Our next edition of Webinars for Busy Lawyers will show you how to reclaim your time and money from distractions and optimize your ability to focus – in 30 minutes or less.
How many times are you distracted from your work on a typical day? You’ll lose almost 25 minutes on average returning to your original task each time. If you’re still billing by the hour, it’s a quick calculation to turn that loss into dollars.
Recent studies have shown that if you don’t regularly use your ability to focus and concentrate, your abilities will be greatly reduced. In today’s digital world, email and other device distractions often prevent us from concentrating time and mental energy on larger projects such as trial preparation or brief writing.
Loss of focus means time lost trying to get the job done. That means more time in the office but less money to show for it! The key is to reverse this trend by practicing your focus and concentration.
Join us for a fast-paced webinar filled with tips, tools, and strategies to reduce your distractions and increase your productivity.
Reid Trautz is the Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Practice and Professionalism Center, where he provides ethics guidance and management advisory services to lawyers to help improve their businesses and the delivery of legal services to their clients. He is a nationally recognized advisor, author and presenter on practice issues, including business process improvement, law practice technology, and legal ethics. He is co-author of The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice, published by the ABA, and is a frequent contributor to legal publications nationwide. Reid is an elected Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, and was named to the Fastcase 50 list of global legal innovators in 2012.
"The Cloud" can mean different things to different people, but usually means using a service provider on the Internet to store and manage your computing systems and/or data for you. An advantage of the Cloud is that you can easily access and synchronize your data form multiple devices anywhere in the world, and you can also share your information with anyone you want. We call these services "The Cloud" because you often do not know where your data is physically stored. Examples of Cloud computing include creating documents on Google Docs, sharing files via Dropbox, setting up your own server on Amazon Cloud, storing customer data in Salesforce, or archiving your music or pictures in Apple's iCloud. These online services can make you far more productive, but they also come with unique risks. In this newsletter, we cover how you can securely make the most of the Cloud.
Read the full Monthly Security Awareness Newsletter for Everyone by clicking this link: https://securingthehuman.sans.org/newsletters/ouch/issues/OUCH-201611_en.pdf
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Eye for Errors: Test your skills at editorial triage
Every editor must engage in triage: sorting the most urgently needed edits from minor ones that, although desirable, aren’t absolutely necessary. If instead you treat all edits as if they were equally serious—covering the page in red ink—the writer may feel hopelessly inundated and just reject them all.
If you approach editing sensibly, the extensiveness of your edits to someone else’s work will also depend on your seniority (will your marks be taken as orders?), your skill (do you really know what you’re doing?), and your judgment about how amenable your colleagues will be to your changes (are they secure enough to understand that editing is an act of friendship?).
For now, let’s assume that you’re a junior person in the office. Your colleagues have middling writing skills, but they don’t understand the finer points of style. In short, you’re in a very typical situation here. You’ve been asked to review three briefs before they get filed tomorrow, and your seniors want you to be sure that there aren’t any typos or similar gaffes. Assume that they’re addicted to prior to (for before) and pursuant to (for under), and they won’t take kindly to your editing for mere questions of style.
Give these briefs a minimalist edit—confining yourself to outright errors. In each sentence that follows, find one or more glaring errors and one or more venial errors. The glaring errors (wrong word, poor grammar, misspelling, etc.) must be fixed: They would be regarded as blunders by any informed reader. The venial errors (a finer point of punctuation or word choice) might slide: They won’t tarnish the firm’s image too much because they’re so common. Purely discretionary matters of improvable style (passive voice, wordiness, legalese, etc.) are off-limits here.
Follow the link here to TAKE THE EDITOR"S QUIZ and read the rest of the article. Good luck!
The noble legal profession is notorious for its inability to move away from long-standing traditions. While many firms of all sizes experiment with new technologies, methodologies and business practices, the vast legal landscape can hardly be distinguished from itself two or more decades ago.
To see how little has changed, we need only look at the proclamation that “the billable hour is dead”—which has been echoing for many years. We hear the celebratory whoops of success now and then, but we more frequently see the data indicating little has changed.
