If you’re sick of Calibri and Cambria, change your default heading and body styles so you can start every new Word document with the fonts you prefer.
Put Font Frustration Behind You!
One of the most persistent frustrations legal users have with Microsoft Word is the default font settings. Fortunately, you can permanently change just two Styles (+Body and +Headings) to give your documents a more businesslike typeface.
These settings are found in the Design tab (introduced into Microsoft Word with version 2013).
Over on the far right is a drop-down called Fonts. Clicking on Fonts will give you a list of preconfigured font sets. From here, you want to choose Customize Fonts.
That’s going to take you into the Create New Theme Fonts dialog box. On the left, you’ll see Heading font and Body font. This is where you set the two Styles I told you about earlier, +Body and +Headings, which in turn control basic settings for many of the other Styles in a Word document. Just use the drop-down for each to find a font more to your liking. Then you can name your preferred font set before clicking save.
Once you reset the font style, the default text size is an easy fix, too.
Go to the Home tab and click on the small launcher arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the font section to go to the Font dialog box. Select +Body and the size text you want, then click Set as Default in the lower left-hand corner.
Word will ask whether you want to make this the default for this document only or for all future documents based on the Normal template. Choose the latter and click OK.
Save everything you’ve done by clicking Set as Default on the Design tab (next to the Colors and Fonts buttons).
Now Every New Document You Start in Word Will Use the Fonts You Prefer
This doesn’t affect documents you receive from others or any existing documents you created. However, once you reset your default fonts, at least your days of adjusting the fonts every time you start a document are behind you.
A Brief History of Black Lawyers in Kansas: The Sayers Family
At the conclusion of Black History Month, we want to highlight one dynamic legal family and their contributions to the Kansas bar.
It is difficult to know many of the details in documenting the activities of black lawyers in Kansas prior to the early 20th century.
But, we do know that at that time W.L. Sayers and John Q. Sayers of Hill City, E. Clark of Lawrence, T. Bell of Leavenworth and I.F. Bradley, Sr. of Kansas City had established "enviable reputations as able and fearless trial lawyers, Clark and Bradley also served as Justices of the Peace in Lawrence and Kansas City."
The Sayers family is one of the most distinguished in the history of the Kansas bar. The family moved to Nicodemus from Nebraska in the late 1880"s and even with many obstacles in their path toward formal education the two sons, W.L. and John Q., "gained fame in legal circles. W.L. began to teach school at the age of 16 and he started to read law in the office of G.W. Jones in Hill City shortly thereafter. Before the turn of the century, he was admitted to the bar, engaged in private practice, and in 1900 was elected county attorney. He won the office again in 1912 and 1914. in addition to the practice of law, he engaged in innumerable business and civic activities."
"John Q. Sayers, seven years his brother's junior, also served as Graham county attorney and with W.L. built a wide-ranging practice. Both were highly successful in the courtroom and it was reported that in one term of the district court in Graham County 32 cases appeared before the bench. W.L. arguing for one side or the other, won every case. He did not talk much about his successes but he did mention once that John had beaten him several times."
John was also willing to comment on his brother's achievements, telling the Kansas City Star on one occasion: "The trouble is he's twice as good as ever when he comes up against me in court...You never know what he's got up his sleeve until he breaks loose with it, at the most embarrassing moment possible."
W. L. Sayers was recognized by one prominent white lawyer as he described Bill: " Bill is deceptively smoothe in the courtroom ...Bill leads witnesses into his confidence with his mild manners and magnetic charm until they have told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but, whether they originally intended to or not...He never forgets a case or a fact. In fact, he is a walking lawbook."
Another member of the family, W.L.'s son, Wendell, graduated from Washburn Law School, practiced law in Colorado, and has served with distinction in the Colorado attorney general's office.
The Sayers family clearly made a difference in the Kansas legal community, and they continue to do so. The Kansas Bar expresses gratitude to these early lawyers for their perseverance, dedication, and commitment to building a diverse, civic-minded, and accomplished legal community in Kansas.
Reference: Material for this post was derived from "Requisite Learning and Good Moral Character: A History of the Kansas Bench and Bar" written by Robert W. Richmond of the Kansas Historical Society and published by the Kansas Bar Association in 1982.
In honor of Black History Month, we've pulled out three legal pioneers to share with you. These were some of the first African American lawyers and they laid the foundation for future generations, but it was quite a struggle. When Macon Bolling Allen became the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States it was a testament to his strength of character. And, when Irvin Charles Mollison began to practice law as an African American man it became so difficult that he petitioned for a judicial position. Finally, Charles Hamilton Houston served as the Dean of Howard University School of Law and worked on civil rights in this country becoming known as "the man who killed Jim Crow."
We don't learn much about these early pioneers and leaders of our profession, so in honor of Black History Month, and because these stories are important to our larger story, I am sharing them with you. I do not have any African American Women here. Unfortunately, it was much later when women were able to immerse themselves in the professional world, particularly women of color. But, during Women's History Month next month, you will learn more about some of the amazing legal minds of our female pioneers. So, stay tuned!
The First African American man to both be licensed to practice law and hold a judicial position in the United States: Macon Bolling Allen
Macon Bolling Allen (born Allen Macon Bolling; August 4, 1816 – June 11, 1894) is believed to be both the first African American licensed to practice law and to hold a judicial position in the United States. Allen passed the bar exam in Maine in 1844 and became a MassachusettsJustice of the Peace in 1848. He moved to South Carolina after the American Civil War to practice law and was elected as a probate court judge in 1874. Following the Reconstruction Era, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association.
The First African American man appointed to a position in the federal judiciary: Irvin Charles Mollison
Houston is also well known for having trained and mentored a generation of black attorneys, including Thurgood Marshall, future director of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund and appointed as Supreme CourtJustice. He recruited young lawyers to work on the NAACP's litigation campaigns, building connections between Howard's and Harvard's university law schools.
Since 2009, the number of legal malpractice suits has escalated along with the costs to defend them, according to annual surveys by Ames & Gogh, an insurance broker. They say:
Insurers have paid claims of $50 million or more in 2016.
Malpractice claims are most commonly triggered by conflicts of interest and cybersecurity issues.
