Legal Services Corporation to Brief Congress on New Justice Gap in America Report
On Wednesday, June 14, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) will issue a new report, The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans.
The report is a study of the "justice gap" in the U.S.—the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet them. Last year, 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help at all.
To read the full press release related to the study, cut and paste this link into your browser:
The Promise and Peril Chatbots Pose for the Legal Industry
The link below will take you to an interesting new article written by Tom Martin and published in the June issue of Law Practice Today. If you are not familiar with the term "chatbots", like I wasn't before reading the article, he is referring to "Alexa" and the Echo Dot, and other "personal assistants." The article offers an interesting perspective on how this technology should be a part of the legal industry. It is worth the read. It may be a bit on the edge, but I thought it was worth sharing!
To read the article, just cut and paste the link into your browser:
Check out this new article by Debra Weiss in the ABA e-news journal released this week revealing that "[a]t least half of the lawyers in these nine states and jurisdictions aren't working as lawyers."
"Leichter included Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., in his analysis. The states and jurisdictions where at least 50 percent of lawyers who aren’t working in attorney jobs are: Puerto Rico (68.9 percent); Alaska (56.7 percent); Tennessee (53.6 percent); Alabama (51.5 percent); Missouri (50.8 percent); Louisiana (50.5 percent); Maryland (50.3 percent); Massachusetts (50.1 percent); and Minnesota (50 percent)."
Do You Know What ‘s New with Casemaker? The Legal Researching Bundle Available to You
Casemaker, and all of the researching tools included with it, make an excellent research bundle. In May, I presented at KBA’s Solo & Small Firm Conference in Lawrence on, what else, Casemaker! And, I learned through this presentation that some of our members are not all that familiar with some of the “extras” that come along with Casemaker as a part of their membership to the KBA. So, I want to take this opportunity to fully inform you of all that is included with this excellent benefit to your bar membership.
*Casemaker: Research Tool
Casemaker is one of the leading low-cost legal research services available. With intuitive search capabilities, you are able to conduct your legal research quickly and, with your bar membership, at a cost you can afford. The Google-like search bar is conveniently located at the top of every page, inviting you to conduct your search using either simple or complex search language. Once the results are delivered, Casemaker offers intuitive ‘search-within-a-search-capability’ to further narrow the results.
Casemaker is filled with organizational features that make it more than just a research library with a fast search engine. With Casemaker you can create individual folders to store your research, and they can be renamed, reorganized, or deleted with just a few clicks. And, with its notes feature, Casemaker makes it possible to write, post, and save notes directly to the documents being viewed.
Casemaker carries annual archived versions of state statutes for all states and the U.S. Code. Attorneys with an issue arising in the past are able to quickly and easily check the text of the law in effect at the time the issue arose.
*CaseCheck+: Sheppardizing Feature
In addition to the standard Casemaker subscription, the Kansas Bar has also added CaseCheck+ which is a sheppardizing like feature. Previously available only by subscription, CaseCheck+ allows members to quickly determine if a case is still good law through a negative citator system that rivals Shepards® and KeyCite®.
*Casemaker Digest: Summaries of Appellate Decisions
The newest addition to the standard Casemaker subscription with your KBA membership is Casemaker Digest. The Digest is a summary of appellate decisions you can receive based on criteria you set. Once you log on, you set the criteria based on date decided, date added, jurisdiction, court, and judge. The Digest case summaries will be sent to you either daily or weekly, depending on which you select and only within the criteria you select.
*CiteCheck: Citation Report—Still Good Law?
Another great feature of the Casemaker bar membership bundle is CiteCheck allowing members to enhance their research. With CiteCheck, you can upload a document or brief to see whether your case citations continue to be good law. In most situations, reports are generated between 30-90 seconds after the initial document is uploaded.
Casemaker Libra is an online searchable library of treatises, practice guides, coursebooks, deskbooks, and continuing legal education materials linked to the Casemaker database. Books can be purchased individually or the entire library can be downloaded. Typical links into the Casemaker system include case law, statutes, acts and administrative codes. Books can be browsed individually or searched similarly or by practice area or library.
Legal Research Center: Expert, On-Demand Assistance
Another feature of Casemaker available to members for an additional price (not included in the KBA membership bundle) is the Legal Research Center (LRC). Casemaker has partnered with LRC to offer members expert on-demand memoranda, brief writing, and discovery support and analysis services at a reasonable price. All contact information is located on the Casemaker platform and KBA members are offered a 10% discount on LRC services.
