Ever wonder why the commercial airline industry experiences so few accidents? It is due in part to its extensive use of checklists.
Checklists work in healthcare, too. When a simple 5-point checklist was implemented at one hospital intensive care unit, central line infections were virtually eliminated. Subsequent tests of the 5-point checklist at other hospitals have yielded similar highly positive and life-saving results.
We all have rough mental outlines of the various tasks we perform every day. But do you use written checklists in your law practice?
If not, here are some reasons why you may want to:
- They set expectations. When others can see what you want in writing, they are more likely to complete tasks how you want them to be done.
- They systematize the functions in your office. They can be used to set best practices across the office and across all staff and lawyers.
- They reduce errors. Tasks will be done right every time. If interrupted by a phone call or email, the checklist can be consulted and nothing will be forgotten.
- They reduce training time. When new hires are brought on, they will have a reference for all they are to do.
- They allow you to better scale. Once tasks are set out in written form, you will free up your time for more productive things, like getting more clients and doing client work.
So where do you begin?
If you are starting from scratch, the process can be overwhelming. But don’t let that stop you. Just start.
Make sure to involve your staff and associates in the process. Begin by making a list of every reoccurring process performed in your practice. For example, what should happen when a letter is sent out? Don’t hold back, just write them down. You can sort through them later.
Once you have your list, start on the tasks that occur more frequently. So for sending out a letter, maybe the checklist is (1) write it; (2) proof it; (3) confirm name and address is correct; (4) print on letterhead; (5) get it signed; (6) scan, save to system, and put in file; (7) send it. You get the idea.
When onboarding a new employee, use the opportunity to create and refine your written checklists and processes for the tasks he or she will be doing. A new hire is an ideal person to help with those checklists. The new person is coming to the task fresh and will likely have a lot of questions.
The goal is to create a notebook full of checklists for every task. Along the way, you will continually test, refine, and improve your processes.
Invest the time now to save time later. You’ll be glad you did.
For more on the power of checklists, take a look at The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.