In this era of the rise of the machine, one is left to wonder how the traditional law firm model will fare for lawyers and staff alike. A modern law firm intent on thriving will likely undergo changes large and small; and a firm that has a high probability of success has thrived in a culture of change that pushed them through the past two decades.
Before we can paint a picture of the 21st-century law firm’s technology landscape, we must focus on the drivers of success: culture, people and processes. Without the right environment in which to leverage technology, success will be accidental and nonrepeatable.
The term innovation sits in stark contrast to notions of tradition, hierarchy, repetition and perfection, all of which are part of the DNA of a law firm. A cultural shift is necessary to create the right environment in which entrepreneurship and innovation can be fostered.
A culture of innovation will drive creative approaches to service delivery that will drive business growth. Innovative firms have a deep focus on the client experience, empathetically embracing the client’s needs.
An innovative culture has no regard for rank or privilege, and it cares nothing for the concept of hierarchy so deeply rooted in traditional law firms. Rather, it creates opportunities where every voice is heard, where the freedom to fail is intrinsic, where department and practice silos are nonexistent, and where the strategic and business goals of the firm are understood, valued and moved forward by every employee. All with a single focus on better service to the client.
Knowledge-sharing isn’t a discreet discipline; it is part of the lifeblood of the firm.
THE HUMAN ELEMENT
Scouting, hiring and nurturing exceptional legal talent have long been goals of successful firms. The modern firm has the same desire for exceptional talent as it builds a professional staff who will direct and manage the firm’s business and support the practitioners. Savvy, agile, team-focused individuals who thrive in a culture of innovation and share the firm’s strategic vision and business direction will contribute to success.
The complexities and rapid rate of change of our technologies allow us to view human capital with a fresh eye—focusing less on traditional measures of education and experience (though those are important components), but with a stronger focus on mindset—aka attitude—and general flexibility, critically important attributes of engaged employees.
A collegial, collaborative culture requires collegial, collaborative people for sustainability and adaptability. By creating an environment that telegraphs strong support of personal and professional goals while placing value on family and leisure time, a firm will build a reputation that will attract the right people.
Nurturing all employees of a firm through ongoing education and support of peer networks will underscore the importance placed on the critical human element. The smart firm clears the path for its employees to connect with other smart people via professional associations and industry conferences.
As we increasingly see a world of phone-facing consumption of information, the value of real-life peer connections cannot be overstated. And the wider the network, the more learning opportunities exist. Peer connections across industries and across the globe are priceless.
THE ‘PRO’ IN PROCESS
With the right culture and people supporting it, a modern firm will examine its approach to process improvement. Many successful firms dedicate teams to continual examination and refinement of processes using Six Sigma, Agile or Lean disciplines. Absent this level of formality, a firm’s commitment to ensuring the most efficient, client-focused outcomes will drive success.
With the right culture of collaboration and inclusivity, continual improvement of processes occurs organically. Process improvement is aided by technology, and we’ll see the hot spots as we explore our tech landscape.
SHUT DOWN THE GARBAGE-MASHERS!
There is a scene in the original Star Wars where our soon-to-be heroes find themselves at the bottom of a garbage chute. When the compactor begins compressing their space, they struggle to stay on top of the heap. That scene can be reminiscent of how we’ve often dealt with technology, trying to separate the value from the junk and staying on top of it lest it crush us.
Technology should be used to solve a problem or make a process more efficient. And it should be utilized within intelligent processes by savvy people.
There is no perfect inventory of apps and gadgets that will ensure a firm’s success. Good technology is only part of the makeup of a good law firm.
Our modern law firm exploits the technology that supports the processes that aid the people who thrive in a culture of innovation, inclusion and knowledge-sharing. The obsolete garbage-mashers were shut down long ago.
Randi Mayes retired this year as executive director of the International Legal Technology Association, a position she had held since 1997. Law firm technologists Sheryl Dale, Gerry Heidenreich, Lyle McIntosh, Beth Patterson, David Roden and Barry Wheeler, who serve on ILTA’s program planning teams assisted in this article’s preparation.