Business transactions result in the most claims, which tend to center around improper preparation, filing and/or document transmission.
If you want to do everything possible to ensure you’re never among the firms accused of malpractice, take advantage of law practice management software, advises Nerino Petro, technology co-editor for the ABA “GP|Solo Magazine” and CEO of a legal consulting firm.
“Properly implemented, law practice management can help reduce malpractice exposure by significantly reducing opportunities for human error, and that’s huge,” he says.
Top law practice management software brings the highest level of diligence to conflict checking by searching your entire database, including notes, files, text documents, images that have undergone optical character recognition scanning, and emails. It then can run a report of results.
This is a vast improvement over typical conflict-checking methods, says Petro.
“These can range from a lawyer poking his head out of his office and yelling, ‘Anyone ever represent Joe Goglioni?’ to circulating a list of names throughout the firm to running names through a time-and-billing system,” he explains. “If there’s no response or nothing shows up, they assume they’ve done a conflict check. It’s no wonder malpractice claims for conflict checks are increasing.”
2. Keeping Track of Deadlines
“If you have never woken up in the middle of the night, panicking that you might have blown a statute of limitations date, you’re in the wrong field,” declares Nerino, “because that should be something that keeps you up at night.”
Law practice management software can help you ensure you never miss a deadline (and sleep much easier) by:
Automatically calculating court deadlines to eliminate human error — like overlooking holidays, weekends, and rule changes — that can happen too easily when deadlines are calculated manually.
Automatically update you if rule sets have changed. The most trusted practice management systems employ attorney editors who continuously monitor rule sets across the entire U.S. judicial system. If a rule changes, you will be automatically notified so every deadline in your case can be updated to reflect it.
Alert you of tasks to complete to meet the court deadline. If the court deadline shifts, your task deadlines will, too.
3. Providing Thorough Documentation
Practice management software acts as a repository for all of your matter information. It details every action you take and when you take them to move your matters forward.
This came in handy for Cynthia Sharp, Esq., when she owned a law firm (she is now an attorney coach). She recalls when a client’s daughter accused her of not “doing anything” with her mother’s case for two years. Because of her law practice management system, Sharp was able to counter this assertion with 200 time-stamped actions she had taken to move the matter forward.
“I would have never been as convincing if I didn’t have the technology that helped us track precisely what we did on behalf of her mother,” says Sharp.
In addition to meticulously documenting actions taken on a matter, the best law practice management tools document communication through secure client portals. A built-in client portal allows you to securely exchange documents and messages with clients while recording and time stamping the actions taken regarding the communication.
“If a client insists that they never got a response to an issue, you’ll be able to pull up the communication and point to the date your response was sent, if they opened it, and how they replied,” notes Petro.
4. Mitigating Cybersecurity Issues
Malpractice insurers have seen an uptick in malpractice claims related to hackers. This shouldn’t be surprising considering that the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey
Report reveals that most law firms with fewer than 10 attorneys don’t take any action to encrypt their emails or files. This makes small law firms an appealing target, says Petro, because the information they’re responsible for — whether that’s details of a merger or simply social security numbers — is valuable. That’s why he believes a cybersecurity needs to be a top, if not the number one, priority for law firms.
The easiest way to make sure your law firm is up to speed with the latest and best cybersecurity is by taking advantage of law practice management software, which provides industry-leading security that would be too costly for small law firms to obtain on their own. This includes:
The same cybersecurity as the world’s leading financial organizations, including SOC 2 compliance and certification.
Encryption for emails and data while in transit and storage.
Daily data back up on multiple servers, in discrete locations, with 24/7 physical security and cybersecurity protection.
“Law practice management tools can help you efficiently meet your obligations under the rules of professional conduct,” says Petro. “From keeping your client’s information confidential to providing detailed documentation of activities, time and billing, and communication, you’ll have the data you need to mitigate the situations that cause lawsuits. It’s no wonder many insurers provide discounts to firms that have a law practice management subscription.”
Find out how easy it is to rest easier knowing that your firm is doing everything possible to avoid the human error behind malpractice claims. Take advantage of a two-week free trial of Firm Central that includes all of the features discussed in this article. (We know lawyers get busy, so if you forget to notify us in a couple of weeks that you’re not interested — don’t worry. You won’t automatically be rolled into a subscription.)
And, if at the end of the two weeks you’re wondering how you lived without it, you’ll be relieved to know that subscriptions are affordable — about the same as a basic cell phone or cable bill.
Here's the legal lowdown on document management software
BY NICOLE BLACK
Choosing the right technology tools for your law firm can be a confusing endeavor. After all, there are so many different types of software products available and so many choices to make when it comes to features, pricing and security. Sifting through the maze of information can be a time-consuming process that can quickly become overwhelming.
That’s why my goal with this new monthly legal technology column is to get lawyers up to speed on their legal software options. In each column, I’ll focus on a specific type of software—such as billing or contract analysis software—and explain the choices available, including features built into software suites and stand-alone platforms devoted to handling a particular law firm function.
Most of the software tools discussed will be those aimed at small and midsize firms, since large firms have very different, more complex needs. I’ll also focus primarily on cloud-based tools since even the most traditional software providers are transitioning many of their products to the cloud. Generic consumer-focused tools will not be discussed since legal-specific software is designed with lawyers’ needs in mind, both in terms of functionality and security, whereas consumer-focused software is not.
In this column, I’ll cover the document management software options for solo, small and midsize law firms. Because the practice of law is document-intensive, firms of all sizes have document management needs. Some rely on the foldering systems built into their word processing software, but most firms require a more robust system. That’s where document management software comes in.
Document management software is designed to provide a built-in organizational system for your documents. Documents can be associated with case files or matters, and access can be limited to certain firm users. Some more robust systems include document versioning and audit trails that track user access to documents. Document collaboration and sharing features are also built into some platforms and allow secure external sharing with clients, co-counsel, experts and more. Another feature included in some software products is the conversion of scanned documents into optical character recognition format, which creates searchable, indexed PDFs.
Your firm’s document management needs will depend in large part on the size of your law firm and the practice areas handled by your firm. Some practice areas are much more document-intensive and thus require more robust document management tools.
