In IT Management, Practice Management

I was stuck in traffic and teetering on the verge of tardiness, wondering why, with nearly 10% unemployment, moving ten feet in fifteen minutes was acceptable on I-77. So when I got to the office, I emailed an old friend at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety asking why it was that the man in a wheelchair was casually rolling by me.

He explained how traffic jams are created. Essentially, when traffic piles up, it’s usually due to bottlenecks in the roadway – and these bottlenecks cause traffic to slow down at an exponential rate. So what’s a bottleneck? Basically – imagine putting 8 oz. of water in an open-ended cup. Turn the cup upside down and all eight ounces pour out instantly. Now try that with a coke bottle.

A bottleneck in the roadway can be an unmotivated commuter traveling 10 mph under the speed limit or an accident that forces traffic to one lane. Regardless of what the issue is, if we could speed up traffic and trim just two seconds off a million people’s morning commute tomorrow, we could remove 2 million seconds, or 33.3k minutes, or 555 hours, or 23 days worth of traffic congestion off our roadways!

So what’s all of this got to do with how you run your law firm?

Well, just as there can be bottlenecks on the road, there can be operational bottlenecks that slow down your attorneys and staff; take a ten attorney firm and assume each attorney wastes just five minutes per day looking for documents scattered throughout the office. Now, let’s assume each attorney works 240 days in a given year (taking four weeks off for vacation, etc.). A grand total of 200 hours has been wasted. Now assume each attorney bills at $200 per hour as my attorney does. This firm lost $40,000 in potential revenue – all because people needed to get out of their desk to check calendars, or because people couldn’t find case files, or depositions, or client information – whatever the reason – the math doesn’t lie. Let’s say we only waste only a quarter of that time; are you okay with the loss of $10k? Even if you’re not billing for it, isn’t it nice to have?

Let’s try to identify some of your bottlenecks:

  • Does it take you longer than a few seconds to find a client’s phone number?
  • How about that paper case-file? If it’s not in the filing cabinet, can you access it immediately?
  • Does your network go down periodically because, among other things, your network has nothing better to do than ruin your life?

Think about some of these things next time you’re sitting in traffic and the person next to you is reading a book, and then start implementing changes that make you firm more productive, more efficient, and more profitable.

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