Developing Checklists Of Procedures For Legal Practice Issues – Part Two

Developing Checklists Of Procedures For Legal Practice Issues – Part Two

Developing Checklists Of Procedures For Legal Practice Issues – Part Two

Checklists give rise to systems or processes where both represent a “process” a horizontal workflow for legal services. These processes start at some point in a law practice and conclude with some by-product deliverable to court or client. There is simply no legal practice area that would not derive any benefit from any well-established office procedure.

Any process for any practice group must be well established and include everyone involved from partners to administrative assistants. Documenting these processes in writing ensures that the learning curve remains manageable and potential errors subjecting the firm to malpractice liability decrease substantially.

As an example, personal injury firms typically have well-established protocols for evaluating and rejecting cases, obtaining medical records, collecting other information, interviewing witnesses, procuring experts, and moving the case to settlement or trial.

The practice component of a law firm is not the only part of the law office that may derive significant benefits from processes and their corresponding checklists. Other practice management checklists for a law office may include human resources checklists, financial checklists for bank reconciliations and trust accounting, phone etiquette, timekeeping, internal processes and procedures for opening and closing files, disengaging with clients, handling written and electronic correspondence, and other areas.

Here are some other recommendations for useful law firm checklists.

*Editing and revising 

Filing completed, final drafts of a document with any court is a major step, or process, in any legal matter. Reviewing court documents before filing extends far beyond spelling and grammar mistakes. In addition to anything that may be considered a critical detail, lawyers must assess the correctness of case citations, objective substance and tone, and readability when making edits or revisions.

*eFiling 

Courts and jurisdictions that engage in electronic filing have amended their procedural rules accordingly thus requiring attorneys and their staff to maintain familiarity with an entirely new subset of rules. These rules provide formatting specifications, document guidelines, and updated rules and explanations. One cannot underestimate how efiling conserves resources such as time.

*Month-end accounting 

There are as many, if not more, processes that deal with the business side of a law firm than the legal side. Checklists are therefore also crucial to maintaining profitability. An accounting checklist should include the following:

  • 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
  • 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.

*Closing client files 

This process bears some similarity to opening a new file, thus implementing similar rules when a client’s legal matter concludes. A checklist that includes the following actions will prove beneficial:

  • Advises clients of the completion of their case and any further action necessary for clients to take in the future.
  • Retains client documents for the required period.
  • Returns original documents to the client.
  • Asks clients for referrals or online reviews.
  • Reminds clients of any outstanding balances owed and acceptable payment procedures.

Creating a checklist that outlines the closing process will also help guarantee the firm’s compliance with client document retention rules.

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