Three Key Systems Every Law Firm Must Have in Place
Running a law practice is not easy. There are thousands of details that even the smallest law firm needs to deal with on a daily basis. This is why it is critical to have well-designed systems in place to manage the firm.
Systems not only help a law firm generate revenue. They can also help prevent inquiries from the Attorney Grievance Commission when it comes to a law office’s compliance with the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct. The failure to maintain proper systems and records is often a catalyst for attorney disciplinary proceedings.
Do not let this happen to your law firm. Here are three key systems that your firm should have in place right now. If these systems are already in place, they need to be reviewed to ensure they are working at maximum effectiveness.
Filing and Calendar Systems
The lifeblood of every law practice is its calendar. Even a solo practitioner may be juggling dozens of active clients at a given time. There is simply no way to keep track of all of these clients, cases, and files using a pen and a legal pad.
For this reason, your law firm needs dedicated systems to track both internal filing and external deadlines. The former is sometimes referred to as a diary or tickler system. Whatever name it goes by, the principle is the same. These systems are essentially an organized “to do” list, tracking what files need to be pulled and worked on at a given time. A computerized case management system is ideal since it can automate most of this process.
The important thing to remember is that any filing or calendar system should track important court deadlines. The last thing you want is to miss filing a client’s lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. That is the easiest way to trigger a complaint to the Attorney Grievance Commission for professional negligence.
Time Tracking and Billing Systems
Although some law firms, such as those who represent personal injury plaintiffs, may work primarily on a contingency basis, hourly billing remains the norm for most lawyers in Maryland. A good billing system should accurately reflect each attorney or staff member’s time and regularly generate client invoices. Billing mistakes are a top source of client complaints, so it is in everyone’s interest to make sure your time is properly accounted for and charged to the client appropriately.
Conflict Checking Systems
Anytime you take on a new client or case, it is important to check for any potential conflicts of interest. An effective conflict checking system should include not only a list of your law firm’s current and former clients but also those parties represented by your attorneys when they worked for different practices. Remember, when your firm takes on a new attorney, the firm must be very careful to ensure that the new attorney’s association with the firm does not give rise to a conflict of interest with an existing matter inside the firm. If it does, the firm must be sure to follow the screening mechanism set forth in Rule 1.10(c).
Contact a Maryland Defense of Professional Licenses Attorney Today
Even with well-designed systems in place, a law firm may still find itself in hot water with the Attorney Grievance Commission for any number of reasons. If you find yourself in such a position, you should engage the services of a fellow lawyer who handles professional licensing matters. Call the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C., today at 410-514-6099 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation so we can review your ethics situation and help you determine the appropriate response.