Legal Forms: Online Database of State-Specific Legal Documents
Casemaker also offers KBA members a discounted rate for Legal Forms. Legal Forms are not part of your KBA membership Casemaker bundle, but they can be accessed through the Casemaker platform and are available to KBA members at a 10% discounted rate. Legal Forms is an online database of state-specific legal documents and forms.
vLex: International Primary & Secondary Legal Materials
vLex is a new product partner of Casemaker recently made available to Casemaker users. vLex provides international primary and secondary legal materials. Casemaker users may search the vLex Global Platform and receive a translated preview of their search results for free. To gain unlimited access to full text versions and downloads, a 24-hour Daily Passport may be purchased for $129, or members can select the “contact vLex button” and a representative will contact them to customize an annual subscription to their needs at a 10% discount.
CosmoLex: Practice Management Software
CosmoLex is another partner of Casemaker providing a solution for the attorney’s time management, billing, accounting, and other practice management needs/systems. Because CosmoLex is a partner of Casemaker, any Casemaker user, or KBA member, receives a discount for this product. CosmoLex is also a member benefit provider through the KBA. If you are interested in CosomoLex, contact them through the member benefit page on the KBA website and be sure to tell them you are both a Casemaker user and a KBA member to guarantee you receive all available discounts.
*= Products included in the Casemaker bundle provided through your KBA Membership. All other products are available to you for an additional fee.
Have questions about any of the Casemaker products?
How is your firm planning to deal with its future?
For many firms, coming to terms with aging and retirement, and identifying transition candidates, can be a difficult process. But, this is essential for all firms, small and large, because the failure to plan and develop a timeline for transitioning can have major repercussions including losing clients, losing talented associates or potential leadership, instability within the firm, among others.
Because most firms do not have a succession plan in place, here are a few tips and considerations:
1.A succession strategy and plan should be incorporated into every strategic plan and partnership, operating or shareholder agreement. It is never too early to start thinking about succession planning.
2.If any sole-owner firm, or when any partner in a multi-owner firm, is age 50 or older, it is important that the firm get started on developing a succession plan.
3.Remember, the succession plan and transition will take time. Solo practitioners will have a significant challenge because there is no obvious person to whom the practice will transition. Thus, the practitioner may need to hire and groom an associate who could buy the firm or become a partner and eventually buy the partner’s interest.
4.A succession plan should start no less than five years from the retirement or exit date of the owner/partner. For some, less time is sufficient. Think through your circumstances, talk with your partners, develop a plan that works for you and your situation, and then take action.
5.“Write down the plan and timeline because what is written down, what is measured, what is calendared, is what gets done. Effective management of the succession planning process takes discipline and accountability. Once it is written down it is in the form of a “project plan” with due dates, start dates, tasks and action items, required resources and names of those responsible for different tasks and action items. Unless attorneys approach their retirement like a case or project and develop a succession/transition/exit plan with calendared timelines, the project will likely experience fits and starts, timeline drift and the needed momentum may not materialize”.
 Olmstead, J. Are You Prepared for Your Exit? Your ABA Newsletter. Apr. 2017.
Will Automation Replace Lawyers? Not if We Improve Our Client Services
Depending on how and where you get your news, you may have recently heard a lot of discussion about robots and machines taking over the jobs that humans are trained to do. A new study from the research firm PwC estimates that nearly 40% of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation in the next 15 years. In the midst of this reality, what can lawyers do to stay relevant? Stay focused on providing excellent client service.
To arrive at the estimates, PwC evaluated the jobs based on how routinized, such as filling out paperwork, the jobs tended to be, along with the likelihood that the job could be replaced by technology. While the practice of law does have many routinized components, there is also much that cannot be replaced by technology. Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are certainly going to win the race against humans when it comes to problem-solving and data management, but when it comes to the ability to relate to others and to feel emotions – humans will come in first place every time! And, it turns out all of these abilities are essential in the legal world and that’s why client service is so meaningful. Here are three ways to improve client service:
Focus on the Person, Not the Problem
I remember sitting in law school and hearing a peer say “I don’t want to deal with all of that. If I did, I would have been a social worker.” No one is asking you to be a social worker. By focusing on the person and her or his emotions, it doesn’t mean you must personally take on all of the emotions of your client; instead, it is asking you to never lose sight of the emotions of your client. Sometimes we, as lawyers, forget what it feels like to go through the legal process for the first time. Many of the clients are frightened and anxious. By acknowledging this fear and anxiety, and by helping to calm the client’s inevitable fears and concerns during the legal process, you are connecting with him or her in a way that AI cannot.
Give Each Client the Attention S/He Deserves
For many clients who walk in to attorney offices, they are thrust into a zone of chaos. The attorney is shuffling papers, checking email, answering the phone, shooting off a quick text, oh yes – all while billing the client in front of her for this meeting. When you are on the clock with a client, make that client feel like she or he is the only client who matters. This means avoiding all other distractions. Avoiding other distractions not only helps the client to feel acknowledged and appreciated but it also helps the attorney to more fully focus on the client’s matter.