For solo and small-firm lawyers with practices that aren’t document-intensive—such as family lawyers, trust and estate lawyers, and criminal law attorneys—a stand-alone document management system is likely unnecessary. Instead, the document management features built into most law practice management systems such as Rocket Matter, Clio or MyCase (note that I am the legal technology evangelist with MyCase) will often be sufficient and more cost-effective than using both law practice management software and document management software.
The document management features built into law practice management software typically include the ability to store and associate documents with client matters, basic document versioning, and the ability to share documents using secure online portals. Some even allow document collaboration using secure communication portals, a functionality that is all the more important in the wake of ABA Formal Opinion 477, wherein the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility concluded that particularly sensitive client information should no longer be shared using unencrypted email.
Of course, some small and midsize law firms have more complex document management requirements. Three leading stand-alone systems for such firms to consider are iManage, Worldox and Netdocs. Worldox and iManage have been around for years as premise-based solutions, and both recently rolled out cloud-based options. Netdocs, on the other hand, has always been a cloud-based solution. This means Netdocs was designed to work in, and take advantage of, cloud functionality from the very start, whereas Worldox and iManage’s cloud versions are based on functionality and features found in their premise-based software.
All three platforms provide advanced document management features. In addition, they also include robust document versioning, audit trails and OCR conversion from scans that permit document indexing and search features. Each also includes email management tools, knowledge management capabilities, and other features specific to larger firms, including key integrations with Office 365, e-discovery platforms, and more.
Finally, because all the document management systems discussed above—both the stand-alone and built-in options—are cloud-based, mobile document access is available no matter which software solution you choose. When your firm’s documents are securely stored in the cloud, you can easily and securely access those documents from any location via the mobile app of your chosen software program using any internet-enabled device.
With today’s document management software, gone are the days of scrambling to locate documents. Instead, you’ll be able to quickly and easily access, share and collaborate on your firm’s documents no matter where you are. Another bonus is that with cloud-based document management software, you’ll be well on your way to digitizing your firm’s documents, allowing your firm to easily transition to e-filing when it’s required in your jurisdiction.
So if you aren’t already using document management software in your law firm, what better time than now to make the move?
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, attorney, author, journalist and the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, legal practice management software for solo and small-firm lawyers. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, and she co-authored Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier.She also co-authored Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson West treatise. She writes regular columns for The Daily Record, Above the Law and Legal IT Pros, has authored hundreds of articles and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law, mobile and cloud computing, and internet-based technology. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have at least three phone numbers (home, office, and cell), at least two email addresses (work and personal), and at least two social media accounts (Facebook and LinkedIn). You can be texted, tweeted, emailed, snail-mailed and even faxed. If people want to reach you, they expect to do so almost immediately. It’s no wonder you feel pulled in too many directions and think your scarce time is being wasted.
Add to that the evolution of our professional landscape — the fact that being an expert in your respective field requires a more complex understanding of facts and trends than ever before. To earn and keep your clients’ business, you have to impress them with information they didn’t already know (or could Google).
Then there’s business development, an endeavor once sufficiently addressed with a listing in the phone book, an ad in the paper, and a membership with the Rotary club. Now, it requires constant networking, social media posts, charity involvement, PR, conference attendance, competitive intelligence, and persistent “pinging.”
Ways to Make More Time for Business Development
A healthy practice is already a full-time job. The key is to be as efficient as possible so that you have time left for business development (or whatever else you’ve been neglecting). Here are six steps you can take to increase your efficiency.
1. Start your day with a task list, and use it to guide your activities. This is not as easy as it sounds. All too often we find ourselves starting our day with an idea of how it will go and what we’ll get done, only to find that we get sidetracked, distracted, held-up, and rain-checked by various other people and projects. If this happens, be disciplined in getting your day back on track. Keep a white-board or some other large, visible list in your office that you can use to remind yourself of your priorities for the day. The harder it is to miss, the better.
2. Establish set times for email responses, and stick to them. If you always start every day with email, you’re immediately entering a reactive work mode. Your email inbox is like a to-do list assigned by 100 people, none of whose immediate concern is whether or not you bring in new clients. And email is typically the gateway to an entire day spent in that reactive mode. Of course, you’ll tend to your clients’ needs, but it’s very easy to fall into the trap of serving others’ needs all day long, without ever getting around to yours.
Before you open your inbox in the morning, start your day with a proactive business development project. Maybe it’s reviewing a list of prospects you’ve recently collected, or inviting a colleague out to lunch to see if he or she could provide any potential for referrals. Start your day doing something proactive that serves your goals, because chances are that you won’t find time for it once the day gets started.
3. Stop multitasking. There is a widespread misconception that multitasking is doing two or more tasks simultaneously. But this is inaccurate; multitasking actually involves switching back and forth between different tasks (often with mediocre results). This task-switching consists of two stages. The first is goal-shifting: deciding to focus on another task rather than the one on which you’re currently working. The second is rule activation: recalibrating your mind away from the “rules” of the first task and toward the “rules” of the second task. This recalibration can squander as much as 40 percent of your productive time — hardly worth it. Instead, make a conscious effort to “uni-task,” (i.e., work on only one task at a time). Block out time in your calendar and close your office door to ensure there are minimal interruptions during your designated uni-tasking time.
4. Clear off the mess on your desk, so you can think straight. Rather than leave papers cluttered on your desk, apply the “touch it once” principle. For each item, ask yourself if you have time, right now, to touch this item just once? After opening and reading it, can you deal with it quickly? Then decide whether it needs to be filed, responded to, or delegated. Whichever of these three actions is required, do it immediately. If you don’t have time now to “touch it once” and get it off your desk, then leave it until you’re able to focus on it.
5. Use a timer to limit the number of minutes you spend on any given task.Perfection is often the death of production. Whether drafting an email to a client or updating your bio, there are diminishing rates of return on projects that take up too much of your time and attention. Estimate at the outset how much time you will need to devote to a project in order to get your final product to a solid B+ grade level. If it takes hours longer to make it an A+, it’s probably not worth the effort for a result that is only marginally better.
