Recently I’ve been involved in a project to create a law firm procedure manual by reviewing our documented systems. The goal was to pull all of our information into job specific modules to expedite training and to fine-tune existing ones. Organizing this information into a one-stop employee training and reference manual was a bit of a project but definitely worthwhile because it is now a major time-saver for law firms training new employees.
If you do not have a procedure manual in place for your firm, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in good company. Many employers do not have a training manual in place. It is even more common for them to rely on existing employees or former employees to train new hires only from memory and pass along their knowledge verbally while the trainee takes copious handwritten notes that are never typed, despite the best of intentions. Often this type of training is task-oriented instead of systems-oriented, and efficiency isn’t always taken into consideration. The obvious downside to this type of training practice is that over time, the systems become diluted, misinterpreted, changed to an employee’s preference or lost, especially if there are multiple turnovers. This type of training program is like having a football team without a play book. A better way is to have a planned strategy to educate and inform your biggest asset, and often, your biggest expense – your employees.
Once you recognize the need for a systemized training program, discuss this need with your staff and delegate the responsibility to each key person in the firm. Any process done on a regular basis can be systemized, documented and placed into a procedure manual. The easiest way to tackle this job is to type training steps as the training occurs then save it to a specified network folder for use later. Once a process is established and fine-tuned to be as efficient as possible, the next step is to drill down and document the step-by-step detail of that task or project. The last step is to then memorialize it in the procedure manual, so anyone picking up a particular responsibility would be able to do so efficiently and quickly. It will also speed up their ability to become a productive member of your team and save existing staff time by eliminating lengthy or repeat training sessions. Once you have a procedure manual in place, it is important to review periodically for updates or changes in those processes. Doing so will reward you and staff for years to come.
Susan Russel has been a Practice Building Consultant with the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys since 1997. She coaches estate planning attorneys across the country, frequently conducts conference calls, webinars as well as Summit sessions. Her email is Susan@aaepa.com if you have questions on this topic.
Practice Building Consultant
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555