Listen to Your Clients
Listening to someone give you a compliment is often an easy thing to do. Listening to someone offer you criticism can be a difficult task. But, both are necessary to grow and expand ourselves and our law practices. Whether it is concerning your demeanor or your legal writing, you should always welcome both positive and critical feedback. All feedback is an opportunity for us to learn, adapt, and improve. And, it is our clients who offer us the most important feedback of all.
Last week, the ransomware infection “WannaCry” invaded hospitals, universities, and many other institutions and organizations here in the United States and abroad. Ransomware is a unique form of malware. Once it invades a network, it can prevent users from opening their files because the files have been encrypted. The files are held hostage, and the users must pay a fee to be provided the decryption key.
There is a good chance that ransomware could affect you at some point during your career. So, if you find yourself in the middle of this difficult situation, take a deep breath and know that there are steps you can take to minimize the damage. Here are some questions to ask to help you through this process:
1.Where did the ransomware start?
Which user opened the infected email or file? The person who brought the problem to your attention may not be the person who opened the infection. You may need to examine the properties of one of the infected files to determine the file owner. Ask questions of your staff and partners.
Ask users to retrace their steps. Did they:
•Open any new documents?
•Click on any attachments or links in an email?
•Visit any websites they don’t normally visit?
2.How far has the ransomware spread?
Once a user has opened the infection, usually through an email or attached file, then that person’s computer is infected. But, the ransomware can spread beyond that machine throughout the network and the first step is to determine how many machines are affected and then isolate those machines and disconnect them from the network to prevent the further spread. Most ransomware strains will make changes to encrypted file names: ex. .Dharma or .CrySis. Looking for these extensions can help you determine how far the infection has spread.
3.How can I determine the type of ransomware with which I’ve been infected?
Determining the type of ransomware with which you’ve been infected is a key step because it may help you decide whether to pay for the decryption key. Not all ransomware attacks are effective and they all do not encrypt the data. Other ransomware types are able to be decrypted without paying for a key and still others are notorious for not delivering effective decryption keys. These examples offer illustrations of why you would not want to pay the ransom. But, there are other more sophisticated ransomware tools that will make your decision more difficult.
It is always important to fully understand what you are working with before deciding what to do. As of Wednesday, May 15, only $55,000 in bitcoins were paid for the massive ransomware attack, “WannaCry.” While this is a lot of amount of money, it is not as significant given the number of “Wannacry” ransomware infections across the globe. But, this amount is expected to grow, although no one knows by how much.
WannaCry is different from other ransomware attacks, like the ransomware attack “Locky” which required user interaction in the form of opening a link, “WannaCry” spread automatically if the user had not installed the latest Microsoft update. And, once it was inside a network it spread like wildfire.
For those of you who have not updated your computers, Microsoft offers guidance for protecting your computer here:
The information provided by the ransomware, in the URL and in the ransom screen, can give us some insight as to the type that has infected your computer. If you can’t gather the type of ransomware from the URL or ransom screen, then try the .exe file name. Remember, ransomware comes in the form of an .exe file. Try typing that .exe file name into your browser to see what types come up for you. If nothing comes up, try google. Search for the ransom screen message, the .exe file name that has been applied to all of your files, and even for some of the random things that are happening to your office computers. There are probably others out there who have similar experiences and might be able to offer you some advice.
4.Can I get my files back?
Your files are encrypted and unless you have the decryption key you are not going to be able to access them. As discussed earlier, there are flawed ransomware infections used that computer experts have been able to decrypt without a key. However, most of the time it will take a decryption key. The best options available to you is to have a back-up file system either on disc, off-site, the cloud, wherever you choose to keep your files. But, best practice suggests that you have 2 back-up locations for your files and data so you are able to keep working should your on-site data be attacked. Another question to consider here if you do not have a back-up for your files is: do I pay the ransom? It really depends on your particular situation. The authorities will discourage you from paying the ransom because you will be making yourself a target for future attacks. But, if your data is irreplaceable then you may have no choice. You will need to consider all of the options and consequences.
5.How do I make sure my computers are safe again?
I suggest wiping the hard drive and restoring it to the factory settings. You would then add your data from your back-up. If you don’t have a back-up then you will need to use the process below so that you can keep the data on the computer.
Step 1: Enter Safe Mode. Before you do anything, you need to disconnect your PC from the internet, and don't use it until you're ready to clean your PC. Step 2: Delete temporary files. Step 3: Download malware scanners. Step 4: Run a scan with Malwarebytes.
6.How to keep your data safe in the future:
•Run all system updates on your Windows machine immediately.
•Update your virus protection software.
•Run a backup to ensure you have a protected copy of your files.
•Avoid web pages that aren’t regularly updated, or that you don’t already trust.
