In their new series “Ready, Set, Scale,” Karen and David Skinner help you prepare your practice for the growth you want. Here’s their simple five-step process for creating a library of effective SOPs.
Table of contents
- Throwing More Bodies at the Problem Isn’t Always the Solution
- Framework for Creating Effective SOPs
- Continue Building a Library of SOPs
Throwing More Bodies at the Problem Isn’t Always the Solution
As your business grows, your first instinct may be to hire more staff to fill the gaps and handle the increasing workload. But new hires aren’t always the solution. You may not need more people to scale your practice. You may just need to get the right people doing the right work.
In our first post in this series, “Ready, Set, Scale,” we defined efficiency as having the right people doing the right work the right way, and we talked about the importance of having systems.
If you don’t have systems, chances are you’ve got people in your office (including yourself) doing the wrong work the wrong way. Adding more people, who will also be doing the wrong work the wrong way, isn’t going to solve your workload problem.
Inefficient processes waste time and money, no matter who’s doing them. Putting new staff members into an inefficient workflow will only compound your problem because your new team members will experience the same inefficiencies.
New staff may struggle to complete work quickly and accurately. Without clear processes, new hires will take much longer to get up to speed. This can result in mistakes, delays and frustration for the new hires and your existing staff.
Training will take much longer (and you’re already busy). Without standard procedures to follow, new hires won’t understand how things are supposed to be done. They’ll interrupt you much more often with questions, and they’ll make mistakes that can be costly and time-consuming to correct.
Morale can suffer. No one enjoys wasting time or struggling with tasks that seem unnecessarily complex. The result: high turnover rates, low productivity and decreased job satisfaction. Bringing in new hires before improving your systems can exacerbate the problem and make it challenging to retain quality staff.
On top of all that, if you don’t have clear processes in place before you hire, it’s much harder to identify who to hire, the skills they’ll need, and the work you’re going to assign to them. Do you need an associate? If you had a clear process to follow, could the work be done by a paralegal? An assistant? A student?
So what is the solution?
Create a library of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your practice. You’ll be better able to handle your increased workload with the resources you’ve got, and you’ll be able to add more people to your practice when you grow even more.
Framework for Creating Effective SOPs
Here’s a simple five-step process you can follow to create effective SOPs:
1. Track what you actually do.
The next time you start the task or process, record what you do as you go along. Your goal should be a series of clear steps that you (and ultimately others) can follow the next time you have to do the task.
2. Record the information needed
Capture all the relevant details for each step. For example:
- What documents, information or inputs do you need and where do you get them?
- What resources do you use?
- Where do you save or store the output of the task?
- To whom are the outputs delivered and in what format?
3. Test your instructions
Once you’ve got a good draft of your SOP, test it yourself the next time you undertake the task. Follow your own instructions to the letter. Then get someone else to do the same. Testing will help you identify any gaps or errors in the procedure.
4. Tweak your instructions
No matter who tests your instructions, it usually takes a few tries to get them right. Add in anything you missed. Create a screen recording. Simplify the language if you or your testers got confused.
5. Teach your instructions
Don’t just hand over your SOP and expect someone to follow it the first time. Invest just a little more time talking through your instructions. Ensure they understand your instructions and answer their questions.
Continue Building a Library of SOPs
Use this five-step process for everything you do more than once in your practice. Over time, you’ll have a library of SOPs that support your practice and your existing team. And when you’re ready to add new people to your practice, you’ll be able to do it quickly and effectively.
If you want to learn more, join our upcoming free webinar, “How to Create SOPs That Save Time and Money in Your Law Practice” on June 20, 2023, at 12 p.m. Eastern.
Coming Up Next
Now that you’ve got some SOPs in place, the next articles in our series will cover:
- What kinds of work you should delegate and to whom.
- Tips for automating key workflows in your firm.
For more from David and Karen, read:
- “SOP: Making Your Law Firm’s Processes Actionable With Legal Boards”
- “Ready, Set, Scale: Preparing Your Firm for Growth, Even When You’re Busy”
Image © iStockPhoto.com.
Don’t miss out on our daily practice management tips. Subscribe to Attorney at Work’s free newsletter here >