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Automating Your Practice One Step at a Time

stepping stonesThe quest for efficiency is endless. You can move forward no matter where you are now. There’s always room for more efficiency. Think of it as a journey rather than as a destination.

The key to becoming more efficient is to take it one step at a time. It’s the small steps that move you forward. Make a small step and declare victory. Don’t hold out for the big gains, or you’ll end up holding out forever and rarely see improvement.

A First Step: Document Assembly

Here’s an example:

Automated document assembly will save you gobs of time. Having your client data automatically plugged into your forms can literally save you and your team hours and hours each day. Being able to more efficiently produce documents in a document-intensive business can be the difference between profit and loss.

One firm swings for the fences—it goes for the big leap forward—by investing in an expensive document assembly system. The firm moves all of its client data to a sophisticated database and hires an expert to build intelligent documents. The data flows into the documents at the push of a button, and finished documents come sliding out. It’s awesome—in theory. Unfortunately—for this firm anyway—it doesn’t work. Error messages plague the documents. Users are frustrated and avoid the system. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent, and lawyers are still going through old files to find example documents.

Another firm goes for the single: it’s looking for a small gain in efficiency at a low price. The firm invests in TheFormTool and Microsoft Word. TheFormTool is a simple document assembly tool that lets lawyers automate their document production individually. Each lawyer improves his or her personal system one day at a time. Thankfully, each lawyer becomes a bit more efficient with each passing day.

Start Small for Lasting Change

By and large, it’s the small efficiency projects that work and pay off. The large projects often go by the wayside and fail to achieve gains. Why? Usually because the small projects are achievable with simple technology, and the small projects accommodate the need most lawyers have for gradual, rather than radical, change. Lawyers are able to adapt to the small changes while they resist the larger changes. Small is better when it comes to efficiency gains.

There’s room for efficiency in nearly every aspect of practicing law and managing the practice. Small, steady gains in efficiency lead to big gains—over time. The firm that successfully implemented a move to a simple document assembly tool will eventually be successful in adopting a very sophisticated tool: it will just take more time. Step by step, one small move at a time, is the most effective way to gain the efficiencies you’re seeking.

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