6. Delegate more of your work to someone else, even if they don’t always do it the “right way.” The only way to survive the frenzy of a busy day is to prioritize — to cut low-yield activities out of our lives so that there’s enough room for the ones that produce the best results. Most of the successful rainmakers I know are obsessed with leverage. They are constantly looking for ways to minimize the time spent on client service so they can focus more on client acquisition. Why? Because it’s far easier to find a service partner than a rainmaker.
Prioritize, own your schedule, then delegate. You might find that you have more time for business development than you thought.
David Ackert is the President of Ackert Inc. and a mentor to high-achieving professionals in the legal, corporate, finance and accounting sectors. David has advised hundreds of lawyers, CEOs and professional-services executives on overcoming business development and marketing challenges. He has developed and implemented business development programs for countless firms, from AmLaw 100s to local boutiques. Follow him on LinkedInor Twitter @DavidAckert.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. In hindsight, this result was foreseeable: My boyfriend and I decided to start a bankruptcy practice in 2009 in the midst of the financial crisis. We were both working around the clock. I never thought about sustainability, creating a law practice where there is time not only to work but to renew, restore and rejuvenate.
When we got married, the honeymoon was the only vacation we’d had in over three years. I recall sitting on the porch of a beautiful house in Kauai with nothing to do and full of anxiety. I had no idea how to rest.
Returning to wholeness meant adding consistent and intentional habits to pay attention to my own well-being. I learned to guard myself from unintended consequences of lawyering, such as burnout, vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. I was able to tap into my natural sense of curiosity and creativity, which led to surprising insights and different ways of seeing challenging client issues.
I returned to a deeper sense of meaning and purpose for why I practice law. Rest wasn’t an adversary to my law practice, but rather essential and complementary.
Focusing on making small, incremental changes over a sustained period of time is the key to creating any new habit. This includes learning how to rest. As Alex Soojung-Kim Pang wrote in his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, “Rest turns out to be like sex or singing or running. Everyone basically knows how to do it, but with a little work and understanding, you can learn to do it a lot better.”
TIME FOR REST
Time is one of our most valuable resources. It is so valuable that we sell it in 0.1-hour increments. Ask yourself: How many hours do you dedicate to work and others each day? Does the current rate of work feel sustainable? Is it nourishing or depleting?
Often, lawyers will object and say they can’t afford to take any time for themselves. They are too busy. As Karen Gifford and I wrote in our book, The Anxious Lawyer, “This feeling of ‘busyness’ is both a seduction and a major source of dysfunction for many lawyers. If we are very busy, we secretly believe we must be doing something important—in fact, we must be very important.”
If you reflexively reject the idea that you can and should carve out time for rest, consider what effect this belief has.
Think about rest in the context of self-care. Self-care is an activity for you, by you. No one else can eat more kale or go to the gym for you. It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. Consider activities that feel nourishing and nurturing.
Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. It’s about the attitude or the intention you bring to the activity. Are you taking proper care of yourself? Are you treating yourself kindly?
Movement. The word exercise is associated with specific activities, such as going to the gym. Broaden your definition to include any activities that involve moving the body. Find movement that feels good. Be flexible. One day, your movement practice might be an hour at the gym; the next day, it might be playing with your kids in the park.
Creativity and hobbies. Do an activity simply for the fun of it. Think back to your childhood and see whether there are activities you used to enjoy that have fallen by the wayside.
Journaling and writing. Writing is an excellent way to process held feelings, explore your inner world and tap into your creativity. One of my favorite practices is described as Morning Pages on the Julia Cameron Live/the Artist’s Way website. You simply sit down each morning with a pen and paper to write whatever comes to mind.
Mindful eating. There is no shortage of diet tips and what you should (or shouldn’t) eat. However, how you eat is as important as what you eat. Simply described, mindful eating means paying attention while you are eating. If you regularly eat mindlessly, shoving food into your mouth while doing email, only to look down and realize your plate is empty, consider making small adjustments to how you eat. Look at the food—all the colors, the flavors, the smells. Savor the experience.
AN ELUSIVE STATE
There’s no off button for the brain. You can go for a massage or sit down to read for pleasure, but the mind may not immediately go into rest mode. It’s natural for the mind to race, think about a case and wonder whether you sent that email.
Trying to force the mind to stop thinking is as effective as holding down a beach ball in the ocean. It takes a lot of effort, and sooner or later it will pop back up. Rather, frame it as an invitation for the mind and body to rest. Your mind or body may have other plans, but you’re still doing your part by creating an optimal state for rest.
You can go on a weeklong vacation to Hawaii, sit on the beach and sip your favorite beverage, yet your mind may still be back at the office, working frantically. These moments can be very frustrating. Part of learning how to rest is increasing self-knowledge about how your mind works. Rather than criticize yourself for feeling anxious, invite the anxiety to sit down for tea.
Finally, if you’re struggling to overcome guilt or negative self-talk about taking time to rest, remember: You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
MINDFULNESS PRACTICE (IN JUST 6 MINUTES)
Here’s how to let go of stress and anxiety: Begin by finding a comfortable posture, allowing the eyes to soften and taking a moment to congratulate yourself for being here. It’s helpful to work through stress and anxiety not by thinking about the content but rather noticing where in the body you’re holding the stress or anxiety.
Do a body scan. Starting with the head, move the attention slowly—down the neck, shoulders and torso, and notice whether there is any tightening or tension. Move down the arms and hands, then into the lower body—the hips, then the legs. Feel your feet on the floor.
Take a nice, long breath. Make it the longest breath you’ve taken all day.
If you notice the mind going into thinking or worrying mode, recognize that in this moment there is nothing to do except simply be here.
With each inhalation, you’re drawing in fresh energy. With each exhalation, you’re releasing and letting go of anything you no longer need.
Close the practice by beginning to wiggle the fingers and toes and very gently moving your body in any way that feels good to you. When you feel ready, allow the eyes to open. (You can hear an audio version of this guided meditation at jeenacho.com/wellbeing.)
Jeena Cho consults with Am Law 200 firms, focusing on actionable change strategies for stress management, well-being, resilience training, mindfulness and meditation. She is the co-author of The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation and practices bankruptcy law with her husband at the JC Law Group in San Francisco.
This article was published in the February 2018 issue of the ABA Journal with the title "The Art of Resting: It’s critical for lawyer well-being, so here’s how to fit rest into your schedule."
