What is the communication between you and your partner?
Ed shares some thoughts on electronic marketing and offers ideas on how traditional marketing can help you stand out in the crowd.
-You are more likely to be remembered, thus contacted, if you reach people on a personal level.
-Differentiating yourself will lead to increased :
--calls by clients and prospects
--calls from the media
-And most importantly: More money in the bank.
Factors to Consider When Marketing You Firm:
-Have a Marketing Plan
-Consider the commonality between you and prospective clients.
-Play the Numbers Game
-The more people you can get in front of; the better the chance of someone engaging you.
-Build a quality referral sources
-Understand that people learn differently
-Connect with other professions who share your market
Guest blog post by Matt Spiegel
It used to be that lawyers had no choice but to practice law from a brick and mortar office. Opening up a solo practice or small law firm required heavy up front investment in office space, office furniture, office supplies and premise-based computer systems and servers.
That was then. This is now.
These days, all a lawyer needs to start practicing law is a laptop, an internet connection, and a smartphone. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every law practice is sustainable using just these tools--transactional practices are much more amenable to practicing law with a virtual law office. And even then, an attorney with a thriving transactional law practice may eventually need--or want--to expand into brick and mortar office.
But lawyers can launch a successful law practice in the absence of a brick and mortar office. The key is to use the right tools and technologies--and to do so ethically.
First, don’t be afraid to outsource. Take advantage of virtual receptionist and answering services like Ruby Receptionists. And, use legal assistants, whether paralegals or contract attorneys.
Next, make use of all of the cost-effective 21st century technologies now available that are revolutionizing the way that business is being done. The key is to invest in flexible, reliable technologies, including computers, scanners, printers, smart phones and tablets, and more. Research your options and choose wisely. Resources like Lawyerist’s Legal Technology Buyer’s Guide can help.
Once you’ve acquired equipment appropriate for your needs, the next step is to consider online services that effectively replace the costly, clunky tools of yesteryear. So instead of buying a fax machine, use an online fax service. In lieu of a scanner or for scanning on the go, download a scanning app to your smart phone or tablet. Use your smartphone’s built-in phone system or download an app for conference calls. Test drive Google Voice or use an app such as YouMail to manage incoming messages.
Another important step--make the move to the cloud in order to increase your mobility and flexibility while reducing your overhead and IT costs. Take advantage of cloud-based law practice management software to run your law practice no matter where you are. Streamline your law practice and save money on postage by communicating with your clients and contacts using your cloud-based law practice management system. Manage and store your law firm’s documents in the cloud so that you’ll always be able to access and share documents from any location.
And last but not least, make sure your technology choices are in line with the ethical requirements of your jurisdiction. As a starting point, you can learn about ethical obligations and different technologies by reading blogs such as Legalethics.com. The ABA also offers this very helpful chart that lists the ethics decisions from across the country that have been issued regarding the use of cloud computing by lawyers.
So what are you waiting for? Your 21st century modern law firm awaits you! Grab the reigns, research your options, and take advantage of the new world order!
Matt Spiegel is the Vice President and GM of MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management system. He is an attorney in San Diego, California and started his criminal defense law practice in 2009 after working for four years with one of San Diego's largest consumer law firms. As a practicing attorney and one of the founders of MyCase, he often speaks at legal conferences regarding the in and outs of running a law practice and how cloud computing technologies can benefit the legal profession. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today Ed talks about a basic sales mantra: "Meet People! Meet People! Meet People!" He shares how Five Cards and Three Feet can help do this.
Visiting ALM LegalTech conference today was eye popping in both its simplicity and complexity.
First, the simple: D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, suggests that law firms don't need more software. They need to use their existing software more efficiently and effectively. What a concept. Reminds me of the scientists' suggesting that humans use only 10% or less of our mental capacity.
The difference between the two concepts is that inefficient use of existing technology increases the legal spend for clients. And only Corporate America can do what Mr. Flaherty did: subject his outside counsel to economic consequences when they are guilty. He recently reduced a law firm’s billing to Kia Motors by 40 hours because he detected they didn’t know how to use Word to print to a .pdf file and eliminate the scanning process which would have reduced associates time on his matters by the 40 hours. Multiply this scenario many times and you are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer billing. More on that in a later post.