•Don’t click links to documents or web pages from someone if you are not expecting them.
•Don’t open files in Facebook Messenger, or other apps where videos automatically play unless you were expecting them.
•If you have questions about a file, call the sender before you open it.
The chances are that we will all have to deal with ransomware at some point. I hope this information helps you think through the situation and come to a helpful resolution.
If you would like more information about malware, ransomware, or computer security, please contact Sara Rust-Martin, KBA Law Practice Management Attorney, at 785-234-5696, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contents of this blog are informational only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.
Happy Friday! I hope you have enjoyed the law practice management blog posts that have been coming your way over the past few months. In an effort to increase the depth and scope of the content of the blogs, I am adding this feed to the blog. By doing so it will bring in Law Practice Management Attorneys' postings from across the country. I hope you will find their information valuable in managing your practice!
Did you hear about the ransomware attack this morning? It seems as though cybersecurity is a growing concern for all of us.
Hackers and identity thieves are constantly looking for personal information to steal – and yours and your clients could be next. But there are protections you can put in place to safeguard your information, such as keeping your software up-to-date, only providing your personal information on secure, encrypted websites, and protecting your passwords.
Select Security Software that Updates Automatically
Hackers and identity thieves are continuously developing and evolving in the ways they can attack your computer and mobile devices, making your security software essential at every step. While most security software products have the capability to update automatically, they must be set to do so; make sure your security software is set to update automatically on all of your devices. In addition to your security software, set your operating system and web browser to update automatically so they are better able to support the updates to your security software, making it more difficult for a bad guy to sneak in malware or spyware on your computer.
When searching for security software to purchase, only purchase from a reputable company. You never want to purchase security software from a company you’ve never before heard of saying they’ve scanned your computer and found viruses, and, as a result, offering a “deal” because these are usually either worthless or, worse, imposter scamming programs aimed at installing the very programs they purport to prevent: malware.
Provide Personal Information Over Secure, Encrypted Websites
Your mind may immediately go to shopping and banking sites when told to protect your personal information online. But, there are many other sites where we share our information online and using informed, safe practices across the board can be the difference between hackers and thieves tracking your information and not. First, stick to sites that use encryption. Using encryption protects your information as it travels from your computer to the host site’s server. You will want to inspect each site before entering personal information. You will know the website is secure and encrypted if the beginning of the web address is https (the “s” is for "secure").
Next, you will want to inspect each page you visit on the website. Some sites only encrypt the first page, or the sign-on page, of the website. This means that the rest of your visit to the site could be vulnerable. Be sure that every page you visit has the “https” website address.
Protect Your Passwords
The best advice for protecting your password is to create strong passwords and keep them in a safe location. But, it is, of course, more complicated than just these simple principles, so here are a few additional guidelines:
·When creating a password, it is important to remember that the longer the password, the harder it is for the hackers and thieves to break through. As for an ideal length, twelve is the magic number with ten characters being the minimum recommended.
·When creating a password, don’t use predictable information like your birthdate, name, or other information that would be easy for a hacker or thief to easily break through. Instead, mix letters, numbers, and special characters.
·For many of us, it is easy to use the same password for multiple accounts. But, this is not recommended. If that password is stolen from your computer, or from an app where you have it stored, or even from a company with which you do business, then that thief or hacker now has access to all of your accounts.
·When storing your passwords, keep them in a secure place out of plain sight. Be very cautious about sharing them with anyone and never share passwords over the phone, in texts, or by email. Legitimate companies will not send you messages asking for a password. If you receive such a message, it is probably a scam.
In addition to your computer software, encrypted websites, and password protection, you will also want to back-up important files onto a removable disc or an external hard drive, and store it in a safe place. The cloud is also an option for backing up files and can be accessed remotely. By backing up your files, you are ensuring that if your computer is compromised you will still have access to your client files. While no system can be completely secure, the guidelines and tips above will provide you with a more secure overall computer system. Scammers, hackers, and identity thieves are on the prowl and it is up to us as lawyers to secure not only our personal information but also that of our clients.
For more information about cybersecurity software or secure cyber practices, contact Sara Rust-Martin, KBA Law Practice Management Attorney, 785.234.5696 or email at email@example.com.
Over the past few weeks and months, I've posted information and articles about mobile and cloud computing. But, those articles haven't answered all of the questions. Mobile and cloud computing have dramatically affected the business world, altering the ways that we communicate and share information. The legal industry has certainly not been immune from this rapid change. The provision of legal services has necessarily been shaped by the shifting expectations of legal clients, requiring law firms to change with the times in order to compete.
But what should a law firm do to meet the needs of 21st century legal clients? Where should a firm’s efforts be focused? Which steps will be most impactful, while still being cost-effective?