Do you dread going to work? If so, maybe it's time to look at the other ways you can flex your legal skills, Nancy Levit says. There are many types of jobs for lawyers, and sometimes what you thought you wanted to do doesn’t work out, Levit tells the ABA Journal's Stephanie Francis Ward in this episode of Asked and Answered.
Levit shares tips on how to find the work you want to do and how to find joy in the work you’re already doing.
One way to adjust your mindset at work is to look at who you’re spending time with, she says. Are you hanging out with colleagues who have positive outlooks, or with the workplace worrywarts and complainers?
Levit advises keeping a mindset of “upward” comparisons. Comparing “downward” means focusing on the things others have that you don’t, while comparing upward makes you grateful for the things you do have. Lawyers tend to want perfection, she says, and the quest to keep up with the Joneses—or the Jones Days—can cause people to be unhappy.
This podcast was brought to you by our advertiser, LawPay. “Did you know that attorneys who accept online payments get paid 39 percent faster on average than those using traditional payment methods? With LawPay, the only payment solution offered through the ABA Advantage program, you can accept client payments online, via email, or in person—no equipment needed. Visit LawPay.com/podcast to sign up and get your first three months free.”
Nancy Levit is a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and the interim associate dean for faculty. She teaches defamation and privacy, employment discrimination, gender and justice, jurisprudence and torts, and is the co-adviser to the UMKC Law Review. Levit is the author of several books, including The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law and its sequel, The Good Lawyer: Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law, both co-authored by Douglas Linder.
Do you know the ROI of your current marketing efforts? Many of us think things are working just fine the way they are, but what if you could increase your leads and client contacts by 20-30% over the next year? Check out today's blog article from Attorneys at Work and find ways to improve your marketing efforts for 2018!
Call Tracking and Live Chat: Two Ways to Measure ROI and Boost Leads on a Budget
We’ve all heard that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I want to put a new spin on it: “Marketing insanity” is continuing to spend money without knowing the results — meaning you can’t prioritize how to spend your marketing dollars.
Many law firms come to us experiencing marketing insanity, usually coupled with a track record of overwhelmingly poor performance in their marketing efforts. They’re not alone. Most firms have little understanding of their marketing return on investment. According to the 2017 Clio Legal Trends Report, 92 percent of firms don’t know their cost per lead and 94 percent don’t know what it costs to acquire a new client.
Learn the True Story Behind Your Marketing Efforts
“Isn’t it good enough that we ask our clients how they heard about us?” I hear some form of that question a lot. Or lawyers will say, “I know when business is good because I talk to all the clients.” But that alone won’t give you the true story behind your marketing ROI. Without some technology tools to help pinpoint where business is coming from, or to track which marketing efforts are working well, you’re fighting blind.
How can you have confidence that marketing dollars are well spent?
How can you properly prioritize how to spend those dollars on different marketing initiatives?
Low-Hanging Fruit: Call Tracking and Live Chat
While there are lots of ways — from simple to complex — to track your marketing efforts, here are two simple and cheap systems you can use to begin measuring your ROI immediately, make better marketing decisions and get more leads.
1. Call tracking. Call tracking will do a few things that are crucial to understanding lead quality, quantity and the cost associated with landing new clients. It gives you the ability to:
Easily measure the number of first-time callers to your firm.
Record conversations for quality purposes. (If your front office is answering the phones with a bland “law offices,” I can guarantee you’re wasting money already.)
Automatically track which keywords visitors type in, to see what’s working in real time. (There are some limitations here, but over time your picture becomes clearer.)
My personal favorite call-tracking system is CallRail. It’s not only cost-effective but ideal for not messing up your local search engine rankings. Plans start at $30 per month and vary based on minutes used. If you’re thinking, “But I love my phone number and I don’t want to lose it,” don’t worry. Companies like CallRail allow you to port your existing phone number to their system so that it becomes a trackable number.
Also, call tracking can be used in many places beyond your website, including TV ads, radio ads, business cards and other forms of print or online advertising. You can use additional call-tracking numbers for any type of marketing campaign, then download the data and match up your call logs with new matters and cases.
Tracking calls and measuring growth over time provide great indicators of your marketing’s effectiveness. I recommend doing this religiously — monthly, quarterly and annually.
Viola! You’re now in the top 10 percent of law firms in the nation.
But what about getting more leads to your website even if you’re on a tight budget? Enter a 24/7 live chat service.
2. Live chat support. We’ve found that placing an additional touchpoint on your website can increase your leads by 20 or 30 percent. Adding a live chat feature is an easy way to do it.
Live chat has become a standard customer support feature, and most consumers expect it on websites. Adding it to your site increases the likelihood that you’ll capture contact information. A law firm chat application will act a bit differently than other business chat services — your provider isn’t going to give advice, consult or qualify a lead. But it will be there for people who want an immediate response before, during and after hours.
I asked Jon Cumberworth, CEO of Client Chat Live, to comment on what customers expect in today’s online environment. He says, “Live chat is an effective tool for law firms because those looking for most attorney’s services are in need of immediate assistance and don’t want to fill out a form and wait for a call. Legal marketing is one of the most competitive verticals, so any opportunity to increase the chance of converting a visitor into a potential client needs to be utilized.”
Live chat is simple to use and you pay only for leads that are good. (In most cases, these are leads you’re already forgoing by not having a live chat service.) Most chat services will charge a flat rate per lead gathered, ranging from $25 to $40, with no monthly minimums or commitment required.
My best advice for any law firm is to try both call tracking and chat and begin tracking their effectiveness. You will increase your leads — and you’ll join the top 10 percent of law firms that actually understand their ROI.
Mike Ramsey is President of Nifty Ventures and founder of Nifty Marketing and Nifty Law. The Nifty Law team brings legal marketing rocket science — digital marketing, website design, SEO and content marketing — to firms nationwide. He is the author of "Winning at Local Search" and a partner at LocalU, which provides conferences in the realm of local search marketing. A guest speaker at marketing events such as Avvo Lawyernomics, Mozcon and Pubcon, Mike has been featured on Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal and SEOmoz. Follow him on Twitter @mikeramsey.