The end of the year can be a hectic time for many business owners. Sorting through the entire year's financials, preparing the documents you'll need to file your tax returns, there are a lot of accounting tasks that need to be completed before you can take some time off to enjoy the holidays with your family.
While it's important to review and understand your law firm's financials throughout the year, building in additional time now to get a grasp on your accounting will save you (and your accountant) major headaches down the road.
In Year-End Accounting Checklist & Tips, we’ll show you the step-by-step actions you need to take to close out your 2017 books. This includes reconciliations, reviewing trust balances, tasks for your accountant, and much more.
• Understand law firm accounting
• Identify common accounting challenges law firms face
• Know your Year-End Legal Accounting Checklist
• See how legal-specific technology can help
Wednesday, October 18th
2:00pm - 2:30pm ET
Modern lawyers don’t just work in an office—they work from everywhere: their home, a client’s office, a coffee shop, and a co-working space are all places a lawyer might find themselves throughout the work day. In all of those instances, it is likely that you would be using someone else’s wifi network. But public wifi is a security nightmare.
Armed with easily obtainable and inexpensive equipment, hackers can intercept public wifi traffic, which means if you are communicating with a client or working on a client file, all that data could be exposed. And just because the wifi network you’re using is password protected doesn’t make it a non-public network. Everyone else working on that coffee shop network used the same password to get on the same network you are using.
If you don’t take care to protect client data, it can lead to serious ethical violations.The ABA and the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct have made clear that they expect you to keep third parties from accessing client data. It used to be that encrypting your communications was clunky and difficult, but, thankfully, protecting your firm’s data and communications is no longer a technical nightmare. Encryption over wifi networks can often be solved with the simple installation of an app.
To avoid potential client data breaches while working out of an airport or your favorite coffee shop, install a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN creates an encrypted private network, or tunnel, within a public network. It runs your data through its encrypted servers, so anyone spying on your electronic communications will see nothing but gibberish. It foils hackers and doesn’t really change anything for you as an end-user. You hop on a public wifi network and wait a few moments for your VPN to automatically connect, and then you are all set.
You should always make sure your computer itself is secure, and you should always secure your client communications. A VPN lets you do that in a cheap, efficient, and automated way, and attorneys should be using one.
Viruses often infect your computer via instant messages and email attachments, especially when the attachment is an executable file. Enable your antivirus software’s auto-protect feature to automatically scan email attachments for viruses when the messages are downloaded. Hackers routinely create new viruses, so it’s essential to keep the signature files for your antivirus software updated. Ensure your antivirus software also uses heuristic algorithms that allow the software to detect viruses based on their behavior, rather than a specific signature.
For more information on how to set your privacy settings see:
Check out the newest edition of Law Practice Today! There is something in this e-magazine for every attorney. It features articles on goals for personal success, overcoming accounting challenges, marketing strategies, management issues, and much more! I hope you enjoy it.
Ways to record, bill and save those minutes at work
BY DALIAH SAPER
Attorney Daliah Saper has been answering readers’ questions online about building a 21st-century law firm. This augmented version of her column looks at time—timekeeping and time-saving.
Dear Daliah: Any tips for tracking time better?
Dear Readers: We have all faced the black-hole time warp. You worked 10 hours, but your billable hours only record 4½. Where did all the time go? You were so busy that you had a granola bar for lunch at 4 p.m. just to soak up all the coffee from the morning client marathon.
Keeping track of all your time often fails because you’re distracted by the hundred different things coming at you or because you can’t re-create your day at the end when you finally have time to breathe.
Here are three ways to capture your time effectively.
THE AUTOMATIC WAY
Stay ahead of the game, and use practice management software that integrates your billing and has customizable workflows all in one. Not being able to consistently reconstruct time can bankrupt a practice.
I asked my friend Alvaro Arauz at 3a Law Management, a legal practice consulting firm in Atlanta, for some technology recommendations. He says cloud-based software you can access from anywhere with an internet connection, such as Clio, MyCase or Rocket Matter, is used by many firms. These platforms can automate standard billable tasks, such as basic discovery, emails, text messages to clients, court hearing confirmations or cover letters.
