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Driving law firm efficiency: Proven productivity tips

Stacked3Here is a recent Daily Record column. My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Driving Law Firm Efficiency: Proven Productivity Tips

In today’s ever-evolving world, technology has become a key differentiator for lawyers, driving productivity and profitability in a highly competitive market. According to a recent report, the correlation between technology adoption by law firms and increased efficiency is undeniable. There are proven productivity strategies that can streamline legal services and deliver measurable improvements in efficiency and profitability. Firms that take advantage of these tools can dramatically improve work processes and enhance the delivery of legal services.

In the MyCase + LawPay 2023 Benchmark Report Part 1, anonymized data was collected from law firm software users, with a focus on determining how work gets done in law firms. The data was analyzed to identify productivity gains and key performance indicators (KPIs) that would be useful as benchmarks for lawyers seeking to run their firms more effectively.

One notable finding from the report was that lawyers who used passive time-tracking tools captured significantly more time than lawyers who didn’t. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, this timekeeping tool works in the background, passively tracking all activities done on a computer or in a software program.

The data collected and analyzed showed that if you assume a $350 per hour billing rate, lawyers who used a passive time tracking tool billed an extra 64 hours amounting to additional billable time worth $202,882,750 in 2022. This means that on average, lawyers who used this feature invoiced an additional $22,425 last year!

The report also included data on the realization rates of solo lawyers. Utilization rates measure the amount of time that lawyers spend on billable work or client-related activities compared to the total amount of available working hours. This performance indicator provides insights into how effectively lawyers are using their time and resources to generate revenue for the firm or organization.

One of the calculated KPIs was for solo law firm customers who had at least 5,000 time entries in 2022. The results showed that on average those customers billed 1,539 hours in 2022. The utilization rate for those customers is 76%, and those attorneys billed, on average, 6.1 hours per workday. This is a great data point to use to determine how your firm stacks up and whether there are inefficiencies in your workflows that are reducing productivity.

Another KPI covered in the report was the work-in-progress (WIP) rate, which compares the ratio of the total number of active matters to the total number of matters closed over a certain period of time. Bankruptcy matters had the highest WIP (10.9) in 2022, followed by immigration (10.3), personal injury (10.1), trusts and estates (8.2), and criminal law (8.1). Overall, eleven practice areas were analyzed, and you’ll find WIP rates for each one in the report.

The report also included data on hours billed per case by practice area in 2022, along with data on the number of online court date reminders sent in 2022 for a variety of different practice areas. In other words, it includes various types of productivity data that can help you determine your firm's efficiency strengths and weaknesses. From this information, you can make educated decisions about choosing new tools for your firm to systemize workflows, increase overall efficiency, and significantly improve profitability.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the head of SME and External Education at MyCase  law practice management software, an AffiniPay company. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at [email protected].