LAW OFFICE MANAGEMENT
Office management is organizing and administering the activities that normally occur in any day-to-day business or profession in office environment.
Efficient office management of a lawyer comprises a number of vital functions, including time management, organizing the paperwork and workspace, managing cases of multiple clients simultaneously, and being in control of all activities and responsibilities.
A lawyer could be wasting precious time because of misplaced files or documents or missing deadlines or call works or improperly attending the clients etc.
In order to successfully manage a law office, regardless of size of the profession, one should adhere to some basic guidelines. They are given as below:
1. Location of the office
The office a lawyer should be proximity to the courts so that it is convenient to the clients, lawyer himself, his juniors and other staff.
A lawyer appearing for district courts, High Courts, Supreme Court etc. apart from his regular courts locally may also have the office in the city in which they practice.
As per Rule 5(iii) of the Supreme Court Rules 1966 every advocate appearing before the Supreme Court shall have an office in Delhi within a radius of 16 kilometers from the Supreme Court.
2. Size and features of the office:
The office space should be sufficient to accommodate the seniors’ office, juniors’ office, staff working area, meeting hall / waiting hall, rest rooms, library and documentation room.
The office should have properly constructed with enough ventilation and ambience. It should colored decently and should have enough electrical fittings, taps, wash rooms, plug points, etc.
3. Employment and human resources:
The advocate should staff his office sufficiently to meet the volume and quality demands of his work load. Normally it should be staffed with the minimum of below persons:
1) Junior advocates;
2) Computer operator with knowledge of typing and shorthand;
3) Office boy;
4) House keeping assistant (part time or full time).
As per Rule 12(1) of the Supreme Court Rules, 1966 an advocate / firm of advocates of the Supreme Court may authorize their staff member to attend the registry for presenting or receiving any papers.
4. Equipment and furniture requirements
The office of a lawyer should be furnished with sufficient number of good quality chairs, working tables, sofa sets, discussion tables, dining tables, etc. While selecting the furniture he should look for the durability, design and elegance.
The lawyer should be kept in mind that, the furniture should be neatly arranged in a way that they are not crowded. Lack of ambience in the office may cause suffocation to the clients and feel leaving the office at the earliest.
The office and the furniture are to be maintained regularly and properly.
The below are minimum requirements of the office and electrical equipment:
1) Computer peripherals;
3) Water cooler with water dispenser;
4) Paper shredding machine; etc.
If the lawyer is able to afford air-conditioners he may install them as well.
Crockery and cutlery:
The office shall contain enough crockery and cutlery to serve food, snacks, beverages, etc. to the clients whenever necessary.
5. Storage of documents
A lawyer should give much importance to the documentation of his client cases and files. Timely retrieval of documents and files is very important. So, he should arrange his documentation room in such a way that files could be traced by any member of his office without dependencies on one person. Proper indexation of documents and files are to maintained in computers as soft copies and a hard copy of print out as well.
A good library with necessary reference books, model drafts, bare Acts, Case law reporters etc. are very much helpful to the advocate.
For easy access to these books he should maintain subject wise index and a register containing the list of books arranged alphabetically. Proper care should be taken to protect these books from termite, dust, water and other environmental exposures.
If the space permits, the library should contain tables and chairs for reference.
Digital library would be a substitute to the physical library which saves space, cost and time in searching the content.
7. Office communications including telephone, internet, fax etc
Law office should be installed with communication tools such as telephone, fax and internet. These are required for communicating either side between the client and the lawyer. Messages may be sent through cellular phones, e-mails etc. However, the receipt of the same by the other person has to be ensured.
Depending on the size of the office, EPABX system may be installed for within the office communication. Voice messaging system / auto answering and recording system may be installed for un-attended calls and to receive the voice message of the caller.
8. Uninterrupted power supply (UPS)
The computers and other important installations are to be provided with UPS and other power back ups. This enables uninterrupted work flow in the office.
9. Rest rooms
Rest rooms provide convenience, relaxation and refreshing to the staff, clients, visitors etc. as they may have to stay in the office for long hours. Rest rooms should be maintained properly on a day to day or even hourly basis to ensure the tidiness. These are inevitable in any office.
10. Meeting halls and visitor rooms
Meeting client at the working place may put him in an uncomfortable position. The lawyer may deviate from the discussion with him and may proceed to concentrate on the work or may attend staff or a telephone. Meeting at work place may lead to exposure of certain confidential issues to unwarranted persons.
Meeting rooms provide convenience, confidentiality and better attention on the discussion. So, it is always better to have discussions with the client at meeting halls. The lawyer has to fix the appointment times with client and has to follow them very strictly.
11. Working facility
Staff and junior lawyers should be provided with good working facilities to execute their work load smoothly without any hassles. They should be provided with height adjustable revolving armed chairs to work with ease and concentration. The height of the work platforms should be maintained according to the global standards normally 28” to 30” (inches) for dining or a board room. Provide about 24" of leg room below the table (height from floor to bottom of table rail) and at least 12" for knee clearance (projection of table top beyond table leg). In figuring seating capacity, allow at least 24" of elbow room width per person and 12" to 15" depth from the edge of the table.
They should also be provided with sufficient shelves and draws for safe keeping their working documents and current files.
12. Periodicals and journals
The law is dynamic and ever changing according to wishes of the subjects of a state. A lawyer is to be thorough and prompt in updating his knowledge in law. Journals and periodicals help him in keeping him abreast of the latest developments.
The good management leads to a good quality workforce, and that provides client with the reliable service they desire. When the client receive the service they desire, this builds clients’ loyalty, which leads to strong branding and a successful profession.