These aren’t always easy questions to answer. Fortunately, Nora Riva Berman and Patrick Palace covered many of these issues and more at this year’s ABA Techshow in March during one of my favorite presentations. During their talk, “Resetting Your Law Firm For a Changing Economy and Marketplace,” they discussed steps that lawyers can take to strategically compete in today’s competitive legal landscape.
Below you’ll find the visual notes from that session along with 3 favorite tips and links that provide further information (click to view larger image):
Think like an entrepreneur
The presenters stressed the importance of thinking like an entrepreneur. They explained that solo and small firm lawyers may not realize it, but that they are, in fact, entrepreneurs. And, just like entrepreneurs, 21st century lawyers need to make sure that their law firms are lean, efficient, and effective businesses. The best way to do this is to increase productivity and reduce redundancies and ineffective processes.
According to the presenters, eliminating waste is the first step toward greater efficiency. To eliminate waste, use the DOWNTIME formula and take steps to avoid:
Increase efficiency by streamlining your law firm’s processes
So now that you know that efficiency is key, how do you go about increasing your law firm’s productivity? According to the presenters, there are a number of key steps you can take. For starters, streamline your law firm’s paper intake process by moving toward a paperless law practice. By digitizing your firm’s documents, you’re taking the first step toward creating a mobile, responsive 21st century law firm.
Another way to increase efficiency is to implement project management systems. Project management tools help to streamline your law firm’s workflow and increase productivity. One way to implement project management principles into your firm is to ensure that at the beginning of each new case, the same procedures are followed from start to finish. According to the speakers, there should be procedures in place for each new case that relate to: 1) initiation, 2) planning, 3) execution, 4) control, and 5) closure.
To learn more about increasing productivity by streamlining your law firm’s processes, watch the recording of this webinar, “Running an Efficient Law Firm.”
Save Time and Money with Cloud Computing and Client Portals
One final time-saving recommendation offered by the presenters is to take advantage of the many benefits of cloud computing and client portals. The presenters explained that one of the easiest ways to increase efficiency is by using cloud computing tools, such as law practice management software. When your law practice’s data is stored in the cloud in law practice management software, you have 24/7 access to all of your law firm’s data, anytime, anywhere. And the built-in productivity tools, including tasks and to-dos, workflows, time-tracking tools, and billing and invoicing, make it easy for you to stay on top of your busy law practice and get things done quickly and efficiently.
What’s more, as the presenters explained, cloud computing provides benefits not only to you, but your clients as well. By taking advantage of the client communications features often found in law practice management software, you’re able to provide a higher level of client service. When you use client portals in your firm, all client communication is streamlined and occurs in an encrypted, secure online environment.
To learn more about how client portals can improve your law firm’s communications and create satisfied legal clients, check out this infographic, “The Benefits of Client Portals.”
Succession Planning: Allowing everyone a productive and secure place in the firm.
In 2006, the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program conducted one of the first retirement surveys of lawyers by a bar-related organization. Ten years later, in June of this past year, they invited about 6,000 of their members age 50 and over to again fill out a similar survey.
In the current retirement survey, bar members 60 to 69 years of age represented over half (53 percent) of survey participants. In addition, 50 percent of the respondents are planning to retire from legal practice in the next five years. We are looking at a paradigm shift with a departure of these Baby Boomers and the anticipated loss of their experience and expertise.
The trend revealed by the Oregon survey reflects the entire nation. Some 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old every day. Law firms throughout the country are scrambling to manage their aging workforce and what it means for the future of their firms.
Aging is no longer just about people 65 and older. As people are living longer, living better and maintaining a more balanced and vital lifestyle, this impacts the career expectations of attorneys at all points along the career trajectory.
Traditionally, aging has been a personal matter, rarely discussed outside one’s immediate family. But in a law firm setting, anxious younger partners may be the first to bring up succession planning as the area of concern. The pressing data from the Oregon retirement study indicates that succession planning for our aging lawyer population is too critical to be ignored and will not get any easier if left unattended.
Historically, retirement was seen as a single event – withdrawal from the workforce into leisure, relaxation and a slide toward the end of life. Accordingly, lawyers often had two options available to them when it came to retirement: continue working full time or close the door and walk away. Law firms today can add new options by creating new lines of services, modifying traditional retirement policies and using new mobile technologies to better preserve the experience and value of their aging workforce and meet the demands of a rapidly changing marketplace.
Firms are likely to find that developing more flexible and accommodating work options will derive valuable client and firm service from those approaching traditional retirement as well as younger attorneys who don’t fit or want to fit inside the traditional partnership model. Almost two-thirds of the 2016 participants in the Oregon retirement study reported that they expected to continue working full or part time at age 65.