Next, the complex: Owen Byrd of Lex Machina discussed the concept of Moneyball for Lawyers. He says that “Moneyball” applies data (any collection of facts) to analytics in order to understand trends and patterns that emerge from that data. This supplements legal research and reasoning with predictive analytics. This approach can help predict a party's behavior, likely outcome of a lawsuit and the results from a specific legal strategy or argument. The concept, emanating from Stanford studies, can be viewed merely as a new research tool. If so, it's rather expensive. It can also be viewed as a marketing tool by helping you refine your pitches for new legal work to prospective clients. In this case, the cost is insignificant when you attain one or more new clients. This is the future of the legal profession. Currently, Lex Machina and its approach can be utilized only by the larger organizations with big money at stake. But, the handwriting is on the wall.
Most important, these two divergent approaches to technology demonstrate the need to be proficient with current technology in order to satisfy rule 1.1 (definition of competence) and to run scared about the future if you fail to pay attention to the changes coming in the future. The bottom line is to serve clients well. Your awareness and proficiency with technology addresses that goal…and may provide a competitive advantage to some.
The following note is prompted by the comments of Susan Cartier Liebel of Solo Practice University® and her post about Kimberly, a young mother who just gave birth to her third child and was a 3L law student at Stetson. She became ill but failed to go to a doctor to address her own health. She was busy with her family and "stuff."
This is for all of you out there whether lawyer or law student, mother or father, who puts
themselves last. You put off going to the doctor for that chronic cough while you rush your child to the pediatrician for a hang nail. You eat your cold dinner out of a jar standing up and talking on the phone while you make sure your child’s meal is hot and she’s seated lest she choke on her food. You do so because ‘you can handle it’. Well, here’s the truth. You can’t.
You can’t care for your kids or your spouse if you break down physically. You can’t care for your clients if you don’t take time to reinvigorate and refresh. Remember the airline admonition: Put your air mask on first and then help your child and others around you. None of us are superhuman or immortal. There is nothing more important than your health, no final, no brief, no exam, no trial, no event. Remember this the next time you get no sleep or ignore that persistent cough or inexplicable pain in your side because ‘you don’t have time’ to slow down. Remember you can break down, too. No machine and certainly no human can work without stop and without repair from time to time.
Ed advises: keep track of your work, bill timely, and collect efficiently.
MyCase features my guest blog post suggesting that there is plenty of work for those lawyers willing to be realistic both in the nature of the clients they serve and the fees they charge.
While you're at their web site, check out their software. It has been reviewed by many and is well - regarded.
There are at least two components of legal costs: Fees and expenses. When one is clearly out of line, the other is perceived to be out of line. Perception is reality.
Much has been written about the $1,000 per hour legal fee. It's out of line, too high, much too expensive, etc. But the writers fail to assess the competitive market for those services and whether those services have some very special expertise connected with the fee that justifies the fee. If, for example, you're in a "bet the company" situation, you want the best lawyer you can get. If you're in a criminal trial as was OJ Simpson, you want a particular lawyer and team of lawyers. You will pay the asking price.
If you're facing a normal contract dispute, one might consider this a commodity type of legal battle, one not requiring the best lawyer in the state; a good lawyer will suffice and the cost of his/her services will be adjusted downward accordingly. Some call this commodity pricing.
If you're a very large bankrupt company, you need specialized professional expertise. According to Bankruptcy Court filings (attorney fees need to be approved by the judge), many lawyers in this arena are receiving $1,000 per hour. Nothing out of the ordinary here.... this is reality.
However, when these same filings show application for expense reimbursements that are out of the ordinary, then questions arise. For example, why should the bankrupt estate pay for first class airfare, for normal photocopying charges, for faxes, for overnight hotel stays at the Waldorf-Astoria, etc.? Many such expenses are considered part of a firm's normal overhead; many such expenses can be lowered by conducting oneself in the "normal course of business," such as charging for coach airfare (not first class or business fare), hotel charges (at a Marriott, etc. rather than the Waldorf).
