Law Firm Manual – Policies and Procedure Sections

Wednesday February 20, 2019

No, it’s not exactly on everyone’s fun list. Nonetheless, you will need to develop a law firm policy and procedure manual for your law firm. It’s an integral part of running a successful law firm for at least three reasons.

First, it will make it easier to train new employees. You have a reference so you don’t have to ask the same questions over and over. Second, policies and procedures will reduce the variance between employees. Finally, it enables your law firm to comply with various state and federal agencies that require written procedures.

Lawyers Mutual Liability Insurance Company of North Carolina has published an excellent guide entitled “Office Procedures Manual: Risk Management Practice Guide of Lawyers Mutual”. There is quite a bit of detailed information in the instructions. You can find much of the following information in the guide.

Law Firm Policies and Procedures Manual: Introductory section

Your law firm’s policy and procedures manual should be divided into two sections: Office Policies and Office Procedures. The Office Policies section covers rules and regulations and addresses issues such as employment, behavior, and bad weather procedures. The Office Procedures section includes administrative tasks and includes file management, conflict of interest checking, escrow management, calendar, and routine activities such as opening mail and answering phones.

Be careful with the wording when writing the manual. This is a publication that requires quick reading, almost scanning, so avoid long words. Just make it short, simple, and to the point.

Using an outline format helps with this process. Maintain a positive tone throughout rather than a list of “do not” commandments. Make sure that the law firm’s guidelines and procedures manual uses the same “voice” throughout. It’s also important to organize content and group things like that on similar topics. Finally, you have a review process in place.

First, consider keeping the following in mind to set the guide’s positive tone:

  1. Welcome letter
  2. Missions, goals and philosophy of the firm.

This is a good place to add a positive tone to the manual. As the guide points out, this is also a good place to make your readers happy that they chose your law firm.

The introductory section of your law firm’s guide to policies and procedures should include:

  1. Floor plans and access points of the law firm, regardless of whether it is an office suite or a separate building.
  2. Job descriptions and responsibilities.
  3. List the location of the equipment and basic maintenance procedures for the equipment.
  4. List supplies and instructions on how to order additional supplies.

Law Firm Policy and Procedure Manual: Policies section

The guide states: “The wording in this section is crucial to ensure that you do not limit your rights as an employer. In some cases, policy manuals have been defined as contracts between employers and employees. Speak generally and avoid words like “guarantee” when referring to firm actions. “

Start with the general employment policy. This is where the majority of state and federal law compliance comes into play. Cover topics such as equal opportunities as an employer, non-discrimination, confidentiality and the official harassment procedure.

Make sure to include in the “Employment” section of your law firm’s Policy and Procedures Manual for employment ratings, personnel records and confidentiality information, and disciplinary and notice periods.

The “Behavior” section covers general behavioral guidelines. These include dress code, online behavior, a media policy, Internet browsing, and the use of office equipment and supplies. Include instructions on how to organize their personal space so that confidential papers don’t get strewn on someone’s desk in the event another customer shows up while looking at them. Employees should always be aware of confidentiality.

In addition to the services of your law firm, the working hours should also be mentioned in this section. This section should describe vacation guidelines, including guidelines for jury service, military leave, bereavement, school leave, and vacation.

Law Firm Policy and Procedures Manual: Procedures Section

This section of your law firm’s policies and procedures describes how employees perform their professional duties. Employees can also see instructions for their colleagues to perform their duties when they are absent.

Safety is paramount in this section. There are major concerns these days about the security of electronic documents, as well as security from hackers in general. Describe procedures to keep documents safe and provide information to employees to avoid becoming a victim of email hacking.

Security procedures must also be described for handling paper documents. Confidential papers must be shredded and not thrown in the general trash or trash can. Describe the procedures used to destroy documents.

Emergency and disaster control measures need to be addressed. This includes a contact list and a collection point for construction emergencies. This section should also cover how to deal with accidents and injuries in the office.

The Procedures section is where there is conduct related to company representation. How to answer the phone, how to greet visitors, and how not to openly talk about customer business.

Written procedures for engaging, rejecting and eliminating representations are just as much a part of this as proper communication with customers and visitors. Etiquette and timeliness of correspondence are also covered by this section.

This is also where you can learn how to open and close files. To keep the office in order for deadlines and meetings, include a detailed description of the office calendar.

Finally, document how billing, escrow account and time recording are to be handled.

It’s also a good idea to add standard forms as an appendix to your manual of policies and procedures.

summary

Yes it seems like a lot of work. That’s because building an effective law firm policy and procedure manual takes a lot of work if done right. The results are critical, however, especially in terms of time savings, accuracy, consistency, and saving the law firm from legal proceedings and federal violations. The work is worth it.

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