Now that you’ve survived — maybe even enjoyed — the rounds of law firm holiday parties, the slate is wiped clean for 2018. No doubt, resolutions and good intentions bubbled up with the start of the new year. You may have noted them in your head or purchased a new motivational calendar with quarterly pages for tracking your goals.
Lawyers are two to four times as addicted as those in other professions.
Lawyers are four times as depressed as the general population.
During the first 10 years of practice, lawyers have the highest rate of addiction.
There’s Nothing Like a Civilized “Hunger Games”
Of course, this could be the year you break the predictable cycle of broken promises to yourself (and your spouse, your family, your doctor) and insert more balance into your life: eat better, get more exercise, spend more time with family and friends. You know the drill.
Unfortunately, as they climb the rungs to partnership or work to build a viable practice of their own, few lawyers really believe they have a choice in the matter. Finding balance is especially difficult in a law firm of any significant size, where each day is essentially an “interview.” You’re under a microscope as others scrutinize your billable hours, client originations and ability to respond immediately to any demand. You are at the 24/7 disposal of new partners, new clients and new peers who will like you or not, respect you or not, and assess over a six- to nine-year period whether you have “the right stuff.” Nothing like a civilized “Hunger Games,” right?
Tangible, Realistic Ways to Begin a Shift Toward Balance in Your Life
On the bright side, many law firms are shifting away from unhealthy work models, hoping talented lawyers can avoid burnout — and that they’ll stick around. Eventually, this culture shift should reduce defections and lead to more lawyers having long and robust careers.
Until then, however, here are five concrete things you can do to take control of your work-life balance:
1. Disconnect from technology whenever possible. Set up a message on your voicemail and email systems stating you are unavailable and provide contacts for those needing help. Leave an additional number to reach you in a real emergency (it typically is not one). Most senior partners and clients expect 24/7 instant availability, so this won’t be easy. But, it can be accomplished with some creativity. Doctors learned this decades ago by assigning “on call” weekends or weeknights. Maybe your practice group can do the same.
2. Learn to say no. Set realistic work boundaries that permit you to do quality work and maintain high energy. In my experience, a senior partner has more respect for young lawyers who are honest about their workload and do not wish to compromise quality.
3. Take all vacation and comp days. Make them real vacations, not “staycations,” especially if you have finished a major project or trial, or have been traveling excessively for work. Take off for two weeks — not one. You need at least three or four days to feel your body relax and then you’ll have a full week to decompress. And try not to plan too many trips that are exhausting in and of themselves.
4. Commit to healthy habits. Easier said than done, but here are the basics:
Take frequent, quick breaks: a quick walk, five minutes of deep breathing, a short meditation.
Every night, spend an hour doing something for yourself that you can look forward to — a good book, some Netflix, yoga.
Follow good nutrition habits instead of binge eating when you’re feeling starved or late at night.
Get some social interaction outside of work.
Make a sustained sleep schedule a priority. Studies confirm that we lose all stability if our sleep is compromised for any period of time.
5. Get in touch with your life’s priorities, goals and passions. Have you discarded or forgotten them? Your tombstone is not going to read that you had the highest billable hours for a decade. Here are a few tactics to use when looking to reconnect with your passions:
Identify your greatest joys. Feel free to go back to your childhood.
List five things (jobs, volunteer work, hobbies, adventures) you would like to do.
List five more things that you are very good at doing (even if you have never done them in public or as part of a job).
Complete this sentence: “My life is ideal when … ” Do it again 15 times, then reduce it to your top five.
Everything in life that results in real change begins with simple and tangible action steps, not a January flood of empty promises to yourself and new gym memberships.
Congratulations! You survived law school, passed the bar and got a job. By now you’re somewhat settled in. Some partners have learned your name, and you’ve received a few paychecks.
So, what will you do with the steady earnings?
Since it is far easier to start your financial life on the right foot than be forced to adjust bad habits decades later, here’s a checklist covering what to do and what to avoid as a new attorney.
Before we dive in, please note that the following items are presented for educational purposes only. Nothing here is or should be considered specific financial advice for you. As your situation is undoubtedly nuanced, you should seek the advice of financial and tax professionals before using the strategies mentioned.
Don’t Live at the Level of Your Income
Sometimes called “lifestyle creep,” this personal finance villain snares countless lawyers, and it is especially prevalent among those whose incomes have recently jumped. Newly minted associates are particularly susceptible.
Lifestyle creep might covertly enter your post-law school world as a few nicer things here and there … nothing too extravagant. The occasional nicer dinner with friends, a car that regularly starts, and a vacation to a local beach or lake. At this point, everything is fine.
With blinding speed, however, those “nicer things” can morph into German autos, Italian leather goods, a seven-figure home, and vacations to places seen by most only on the Travel Channel.
Why does this matter? In a word, freedom. Living at the level of your income and routinely spending every dollar that enters your bank account will shackle you to your job. Once you become accustomed to a certain standard of living, it’s tremendously difficult to adjust your spending and lifestyle downward. Lifestyle creep will cripple your professional and personal flexibility.
Eventually going part-time, starting your own firm, entering public service, returning to school, and in some cases, even going in-house, are all out of the question. Your lifestyle simply won’t afford any downward adjustment in income.
How do you not live at the level of your income? Aim to live like (or almost like) you did in law school during your first few years of practicing. While this might be tough to do, you’ll be glad to discover in a couple of years that your credit card debt is gone, you’ve saved some money, and you are free to explore career options.
Realistically, you’ll need to upgrade a few things once you’ve started working, and that’s OK. Just do it discerningly.
Do Understand Your Cash Flow
Young lawyers run into trouble when they’re not cognizant of how much comes in and how much goes out of their bank accounts each month. Lack of awareness leads to spending everything that comes in (and not saving), or worse, spending too much and running up credit card balances.
How do you avoid overspending?
Find the amount that actually enters your bank account each month. Let’s say it’s $4,000.
Write down the fixed expenses you know you’ll have to pay each month: rent or mortgage, car note, phone, cable/internet, utilities (use a three-month average), student loan payments, credit card minimums and so on. Let’s say this all adds up to $2,250.