Retirement in the traditional sense may not always be an option. For others, work can be an enriching experience that may not need to end at an arbitrary age of 65 or even 70. Then there are those who find themselves sandwiched between generations, playing multiple roles by caring for both young children and elderly parent, realizing that retirement may have to be delayed. They have to continue working longer than they anticipated.
The devil is in the details with succession plans. Listed below are a few for your firm to consider:
1.Today’s new retirement model must be seen as more of a journey than a destination, and law firms will need to take more of an active role in helping their partners transition to and from this new “retirement.” All partners should be involved in the conversations regarding the firms’ succession plans once a person reaches his or her 50th birthday. This new approach to a more flexible retirement should be introduced well before the more traditional retirement age, and it should last well into counsel’s mid-to-late 70’s. Too many mid-career professionals are left to deal – in silence – with illness of family members, caregiving responsibilities for aging parents and adult children, or just dealing with the impact of daily stress on law practice families. As lawyers begin thinking of themselves as life designers, they will begin to realize that they can actually influence the future that is possible for them. The participation of their partners in that process as it pertains to the firm can be both effective for the firm and reassuring for the yet-to-transition partner.
2.As mentioned earlier, aging of the firm’s workforce is no longer the exclusive domain of just those partners approaching their 65th birthday. By taking more of a “system and design thinking” perspective in addressing the increasingly complex problems related to law firm succession planning, firms should be able to create more of a shared vision, a common ground, where all participants are able to work through the current situation and make decisions based on what is good for the firm as well as each individual. Make sure you include voices of younger partners because they may have a very different perspective of what the firm should be doing to continue as their practices grow.
3.Law firms need to begin thinking of their senior lawyers as potential opportunities – a growing market for experienced part-time professionals who can provide both mentoring and client contacts – instead of as unaffordable financial burdens. Senior counsel should be perceived as a pool of potential “contract” partners who are interested in staying productive.
4.Law firms need to come up with more creative ways of investing in long-term growth. Many firms already contribute to partner retirement plans. You may also want to examine how executive bonus plans, possibly funded with whole life insurance, can be used to provide tax-advantaged supplemental retirement income for all partners. Firms can cushion an early (or timely) retirement choice through third-party payers, which are not firm-dependent, such as insurance coverage for retirement benefits.
5.Change in law firm culture as older becomes the “new normal.” With the sheer number of Baby Boomers that is disrupting the traditional demographic shape of law firms and society, older is becoming the new normal. Law firms will have to figure out how to balance billable hour requirements with mentoring responsibilities while also helping senior lawyers enter this new life stage.
Law firms will need to support initiatives that promote a sense of purpose and a positive self-image. Senior counsel can then feel confident about navigating life transitions as integral parts of the law firm while younger partners see hope for their future careers and confidence that the firm will support them throughout their entire career.
The business of a law firm is dynamic, with continuing up-and-out succession planning pressure. The failure to plan can cause a toxic stagnation as junior attorneys depart for firms that offer greater opportunities for growth. With a thoughtful succession plan and creative financial planning, however, more senior partners can feel secure enough to serve as effective transition partners who help the firm continue to grow and thrive.
Article written by Stephen P. Gallagher, published in Law Practice Management (May 2017). Stephen is the founder of LeadershipCoach, an executive coaching consultancy primarily handling transition or succession planning for individual lawyers, law firm planning teams and bar associations.
By Chris Campbellon in AttorneyFinancial PlannersInsuranceMarketing AgencyRealtorService Providers, Small Business Tips
“It takes twenty years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffet
Buffet’s quote perfectly describes the fragile nature of a business’ reputation in the modern world. In today’s mobile and social media age, consumer opinions can be shared and spread conveniently with a single mouse click or screen tap. An off day, an insufficiently trained employee, a late delivery, a politically incorrect tweet, or a small error can explode into a PR crisis—leading to scathing reviews, one-star ratings, nasty blog comments, and social media criticism.
As a small business owner, you may feel like you don’t have the time and money to invest in comprehensive reputation management solutions. Yet don’t think for one second you have no control over what customers are saying about you, because you do. Here are eight great tips and tricks to help any small business owner get started with building a winning business reputation.
1. Plant flags on your digital properties
Start with a website, but don’t stop there. Continue by securing your business name across the web and claiming your business page or profile on social networks, online forums, local business listings, community sites, local search networks, and online review sites. If you don’t have a listing, create one. This will allow you to listen in on and join online conversations about your business, wherever these conversations are taking place. A great tool I’d recommend for claiming your social media profiles and securing your brand name is KnowEm, while my company, ReviewTrackers, specializes in helping businesses listen and manage customer conversations on all major review sites.
