Legal offers a free editing checklist that allows users to review legal briefs and other documents for these aspects and more.
#5: Month-end accounting
Checklists are also crucial for the business side of a law practice. A law firm’s month-end accounting checklist should include:
- Accurate recordings of all expenses and payments received
- A reconciliation of all operating and trust accounts
- Executions on all reconciled reports
- A review of financial and performance metrics
- An updated cash-flow analysis
- A list of all past–due invoices
- Provide IOLTA balances for each client
A month-end checklist should also outline the number of new matters opened (or new clients retained) in the past month.
Is your firm interested in improving its eFiling experience with the courts? Keep track of state court rules for electronic filing in California, Illinois, Indiana, and Texas with One Legal’s free e-filing checklists that provide formatting specifications, document guidelines, and updated rules and explanations.
#7: Closing client files
Similar to opening a new file, you must follow some rules when a matter concludes. A checklist that includes the following actionable items will assist legal professionals when closing a client file:
- Advise clients of the completion of their case and any further action they need to take.
- Retain client documents for the required period.
- Return original documents to the client.
- Ask clients for referrals or online reviews.
- Remind clients of any outstanding balances owed and your payment procedures.
Creating a checklist that outlines the closing process will also help guarantee the firm’s compliance with client document retention rules.
Do you know of other checklists that can improve the efficiency of a law firm? Tell us about them in the comments!