The 0.2 and 0.1 hours can add up in a day but can be easily lost. With the proper services, predefined tasks convert into time slips with a click of a mouse without having to remember if everything was billed in the scope of the assignment. Keep in mind, the time slips can always be adjusted in the prebill phase.
The two things any firm of any size can streamline, Arauz says, are phones and accounting. Not managing either effectively also can make or break your practice.
Part of the accounting headache is the chore of reminding and following up with clients about payments. Then there’s the actual collection of payments; in some firms, it’s a bookkeeper’s part-time job.
New options are available to the modern lawyer, and PaySimple is exactly what it says—a simple software program that lets you schedule payments and accept e-checks and credit cards while it automates your billing process. Even the established merchant services LawPay and QuickBooks allow you to send a link to clients via email for them to pay their invoices or retainers.
Arauz says to take it all a step further by using practice management software that syncs with LawPay and QuickBooks. If the structure of your website allows it, which most do these days, there also are payment portals that can be added for either potential clients scheduling a consult online or existing clients who received an automatic emailed invoice.
The second thing to delegate are the phones. There are a variety of live answering services that range from $99 to $800 per month—services such as Ruby Receptionists, My Receptionist and PATLive. They give your clients the impression that your practice has a front desk ambassador. Just remember the old adage that you get what you pay for, and try to stay in the $200 to $500 range.
Ruby Receptionists is a quality and tested company. Script how you want your phones answered—when they get transferred immediately, i.e., when a judge calls; when to email your staff—and monitor it all with monthly reporting logs.
If you have a high-volume practice or a large number of weekly potential intakes (personal injury, bankruptcy, med-mal), Legal Intake Professionals will handle your entire intake process. Equally customizable on how to prioritize calls, it adds the extra level of capturing details that most answering services do not provide.
Once the intakes come in, a paralegal or an attorney contacts the potential client to engage them formally. However, the monthly price is slightly higher than most services but still less than the salary and payroll liabilities of an intake specialist plus a receptionist.
For the ultra-high-volume intake firms, there are plug-ins for your website or case management software that will email intake forms to potential clients and then enter them into your internal system automatically. Capturing the case information and data entry is the bottleneck of the intake process. Delegate it to the potential client and technology, Arauz says, all from an iPad on a couch in your waiting room.
THE REACTIVE WAY
If work and life keep you busy, use mobile apps to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Before technology, lawyers had their hands tied behind their backs. Dialing into a server or a desktop on the weekends to enter time made it an insurmountable task. In a week slammed with juggling phone calls from clients, court appearances, interruptive status requests from partners, researching case law, drafting discovery and filing motions, even the most efficient billing workflow was at best a four-step process:
At the end of the day or, worse, at the end of the week, try to recall what happened.
Write the time down on a Post-it/notepad/back of your hand.
Manually enter data into a billing system.
Approve the slips for accuracy and consistency.
Today, Arauz recommends using apps such as Zapier, Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to help convert your reactive life into a proactive billing system.
Zapier integrates with things that keep your thoughts and work in order—Dropbox, Wunderlist, QuickBooks, RingCentral, Excel, Clio, Basecamp. Zapier can automate your lawyer life, track the work you perform, and keep it all together in one app that communicates with all the others to make sure nothing gets lost.
Similarly, you can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to dictate your time entries when you don’t have time to write it all down. The technology and accuracy of capturing what you are saying has improved dramatically over the years, as has the convenience of being able to email or send your dictation via text. I often dictate on long road trips or when I’m walking to the courthouse.
Don’t forget the apps that complement your desktop or cloud practice management software. Most of them can dial phone numbers or email directly from the app, which in turn captures the time as billable behind the scenes.
THE PROACTIVE WAY
Interruptions distract from efficiency and, ultimately, from capturing all your time. Build blocks of time into your schedule, so that you aren’t pulled in five directions at once and only accounting for 2½ of them.
If “shiny objects,” such as flashing voicemails, text pings or unread email counts are disruptive, create a calendar for concentration. Try a schedule as follows and adjust as necessary:
Priority emails, 8 to 8:30 a.m.
Priority phone calls, 8:30 to 9 a.m.
Client work, 9 to 11 a.m.