Any "over" charges should be at the lawyer's expense not the expense of the estate. After all, isn't that why the lawyer is receiving the larger per hour fees? It's when the lawyer begins to "nickel and dime" the client or take advantage by charging more than "ordinary" expenses, the perception of over-billing extends over to the fee itself. When asked, I usually advise my clients to reduce the expense charges and their fee charges will not be questioned. It's usually the $5.05 charge that brings the whole bill into question, not the other way around.
This issue has arisen in a number of conversations with clients.
Why would you engage a contract lawyer? For one of several reasons: (i) even out the work flow; ii) engage expertise you don’t possess at the moment; (iii) gain time to observe the quality of work of a potential hire; and (iv) determine if you have enough work in the long term to hire a permanent employee.
Once you hire a contract lawyer, whether for a designated number of hours or a specific project, do you know whether that lawyer is covered under your errors and omissions insurance policy? Often, policies are written to include all the attorneys you hire after your policy commencement date up to the end of that policy term period. Then, your premium is based for the following year on the higher number of lawyers now on staff.
But, the question remains, are you covered for what is, in essence, a part-time employee. Check with your broker; read your policy. Make sure you know the answer. Many lawyers require that their contract lawyers specifically name them on their policies with an endorsement. Of course, remember that most policies are claims-made policies, not occurrence policies. So, your policy must be written in such a way as to cover negligence asserted in the current period though the alleged negligence was committed by your contract lawyer in an earlier period and is no longer present. Ask. Be sure.
Most of us can notice when something “isn’t right” with our bodies, and we often are quick to jump to a conclusion about the cause. Yet what we perceive to be the problem, and the reality behind it, may be much different.
A urologist recently shared an example with me, saying that many people come to him to “fix the problem” of an over-active bladder at night. They typically attribute it to a “plumbing” issue that a pill or even surgery can cure. Yet this doctor suggested that, as people age, they sleep less and they’re likely to be awakened more easily by sounds that didn’t disturb them in earlier years – a dog barking, the house creaking. Once they’re awake, they decide to honor the bladder urge so they can go back to sleep. The perception is that there is a physical medical problem. The real cause is the natural aging process and the best “cure” is to accept it.
Transfer this lesson to a law practice. Most lawyers are quick to perceive a problem when there is less money coming in the door. They immediately jump to a conclusion about “the cure” – do more marketing, or raise rates. The reality is that declining revenue typically began long before as a problem with receivables. Generating new work to cover declining revenue simply isn’t the answer. The strategy is to make sure clients know they must pay their bills within 30 days. And the way to do that is specify clear collection terms in the engagement agreement. Lawyers perceive every client as valuable and hate to cut them loose; the reality is that continuing to do work for overdue clients who don’t pay shows those clients are not worth keeping.
A new study by George Washington Law School showed that realization rates (the amount of money billed that is collected) average 83.6 percent for all law firms, a figure that is a historic low. If you perceive your revenue is down, and the reality is that you only collect 80 cents on the dollar, you’re like the urologist’s patients – you won’t get many good nights of sleep.
“I’m so overwhelmed, I just don’t have time to take care of myself.” Those were the first and last words of a very short conversation I had recently with an obviously harried lawyer. Do you feel the same way? Are you in the same position? See our newsletter for suggestions on how to address this feeling.
Ed advises: keep track of your work, bill timely, and collect efficiently.
From Alan Weiss, my coach, who develops pithy sayings to sum up the human experience. In his latest one, he says It's not "garbage in, garbage out" these days. It's "garbage in, garbage gets stuck and clogs everything up."
So let's look at the world as it is and, to paraphrase another saying, work with what we can control and ignore the rest. Our lives would be much happier and more productive.
Every time I have a complaint, I see the person next to me with a greater problem or challenge. I realize how blessed I am. Have a great Monday and rest of the week..