Subtract this expense total from your monthly take-home pay. You will need to spread the remaining amount — $1,750 — over the four weeks of the month to cover variable expenses, such as gas, groceries, eating out, entertainment, savings, additional credit card payments and surprises. That means you’ll have $437.50 per week for these expenses.
Get familiar with your weekly figure. Your options for boosting it: slashing expenses, or earning more money (or both).
Over time, earning more money has a far greater impact. But you can’t realistically renegotiate your pay six months into your first year. So instead, look to cut expenses.
Look first at reducing your fixed expenses. Renegotiating a cable bill, changing utility providers and rebidding your car insurance can often yield savings without disrupting your lifestyle. From there, look at cutting back on your variable expenses — the restaurants, groceries, shopping and entertainment, and so on.
Regardless of what you choose to adjust, awareness of your cash flow will drive better decisions.
Do Tackle Your Debt
Get organized and confront credit card and student loan debts head-on and you’ll find them less daunting.
For credit cards, visit each card’s website to find your current balance, interest rate and required minimum monthly payment. Enter this info into an Excel or Google spreadsheet to get organized. Focus your efforts and dollars to pay off one card at a time. Choose either the “snowball” method (lowest balance first) or the “avalanche” method (highest interest rate first) and stick with your choice to pay off your debts. Here’s a more in-depth discussion of credit card paydown strategies.
With federal student loans you have two main paths:
Pay off the debt as quickly as possible (this often involves refinancing).
Or, use an income-contingent plan, pay as little as possible, and maximize the amount of loan forgiveness you can receive.
Analyzing these choices is too complicated and nuanced to responsibly discuss here. Take a look at the Student Loan Planner’s blog for several in-depth student loan discussions.
Don’t Ignore Free Money
If your employer matches your retirement plan contributions up to some level, then contribute up to that level. That’s free money.
Seriously, increase your contributions today to take full advantage of any matching dollars. You’ll be amazed how fast this increases your savings. To gauge the impact of increasing your retirement plan contributions, use ADP’s paycheck calculator.
Do Beware of Your Biggest Expense: Taxes
That’s right. A variety of taxes devour a material portion of your gross (pretax) income. Understanding how much you pay, and why, will serve you well for the rest of your professional career and beyond.
Start by preparing and filing your own taxes for a few years. This isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds and will provide you with a good basic tax education.
Bonus Tip: Look Ahead, Leverage Recruiters
Yes, calls from recruiters can be disruptive and tend to come at the worst times — like when you’re waiting for a partner, an opposing counsel, or a client to call.
However, when you do need a recruiter, you’ll want to have the relationship already established. While this may be more relevant for Biglaw attorneys considering lateral moves, a good recruiter can help you benchmark your salary based on your experience and the geography in which you’re practicing — even if you’re at a smaller firm.
Also, many jobs are never posted publicly. Recruiters network constantly and are often better informed than your colleagues about which firms are hiring. And if you’re considering a move to a business-oriented, nontraditional legal role, a recruiter can do wonders to package and present your skillset in a way that lands interviews for you.
Ryan McPherson is the founder of Intelligent Worth. He helps solo practitioners and partners in smaller firms align their personal and business finances to generate wealth and avoid missteps. Ryan is a Certified Financial Planner and an IRS Enrolled Agent. He is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the XY Planning Network. Follow him on Twitter @RyanDMcPherson.
Our intent is to explore this complex and tangled issue piece-by-piece to make sense of the current thinking around data protection, legal ethics and regulation.
Admittedly, these articles are often a bird’s eye view of an issue that affects every person and business a little bit differently. Additionally, targets (that’s you) experience online threats differently based on who they are and what data they have. This makes it hard to promote one-size-fits-all recommendations.
To overcome some of the amorphousness that surrounds this topic, we wanted to provide a more concrete checkup that anyone, attorneys to zookeepers, could benefit from.
This checklist comes with the usual disclaimer that you should engage in a threat assessment of your own situation to know what is the best way to protect your data. Further, these are not foolproof recommendations. Nevertheless, if you are not doing the things below, you are likely less safe for it.
1. Have you been pwned? It is pretty safe to say we have all been hacked or compromised at this point. Between the breaches of Equifax, LinkedIn and Yahoo, information from billions of accounts have spilled out into the world. But were you one of them? While it is impossible to be 100 percent certain, there is one way to see if your account information has fallen prey to a hack. By going to haveibeenpwned.com, you can type in your email addresses or usernames to see if they come up in the sites database of publicly known hacks. If a hack has occurred but it has not been verified or made public, then the site will not have that information. However, it is a good first step to know if your passwords have been compromised.
2. Consider a password manager. If your email address came up on haveibeenpwned, your palms are probably sweaty and fear has overtaken you. This is normal, but not necessary. Let us channel that nervous energy towards getting serious about passwords. Even the grinning readers who did not see their email on the website should follow along. A password manager will help you store your bevy of passwords, which should all be as unique as a snowflake. No longer will you need gimmicks to remember which password had an exclamation point or the capital “T” in it. The manager will handle that for you. While not hocking particular software, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has some handy questions to vet a company promising you security:
• Is the company clear about the limitations of its product? Do not trust companies that promise the world or use buzzwords like “military grade.” That is gibberish and should be discounted.
• Does the company share its threat model in case of a compromise? Mature companies who trust in their product will be transparent about the attacks they are prepared for and how they are prepared. Look for this documentation.
• Does the company say it cannot or will not access your data? You might have to read the terms of service, but companies that cannot access your data by design are better. “Will not” leaves the backdoor ajar.
• What do users say? Like everything else, you can find online reviews of password managers. Do people still trust the tool? Has the company made unfortunate headlines recently? These are all things to consider in your decision.
When you are thinking about which manager to use, Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy foundthat the password managers that come default in many browsers are being used by ad trackers to scoop up your data.
