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The 5 Biggest Challenges to Your Legal Firm’s Efficiency & How to Overcome Them

11 February 2019 7 min read

Handcuffs and judge gavel on brown wooden table

Some things become clichés because they’re true: Time is money. And in the legal sector, with all its challenges and complexities, productivity issues can cost the earth.

Many legal firms across the world rely on our absence management software to maximize their productivity and efficiency. We asked some of the world’s most successful legal firms to tell us the biggest challenges they face, and how they overcome these challenges to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

So if you want to learn how to operate as the most successful legal firm in the world, read on.


Challenge #1: How do you maintain high productivity and employee wellbeing as your legal firm scales?

Legal firms typically require complex reporting lines and authorization processes due to mixed workflows across cases, specialisms, and geography. This means that an employee requesting time off may require several managers to be included in the decision-making process.

This can become frustrating for employees, as it could take a while for each manager to sign off on the request. This may deter employees from taking time away from the business, which in the long run could result in workplace stress, anxiety, and burnout.

On the other hand, once an employee’s absence has been verified, it can harm scheduled activity, with wider effects on the overall productivity of the firm.

The Solution?

Many of the legal firms we spoke to tackled problems by implementing a streamlined absence management process.

An automated absence management system makes it easy for employees to request leave, and for managers to approve leave while keeping an eye on the firm’s needs. In this way, firms can get the best of both worlds – improved employee wellbeing with no compromises on productivity.


Challenge #2: How do you handle reduced efficiency and project slippage as case complexity increases?

Legal firms work on time-sensitive projects. All projects must be sufficiently resourced and delivered. Employee absence can have a dramatic impact on this.

The Solution?

There are two key areas of focus here. The first is team management. For example, you could implement ‘minimum staffing levels at the case, function, and specialism levels. The second involves integrating absence and resource availability into your case management system to negate the risk of missing critical deadlines.

Essentially, if you build automation into your absence and project management workflow, you can significantly improve productivity.


Challenge #3: How can you champion your employees’ health and wellbeing when they’re dealing with high-stress caseloads?

The 2018 CIPD health and wellbeing report identified stress as the second most common reason for an employee taking a period of short-term absence. This is amplified in sectors and job roles that are perceived as high intensity, such as the legal sector.

The Solution?

The most successful legal firms have a standardized best-practice process built into their absence policy. This can address the root causes of stress and burnout and significantly reduce unplanned absences.

Some of the firms we spoke to use the return to work forms, with line managers responsible for interviews where appropriate. They implement global absence policies that are distributed and managed to set KPIs.

You can improve productivity even further if you develop the capability to report across the organization with metrics governed by function, team, case, and geography. Automated absence reporting will highlight any issues, and the recommended Bradford Factor scoring metric can quickly benchmark and proactively reduce the potential impact of unplanned absences.


Challenge #4: How can you improve employee engagement with accurate overtime and TOIL management?

Many roles in the legal sector require employees to work unsociable hours. These extra hours are typically rewarded with payment, or with the time taken back at a future date. This is often an informal arrangement with no clear recording mechanism. Employees can become dissatisfied if they find the process to claim payment or the time back is overly complex – or worse, nonexistent.


The Solution?

It’s all about delivering clarity and transparency. Legal firms that offer overtime and TOIL should provide an online, easily accessible self-service system where these requests can be easily made.

Payroll teams need accurate and timely information regarding authorized payments. This information should be automatically sent in line with payment schedules. Employees should also have clear visibility of when payments have been processed, and when they can expect to receive their money.


Learn More


Challenge #5: How can you manage a wide range of reportable absence types, entitlements, and working patterns?

Employees in the legal sector often must spend time away from the office. This could be for any number of reasons, from planned conferences to unplanned compassionate leave. Some employees may need to attend multiple training events, and some may simply prefer working from home. In any case, this wide range of reportable absence types and working patterns can have a big impact on a legal firm if it is not accurately recorded and easily accessible.

This extends to paid sick days and other entitlements. Unless certain systems are put in place, employees may be awarded more sick pay than they’re entitled to. This can prove extremely companies with large workforces.


The Solution?

It’s simple – just invest in an absence management system that offers easy access to reports.

HR teams need easy access to information regarding company-wide absence data. They also need detailed information concerning individual instances of absence. Give HR staff access to this information and they’ll be able to identify any common trends across the company that may need attention. At a base level, they can save the firm a lot of money while considerably boosting productivity by ensuring that all employees are taking the amount of leave they’re entitled to.

An absence management system with good reporting can actively inform more efficient company policies. If you want your legal firm to attract and retain top talent, you’ll need to accommodate a range of working practices. Instead of imposing working patterns and restrictions based on what your current system can accommodate, an automated system can accommodate any working pattern, while deducting the correct number of hours or days accordingly when holidays are requested.


The One Thing That Will Make Your Legal Firm More Efficient Overnight

From diverse working patterns to the ever-present risk of stress and burnout, each of the five biggest productivity challenges facing the legal firms we spoke to share the same root cause: Ineffective Absence Management.

Ineffective absence management makes it unnecessarily harder for employees and employers to manage planned and unplanned absences. This can make some employers reluctant to take the time off they’re entitled to, which can lead to stress, burnout, and many other issues that can damage both health and productivity.

Ineffective absence management makes it harder for HR staff to accurately monitor leave entitlement, and to manage the sort of flexible working patterns that today’s top talent demands.

So if you want to make your legal firm more efficient overnight, good absence management software will help you conquer all five of the major challenges to your firm’s efficiency.

Many legal firms around the world depend on Edays absence management software to reduce the cost of unplanned absence while significantly boosting efficiency and staff retention.

Edays will transform your firm. You’ll wonder how you ever got by without our automated systems and our clear reporting.

Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
February 11, 2019

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.