Want To Be A More Efficient Attorney? Personalize Your Processes.
If you could make one change for the benefit of your law firm, what would it be?
Odds are, you thought of something grandiose. “I’d commit to doing more discovery work so that I never took another dud case that can’t actually pay me on time.” Or perhaps something like, “I wish I could build some formal intake forms that new clients could complete online.” If you’re a devotee of this blog (there must be one out there somewhere) you’d maybe say, “I would build a content calendar for my firm to use over the next quarter so that I always knew what I was going to blog about.”
Big, aggressive goals like these can be valuable tools to keep you moving in the right direction. Provided, of course, that they’re plausible and well-crafted.
Realistically though, sometimes it pays to think a little smaller and try to discover the little changes you could be making that would add up to a more efficient or more enjoyable work experience.
Think about it. You probably have a certain way you like things to be done because you’ve found that it works best for you. Your phone’s home screen, for example, is probably arranged to reflect your own behaviors. You can call it out as “personalization” or not, the reality is that we all do this sort of thing as a matter of course with our homes and small electronics. But if you’re like most people, you haven’t really tapped the full potential of personalization.
Sticking just to your phone, most modern smartphones have some manner of predictive text that helps ease the burden of typing on a virtual keyboard. But what about those common phrases you type over and over again? Have you considered creating a shortcut?
Text shortcuts save time when typing.
This article explains how to set up your own shortcuts on an iPhone. It’s fantastic for irregular proper nouns, like family names, or long-winded terms that might be subject to a lot of autocorrect – like a law firm name. Mentioning the law firm of Schnall, Berliner and Gregory gets a whole lot easier when all you have to type is SBG. (I do this for my employer, typing FL to generate the word FindLaw and keep that all-important capital L intact.)
If you’re a Mac desktop user, you can even sync your shortcuts across devices. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that just a few of these can go a long way. Don’t go overboard and create dozens of shortcuts right out of the gate. They’ll do you no good if you build too many at once and never learn to use them. And one more thing: shortcuts you create on your phone or manage through your System Preferences don’t seem to translate into Microsoft Office applications. When I type “FL” in Word, that’s just what I get.
Now, while we’re on the topic of MS Office…
Get your colors under control in Office.
Think of how much time you’ve spent changing the color of text, tables or shapes in PowerPoint. If you’re still referencing a VIP (very important Post-it) that holds your brand’s RGB color values, it’s time to build your own color palette. Here’s how to do it.
Within PowerPoint (or Word or Excel) open the Colors panel and choose the Palettes tab. The tiny gear symbol on this panel is as useful as it is easy to miss. Clicking it allows you to create a new color palette that is totally customizable. This might seem frivolous, but it becomes extremely valuable when you have multiple people in your firm creating documents that need to look consistent. I’ve created one with the Thomson Reuters brand colors that allows me to easily create presentations that are compliant with our corporate brand standards.
I’ll admit, the process of adding colors isn’t exactly intuitive. The fastest way is to open another document containing the colors you want, then use the eyedropper and + button to add them to your palette.
Spend a little time on themes and styles.
While you’re at it, PowerPoint has the ability to create and modify themes that could save you hours of annoyance and lost productivity in the future. And learning how to build and use them doesn’t take long. Microsoft support has a fairly straightforward explanation of how to build your own theme. My bet is, you’ll spend more time personalizing your theme’s colors than reading the instructions.
If you didn’t already know, Microsoft Word has similar capabilities in its Styles function. There are pre-defined styles that work for many, but if your firm regularly produces documents with particular formatting requirements, personalizing a Style that works for you can really pay off in the long run. (You can read more about that process, here.)
I’ll admit, none of these tweaks are going to make you a millionaire or even get you out of the office an hour earlier than usual. But eliminating the risk and frustration of smartphone typos has certainly made my mobile computing experience a little easier. And bringing a consistent style to your law firm’s communications will definitely reinforce your brand – where every little bit counts.
So put a little polish on your processes. You’ll enjoy the results and your clients will see that you have a handle on your business, and theirs.