2. Keep your business information up-to-date
On your digital properties, make sure your local business information is complete, accurate, and up-to-date. Your business name, phone number, and address are of paramount importance, but don’t forget to include other helpful information such as website URL, email address, operating hours, business category, and list of products and services, among others. At a time when 37 percent of businesses don’t even have the correct name on their listing (effectively losing a total of $10.3 billion in potential annual sales), paying attention to these details can mean the difference between gaining a customer or losing one to a competitor. Make the effort and spare your potential customers the frustration of having to look elsewhere.
3. Show your social media savvy
Social media serves as a great platform for engaging with existing and potential customers. Build a community of fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, then keep them updated with news about your company or information about new products and services.
4. Listen and respond to online reviews
Online reviews and ratings of your business on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google+, Foursquare, and other community-based review sites can give you valuable insights into what and how customers really think. So listen in and identify any issues, concerns, and weaknesses reviews may be able to point out. Also, take the time to respond, even if it’s just a simple “thank you” or “I’m sorry”: this shows customers that you care about their feedback and that you consistently strive to make things right.
Check out the Palomar Chicago’s TripAdvisor page, for example, and observe how management responds to reviews posted by guests who didn’t necessarily have a positive experience. To someone who didn’t have a good night’s sleep at the hotel, front office manager Joseph Eames responded,
“Thank you for taking the time to review our property. We rely heavily on the feedback in forums like this to point out places we can improve upon. A basic component of a hotel stay is obviously a good night’s sleep. I’m very sorry to hear that this wasn’t your experience with us, and invite you to reach out to me directly to discuss the matter further.”
The response simple, straightforward, and effective, creating an opportunity for the business to positively change its conversation with a customer.
5. Create and share positive content
If your reputation is taking a hit—say, a bad Yelp review or a vicious critic’s blog post is showing in search engine results—you can minimize the negative impact by creating and sharing positive content. This can be in the form of blog posts, photos, videos, ebooks, newsletters, whitepapers, and even podcasts—digital assets that build your credibility, improve your visibility, and enhance your reputation.
6. Minimize jargon and marketing buzzwords
Today’s consumers are more proactive than ever, and they’re less trustful of corporate speak, sales pitches, marketing buzzwords, and promotional messages. That’s why it’s so important to make adjustments to the tone and language of your communications with customers. If you’re writing tweets, responding to reviews, or publishing a new blog post, choose words your customers understand and use. This allows you to humanize your business brand and engage more effectively with your audience.
7. Have a sense of humor
When it comes to building a winning reputation, one of the biggest challenges for a small business owner today is to cut through all the noise and stand out. You’ve got to give people a reason to notice you. Even if you’re an insurance agent or the marketing manager of a nondescript auto parts shop—even if the services you’re offering are not terribly exciting—you have to find ways to distinguish yourself from the competition. One such way is by making people laugh.
Whatever the form it takes—a funny tweet, an amusing anecdote, a meme-filled blog post—humor humanizes your business. (Check out, for example, Eat24’s Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries.) It can soften the hearts of even your harshest critics and toughest reviewers. Humor is a universal language that can bridge the gap between you and the customers with whom you want to connect.
8. Be authentic
Authenticity can make you sexy and irresistible. These days, too many business owners try too hard to build up their reputation and generate five-star ratings across the board, even to the point of hiring writers in India or the Philippines to post fake reviews. But this isn’t sustainable. Focus your efforts instead on delivering excellent service and creating positive experiences for your customers. By doing so, the buzz will build itself around your business.
Key to all these tips is the belief that you have the ability to manage and influence what customers are saying about you. Don’t sit back, thinking it’s out of your control. Be proactive in finding creative ways to build and strengthen your reputation, as well as protect it in situations that could otherwise drive customers away.
There are so many things lawyers aren’t taught in law school about managing a law firm. Instead, lawyers learn about substantive and procedural legal issues, and little, if any, attention is given to providing future lawyers with information on the ins and outs of running a law firm. This lack of foresight by most law schools leaves solo and small firm lawyers to fend for themselves and muddle through the basics of launching and running a law firm on the fly.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest business struggles for solo and small firm lawyers is figuring out how to run a profitable law practice. This challenge is made all the more difficult by the fact that law schools don’t provide lawyers with information on the steps they need to take to ensure that they actually get paid for the legal work they perform.
Fortunately, CLEs can bridge this law practice management gap and arm lawyers with the information they need to ensure that they get paid quickly, efficiently, and ethically. Earlier this month in Chicago, this very topic was covered in a presentation by Michael Downey and Aviva Kaiser: “Bringing in the Money: Ethical Guidance for Receiving Payments.” During this seminar, Michael and Aviva explained how lawyers can use 21st century tools and processes to streamline client payments and get paid right away.
