(Missed Part 1 of this series? Read it here: Being Efficient Doing the Wrong Tasks = Not Being Efficient)
So Why Are Lawyers Spending So Much Time On Administrative Tasks?
To start, in Time to Work Workflow Technology into the Law Firm Arsenal, Eric Wangler states:
Initially when the market shifted, firms turned to cutting administrative staff to decrease their costs. However, it was soon clear that this type of short-term solution had significant drawbacks. The remaining support staff were expected to do the same amount of work with fewer people, leading to increased stress and compromised work quality and customer service.
While I agree with Eric’s assessments that firms first turned to cutting staff to save costs, a short term solution with significant drawbacks, I disagree that it was the remaining support staff who compromised work quality.
The shift in less support staff correlated with a shift in how work was produced: from attorneys delegating to doing their own typing. So the compromised work quality touched upon by Eric was far more likely due to that shift.
Fast forward a decade, and not only are attorneys responsible for typing all manner of properly formatted documents, but for the data entry work required to run the office. Along with not being billable, administrative tasks also happen to be extremely boring work – generally the data entry of numbers, names, addresses… tab…tab…tab… and yet at the same time it is also extremely exacting work thereby requiring great focus.
Great focus by anyone means slowing down and taking greater care. Slowing down and taking greater care being focused on non-billable work is exactly the wrong things attorneys should be doing. Reminds me of one of my favorites: “Drink Coffee – do stupid faster with more energy”
Another reason attorneys are spending so much time on administrative tasks is due to the actual tech being served up as what is needed to create efficiency in the modern law firm. Many of the technologies used by lawyers today are resident in the cloud and that can mean a very long time from the time one hits submit (or tab) and the time the program registers the command.
In fact, one law firm I spoke with stated: “when California wakes up”, their law firm management solution grinds to a crawl. According to attorney Avi Frisch in his review of nine technologies aimed at the solo/small firm market:
The downside is that [the tech] is not at all optimized to getting work done quickly. Most tasks take multiple clicks, new matter intake requires entry of data in numerous places to get everything down and getting bills out to clients simply takes forever.
So besides not having the proper tools to delegate administrative tasks to those best suited to get them done, attorneys are spending far too much time “working” in agonizingly slow and cumbersome cloud based technology.
Coming next week in Part 3: And Finally, Volume.
Andrea Cannavina (@AndreaCan) helps law firms organize, automate and implement business process improvements to create efficient workflows and happier staff.