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Lawyers Need to Get Their Priorities Straight

For those of you who follow the Greatest American Lawyer blog, you know that we recently redesigned our internal processes to be priority based. When documents arrive at our office by mail, fax or otherwise, a document routing coversheet gets attached. That document routing coversheet indicates everything that needs to happen to that document. This sheet identifies where the document is going to be filed on our file server. It indicates everyone the document needs to be transmitted to and how the document is transmitted either by email, leap file, mail, and fax or otherwise. All the calendaring gets Identified and due dates marked on the routing sheet. There are spots and check boxes for uploading the information into the extranet etc.

But the most important part of the routing sheet from my point of view is the priority, 1-4. My secretary attaches a routing sheet filling in the information which is within her control. She routes the paper based on her priority belief to my office. There is a spot for priority 1, priority 2, priority 3 and priority 4 items. I review the documents and reprioritize as necessary (seldom needed). I then fill in the rest of the information on the routing sheet and send it back to my staff, again on a priority bases.

Every piece of paper gets treated as quickly as the priority dictates. Those items which are priority 1 (Urgent) move through the office swiftly and almost always within a couple of hours. Level 2 priority items are next and typically move through the office the same day or within 24 hours. Category 3 priority items are taken care of as soon as the top two top priorities are taken care of.

It sounds like a subtle thing but it has a dramatic influence on how your law office operates. The most important documents keep moving swiftly and surely through your office process.

I have to ask. How do you and your law firm make sure that the top priority items are getting handled on a top priority bases? Do you have a formal process or not? If your secretary is handling a large number of items, how does he/she know which is the highest priority? If your secretary is handling a number of top priority items, is there anyone else in your office who could step in and handle the remaining priority items? Is there a bottleneck in your office which allows priority items to sit because the person who is suppose to be doing them is already busy? Can more than one person in your office handle a top level priority item? Is your priority system captured in writing so that there is no possibility of miscommunication?

Handling paper on a priority bases is not only great for client service, but will drastically reduce the possibility that important matters fall through the cracks. So instead of thinking people, think priority. Enable a number of people in your office to keep the top priority items moving forward.

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