Below you’ll find the visual notes from that session along with some of our favorite tips and links to sites that provide further information (click to view larger image):
Get paid ethically
The speakers emphasized the importance of setting up the necessary bank accounts at the very outset. Ensure that you have an IOLTA account that complies with the ethical rules of your jurisdiction. Because trust violations are some of the most common errors that lawyers make, make sure that you fully understand your obligations, so that you avoid the most common ethical issues that lawyers encounter when managing client funds: misappropriating funds, commingling funds, and failing to keep adequate records.
The presenters explained that lawyers have a fiduciary duty to keep their clients’ funds safe. As part of that duty, law firms must have both an operating account (for earned income) and a trust account (for unearned income). For more tips on getting paid ethically, read Chapter 9 of our ebook, “Trust Accounting Basics.” In this chapter, you’ll learn all about the ins and outs setting up and managing your law firm’s bank accounts.
Get paid efficiently
According to the presenters, an important part of getting paid ethically and efficiently is ensuring that your firm maintains adequate bookkeeping records. Because sufficient records are so important, the speakers recommended using law practice management software to ensure that invoices and payments can be tracked and reconciled.
They also emphasized the importance of including payment expectations in the retainer agreement. By putting this information in writing, you clearly outline the obligations of both parties in regard to the legal services that your firm provides and the methods and timing of invoicing and payment. This clarity will help to avoid any misunderstandings and provide a better experience for your clients. For more tips on streamlining the process of getting paid, read Chapter 5 of our eBook, “Let’s Talk Money!” In it, you’ll find all you need to know about establishing an efficient invoicing system for your law firm.
Get Paid Quickly
Finally, the speakers offered their advice on taking advantage of 21st century payment options in order to ensure that your clients are able to pay you quickly and easily. These days, legal consumers expect to have multiple payment methods available to them; the more methods you offer, the more likely you are to get paid. That’s why the presenters recommended that lawyers consider accepting online payments from clients. Doing so makes it simple for your clients to pay your bills and ensures that you get paid quickly.
They emphasized that it’s important to choose a reputable payment processor that is familiar with the specific needs of law firms. This ensures that any fees are taken out of the firm’s operating account, rather than the trust account, thus avoiding any compliance issues. To learn more about accepting online payments from clients, check out this blog post: “5 Things Lawyers Need To Know When Accepting Online Credit Card Payments.”
And if you’re looking for an online payments system designed specifically for law firms, look no further than MyCase Payments. If your law firm uses MyCase’s law practice management software, access to MyCase Payments is free. You can learn more about MyCase Payments here.
Many of us rely on the marketing strategy of referrals because it is so much easier to have someone else sell our services than it is to do it ourselves. But, technology has changed the referral game. Technology can take a decent referral marketing strategy for your firm and turn it in to a gold mine.
Most of us realize the amount of time it takes to develop a substantial client network. As you build a law firm, you are doing all the work. The same is true for direct client marketing. You are the one making the pitch to potential clients and selling them on your practice. Gaining new clients on your own means you are spending a lot of time and energy generating new clients and much less time creating work product and building relationships with current clients, whom it turns out, will be your best sources for referrals in the future, if they leave satisfied and with a good impression of your practice.
All of this to say, if we develop our practices in the correct way, a strong referral base will be the after-effect of our initial marketing efforts done at the initial stages when building the law firm. The most successful law firms are 70-90% referral-based. And, this is the closest most lawyers will ever come to generating passive income.
But, to say the income source is passive does not paint an accurate picture of the marketing strategy. Attorneys must take a savvy and engaged role in building referral networks. Here are 3 important pointers:
1.Sell YOUR practice: It is easiest if you have a niche practice or a specific area to sell. You must train your referral sources to see you as the expert in this area of practice. For instance, “Oh, you need a divorce. Go see Julie! That is all she does! She is the best in town!” And, you must train your referral sources to say what you want them to say about you. They must first see you as the expert in this area of practice and the referral sources must be trained with respect to what you’d like them to say about you, and that is easier to do when a baseline exists. By refining down your practice areas, you can help provide that baseline.
2.Set yourself up for referrals by developing an Elevator Speech: Have a great response to the question “What do you do?” As a lawyer, you will want to develop different responses, different elevator speeches, for different business contacts. At the very least, you should have one approach for potential clients, and another for referral sources, because those are essential different conversations to engage.
3.Secure a strong Social Profile and Website: You should endeavor to create and manage an online presence that is in agreement with what you are personally pitching to your referral sources. When you meet someone at an event or gathering you will want to hand out a business card or direct someone to your website making it imperative that your online presence is representative of who you are, which areas you practice, what else you are involved, how to connect with you and stay connected, among other important professional information.
This Practice Pointer was derived from ABACUS NEXT
ON MESSAGE: USING LAW FIRM TECHNOLOGY PLATFORMS TO PROMPT REFERRALS visit ABACUS NEXT at abacusnext.com
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