By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
A training manual is an integral part of running a successful law practice. Whether you are an associate who works with legal assistants, a partner of a law firm who manages attorneys and support staff, or a solo practitioner, a good training manual is essential to a streamlined practice.
A good training manual is a guidebook and the goal is that every person in the office could pick up the training manual and know how to do any job in the office. This is especially convenient for new hires because it gives them a reference point for any questions they have and it cuts down on the overall training time. It is important that an attorney be able to do every administrative task in the office as well. Note that I am not saying that we should do every job, rather we should have a reference to be able to do them if needed. If your secretary quits tomorrow, you need to know how to do everything he does in the office.
I am working on creating a training manual in my office right now. It is certainly a work in progress. Something that I have learned is that this is a living, breathing document. As the firm changes, our processes need to change. However, my goal is to have a fully streamlined, process-based firm by the end of 2016.
Here are a few tips based on what I have learned so far:
1. Start Your Training Manual Right Away
It doesn’t matter if you are an associate attorney or if you are a solo with no staff, start writing up your training manual today. Create a word document and as you are doing a process in your office, such as processing mail, write it up step-by-step as you go along. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to make it organized or perfect, instead be committed to writing up a process as it comes up.
Many law firms do not have training manuals, so if you are an associate, it is worthwhile to write up a training manual for yourself but it also may be something that you can use throughout your department and/or firm. A lot of partners do not have the time to create a training manual, but would really like for it to get done. It will be a way to increase productivity and make a good mark on the partnership.
2. Create Scripts
Using scripts as guides for client interaction ensures that client communication is consistent and reflects your firm and your brand. I never would have considered this, but my assistant used to work at a bank and they had scripts for every type of customer interaction. Here’s a sample script from my office. Notice that it is more of a guide than a verbatim script that way each person can speak in a way that feels authentic to him or her.
Script for When a Consultation Arrives:
- Greet the client and introduce yourself and your role (i.e. “I’m Brenda, Alexandra’s legal assistant.”)
- Shake the client’s hand, ask his/her name, and say “nice to meet you, [name].”
- Do this with every person who is with the client.
- Give them the questionnaire and explain it, repeating the client’s name.
- Ask if they have any questions.
- Offer a drink. (list off what we have available)
- Formally excuse yourself repeating the client’s name again. (“Con permiso, Maria.” “Me quedo a las ordenes, Jose.” Any phrase that feesl comfortable to you.)
- **Note that you should say the person’s name at least three times in the interaction.
3. Break the Manual Into Sections
You can do this before you have material or after you start building your word document. Eventually you will cover every area of your firm. So far my training manual is broken down into 6 main sections/chapters and there are subheadings of processes underneath each one. Here are my 6 chapters:
- Office Procedures
- New Cases
- Closing Cases
- How-To Cases
- Naming E-Files
I am going to create a separate policy manual (one day!) so this manual will focus only on office procedures and processes.
4. Every Task and Process Should Be Captured
There is nothing too small! In fact, the smallest things can often be the most important. (i.e. your assistant is out sick and you need to mail something FedEx.) Writing out your procedure or process for doing every single thing that you do is imperative. Creating a streamlined firm is (1) what gives your business value and (2) ensures productivity.
My staff use the training manual as a checklist. They like to print it out and check everything off step by step, just to make sure that everything is done correctly. None of them feel like this is tedious; they love having it. Some staff started before the training manual was created, and they all wish they had had it from the beginning.
What tips do you have for creating a great training manual? Are there any processes or procedures in place in your office that you can’t live without? Leave your comments below!
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.