Emails and calls, 11 a.m. to noon.
Priority items, 1 to 2 p.m.
Client work, 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Email responses, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Calls on the way home, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
While it won’t eliminate all the distractions, keeping close to this regimen can help you maximize your productivity and the chances of capturing all the time as you go.
Speaking of productivity, Arauz has advice on tackling other nonlawyering tasks.
He says, “There is a finite amount of time and energy in a day that cannot be re-created. If you overcompensate in one area, then another area suffers. So how do you juggle it all while maintaining sanity? The key to growth is delegation, either to a person or to technology.
“When you start your practice, delegate to technology. As you grow and can swallow the payroll pill, integrate staff and attorneys until law firm nirvana happens when your employees utilize technology to get even more done faster.”
Infamous culprits of wasted time include scheduling and confirming appointments, Arauz says. When things really get busy, every moment counts. Waiting on a consultation to not show up or a lunch meeting that you forgot to mark on the calendar takes up valuable time that could be better spent.
Setmore is free, online appointment-scheduling software on steroids, especially if you upgrade to the $25-per-month premium package. Aside from potential clients or clients booking meeting times intuitively by web, Setmore can be configured to send text and/or email reminders the day before the appointment, which minimizes the no-call no-shows that can inevitably happen in any practice. And it’s very customizable.
(You can retain that possessive control of your calendar, so that your work and life don’t double-book.)
Mixmax is another quick trick that takes all the effort and emails out of trying to find a time to collaborate with others, be it by phone, video or in person. If you average 300 emails per day that require your attention, you certainly don’t have to add another 30 emailed dialogues of “Can you meet at 2 p.m.?” “No, I can’t. What about tomorrow at 10 a.m.?” And on. And on.
Send time slots that the emailed recipient can select once they have confirmed with their own calendar, and then it gets added to your calendar.
Add meeting agendas or previews to the scheduling team, use templates for scheduling automatic emails and branding, so that it looks like it’s coming right from your firm’s inbox.
It’s good to use the technology at the beginning. But keep it integrated in your processes as you grow with staff, so that they have the tools to help the firm succeed.
Remember, as I like to keep in mind: Time is money. So, start accounting for it all.
The Kansas Bar Association presents an information session on the rescission of The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 2:00pm. KBA Vice President, Mira Mdivani will moderate a panel of attorneys and experts on immigration law through a webinar.
This program is for our members, the public, the business community, and the media. Please feel free to forward this information on to those in your community who may be interested or may benefit from this information.
Supreme Court of Texas Clears Way for Assistance from Out-of-state Lawyers
The Supreme Court of Texas entered an order to allow any attorney not licensed to practice in Texas, but licensed and in good standing in any other jurisdiction of the United States, to provide legal assistance to individuals and entities affected by Hurricane Harvey. This should help in the effort to recruit volunteer attorneys to address the need for legal services by the mounting number of flood victims. Lawyers may volunteer through programs supported by the State Bar of Texas and the Houston Bar Association. The Louisiana State Bar Association is currently monitoring the need for any mobilization of volunteers in that state and encourages Louisiana attorneys to support efforts in Texas. For a summary of information on national mobilization of legal relief efforts, visit the ABA Hurricane Harvey Relief resource page.
One of the best legal conferences in the country each year is the ABA Techshow! This conference brings lawyers, innovators, law practice management advisors, tech creators, and others in the industry together to discuss, brainstorm, and share ideas and information about how to build the practice of law. It is a great experience and, if you have the chance to go, I would highly suggest it!
Connect with over 2,000 leading technology purchasers and influencers at the best conference for bringing lawyers & technology together, and the trusted ABA source of information on legal tech products and services!
The KBA will be releasing the Conference Code which will allow you to save money on your registration fee as a KBA member. That will be released to you as soon as it is available to us! So, stay tuned!
If you want to learn more about last year's conference, check out photos and videos by following the hashtag #ABATECHSHOW2017
And, for this year, go ahead and mark your calendars for the dates: March 7-10, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago
This is a new venue for us, so it will be fun!
Hope to see you there! Stay tuned for more details....