3. Treat yourself to better passwords. It is 2018, and a password under seven characters that combines your dog’s name and your birth year are not sufficient. Nor is it cool that you have a dozen passwords that are permutations of each other. While a password manager (see above) will help keep your online life in order, you still need quality passwords to make the software worthwhile. The National Institute of Standards and Technology updated their password guidelines last year, and they recommend that you create a strong password, or longer passphrase where possible, that avoids the maddening nature of passwords with upper-case, special symbols and numbers. Think of a line from a book or song that is not that popular and easy for you to remember. This is especially important to master passwords to things like that new password manager you got after reading this article. Also, unless you are breached, NIST no longer recommends making periodic changes to your password. If it is not broke, do not fix it. Last, NIST recommends avoiding password hints or knowledge-based authentication, which brings us to…
4. Two-factor authentication! I hope that when you saw that header, you smugly thought to yourself, “I already do that.” If so, you’ve graduated to step five. However, if you do not know what two-factor authentication is, keep reading. Two-factor authentication is a two-step process to signing into an account. Instead of merely typing your password and logging in, two-factor will send you an email or text message with a unique passcode to enter before you can access your account. The hope here is that if your password is compromised, you have a second line of defense. All major companies have two-factor now, so take advantage of it. (For a list of sites with two-factor authentication check out twofactorauth.org.)
5. Encrypt your devices. While the word “encrypt” can sometimes make people feel uneasy, it has become a painless, low cost way to protect your information. Doing so can make you feel slightly more secure if you lose or misplace your device. Android, Apple and Microsoft now all have turnkey encryption for their devices. For Android Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S8 and later phones, they come encrypted. For iPhone users, it is as easy as turning on your passcode, which Apple says 89 percent of its customers already do. Windows, as well, makes it easy to turn on BitLocker, their encryption service. With this step, do not forget to also encrypt external storage devices you use for documents or pirated MP3s from college.
With all of this being said, stay vigilant. As a digital consumer, you are constantly playing defense against an ever-evolving offense. While these tips work for today, they may not in the future. To keep abreast of changing threats and best practices, keep track of the Journal’s ongoing series and other trustworthy news sources.
Students at top law schools ask for more mental health support
Today’s law students may be more open about discussing their mental health issues than previous generations, but law schools still draw many Type A individuals, frequently on a never-ending quest for perfection.
“I think that people are beginning to realize that by eating right, getting enough sleep and doing things that make them happy, that will make them do better in school. But when you’re in a place like law school, and you see someone going to the law library for four hours, you ask yourself, ‘Should I be studying more?’ And then you give up going to the gym or having dinner with friends to study more,” says Alix Simnock, a Duke University School of Law third-year student, who is president of the school’s bar association.
Simnock is one of 16 student leaders at 13 law schools to sign a recent pledge (PDF) addressed to law school communities that is focused on both improving mental health and promoting wellness on law school campuses.
The letter noted a stereotype that law school must be “grueling and overwhelming” to prepare students for the practice.
“The toll on students’ mental health has become an accepted characteristic of law school life rather than properly recognized as an impediment to our success. Indeed, our laws and judicial decisions display a history of overlooking mental and emotional distress and continue to downplay mental illness as too enigmatic, unimportant or easily faked to have a role in the law,” reads the letter.
Also, it suggested that character and fitness inquiries regarding a student’s mental health history could encourage self-treatment with substance abuse.
“We say to our affected peers: you are not alone. We say to all our friends and colleagues: we can do better. Poor student or practitioner health is not a necessary byproduct of a rigorous legal education and needs to be treated as the scourge of the profession that it is. Students left behind are not failures of personal strength. They are testaments to our collective failure to uplift one another and raise the standards of our trade,” the letter stated.
Concern about the character and fitness portion of bar admissions can prevent students from discussing mental health problems with law school administrators, says David Jaffe, the associate dean of student affairs at American University Washington College of Law. Jaffe also chairs the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs’ law school assistance committee.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice advised Louisiana and Vermont that it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act when bar associations performing character and fitness evaluations ask about bar applicants’ mental health and require detailed medical information.
In response, Louisiana changed its question, Jaffe says. He adds that several other states, but not all, “saw the handwriting on the wall,” and either changed or eliminated mental health questions on bar admissions’ character and fitness sections.
Jaffe would like to see the National Conference of Bar Examiners release aggregate data showing how many bar licenses are delayed each year over character and fitness issues, and why, so that law school administrators can be more precise when advising students.
“The students sometimes ask: ‘If I get help, will I need to report that to the bar, and will I be denied admission,’” Jaffe says. He adds that some states ask a compound question about candidates’ mental health, focused on diagnosis, treatment and whether the condition could create issues if not treated.
“Students will say: ‘I’m taking my medication for ADHD: How do I know if it will create issues if I don’t take it?’” he says.
Law schools could also get more data on mental health so they can better identify areas where reform is most needed, according to Nick DeFiesta and Alexandria Gilbert, co-presidents of the Stanford Law Association.
“Tracking changes in mental health as students progress through law school, as well as evaluating similar metrics and career satisfaction of law school alumni, would go a long way toward quantifying the problem and help administrators assess where focus is most needed,” the two wrote in a statement to the ABA Journal.
Also, they’d like to see law schools include mental health, wellness and professional fulfillment with their core institutional values, and have student programming that is reflective of that.
“It is critical that we talk about these issues openly and honestly. We can’t just pay lip service to ‘mental health.’ We need to acknowledge the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse — and specifically name those things. When first-year law students arrive to campus, they should know that it’s OK to struggle, that resources are available for them, and that they are not alone,” the two wrote.
An online forum for student leaders at tier-14 law schools led to the mental health pledge, says Clara Chalk, president of the Texas Law Student Bar Association at the University of Texas School of Law. It was released at the beginning of December, shortly before the reading period that precedes final examinations.
Chalk says that at UT Law, the school has a “mental health week” around exam time. It includes massage chairs and social events. She’d like to see more counselors on campus, in safe spaces that could be easily reached from the law school, and student workshops focusing on behaviors that can be warning signs when students need help.
Also, she stresses that self-care is different for everyone.
“Sometimes it can be playing with a puppy, or watching a chick flick. Sometimes it can mean letting yourself be angry at something, and acknowledging that you don’t want to go into a social situation, you want to stay home,” Chalk says. “It’s also being more forgiving and honest with yourself.”
TECHSHOW is back and it's better than ever. Register now for the premier learning and networking event for legal professionals. Join us to get the latest education and strategies covering what's new in legal technology and how you can better serve your clients.