It was recently announced at the National Association of Bar Executives Annual Meeting, which was held last week in Chicago, Illinois, that the Chicago Bar Association is no longer restricting access to their How to Video Library. The video library is produced by the CBA’s Law Practice Management & Technology (LPMT) Division. The CBA LPMT Division regularly sponsors training and demonstrations of hardware and software geared to legal professionals. Archives of these programs are available in the video library. The library can be accessed at https://lpmt.chicagobar.org/how-to-video-library/. You can learn everything from managing your Google or Microsoft Outlook calendar to formatting documents. You will find videos on career issues, firm management, and even social media and marketing. This is a great resource and I encourage KBA members to go the CBA LPMT website and watch some videos. I must also say thank you to the Chicago Bar Association for providing access to such a great resource!
Most of us use Microsoft Word frequently in our day-to-day work, however, if I had to bet, I would say that most of us are probably not taking advantage of keyboard shortcuts to work more efficiently when creating documents.
If you have ever created a document which included the § and ¶ symbols, you know that it can be cumbersome to insert these special characters in Word. Typically, you would need to:
Click the Insert tab
Click More Symbols
Select the Special Characters tab
Choose the special character you want to insert, and finally select Insert
Constantly taking your hands off the keyboard in this manner to point and click with your mouse can add up to a lot of wasted time. So, what if I told you that there are shortcuts to all this clicking with a mouse?
First, if you are using a PC you will want to make sure you have the number lock enabled on your keyboard, and that you are using the numeric keyboard on the right. The shortcut on a PC for § is Alt+21, and for ¶ is Alt+20. For Mac users, your shortcut for § is Option+6, and for ¶ is Option+7. It is that simple!
When presenting CLE on data breaches, I often explain when
talking about phishing that we’re not talking about the kind you do on a
Saturday afternoon at the lake. Instead, we are talking about a cyber-attack
that uses email as a weapon.
The goal of a phishing email is often
to trick the recipient into clicking malicious links, downloading infected
attachments, or sending sensitive information. For instance, when an employee
clicks on a link or an attachment in a phishing email, malicious software can
be installed on the computer. This could lead to malware spreading to other
devices, captured passwords, stolen files, or even those files being held for
ransom. Instead of trying to break directly into servers, criminals are using,
and betting on, social engineering to gain access to your information. We read and open email communication all the
time. As a result, human psychology is a prime target for criminals to gain
access to our accounts, to our computers, and to our data.
According to the 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report
by Verizon, almost of half of all malware is installed via email, and falling
victim to a phishing email can have major consequences such as significant
downtime, loss of access to data, and even the need to replace computer
equipment. To avoid these situations,
one must educate themselves on what email phishing is and how to recognize it.
Below you will find 5 tips for recognizing a phishing email.
Inconsistencies in Email Addresses and
Domain Names. Always check the email address of the sender to
see if there are any inconsistencies. For instance, the email may imply it
is coming from a company such as Apple, however, you might see that that
the email address is coming from a Gmail account. Another scenario is
where the username in the email address uses the company name, but it is
misspelled. Finally, make sure to look at the domain name to see if it
matches up to the username. An example would be AppleAdmin@fastweb.com.
Cleary, this would not be from Apple.
Inconsistencies in Links. If
you receive an email asking you to click on a link, a good method to
employ is hovering over the link to see where it will take you. The key to
this technique is to not click on the link while doing it. If you hover
over a link that is supposed to take you to a Google Doc, but instead the
link says it will take to gamemachines.altavista.org/wp-includes/wp-access.php,
this is a clear sign of a phishing email. Recently, I have seen emails
that appear to be a Microsoft SharePoint email, but were actually phishing
emails. When you hover over the link, the word SharePoint is in the link,
however, it is followed by words that don’t match up. Even though SharePoint’s
name was in the link, what followed was an indicator that it was a
phishing email. So, make sure to pay close attention to the link when
Demands Urgent Action and/or Seeks
Personal Information. "Update your information or your account
will shut down in 24 hours.” This
is a good example of a social engineering technique used by criminals to
prompt email recipients to provide personal information. These emails can
often create a sense of urgency and should be warnings signs to you that
the email is probably fake. Using common sense in these situations will go
a long way. If you are unsure about a request made, the best thing to do
is pick up the phone and call to verify the email before providing any
Includes an Impersonal Message. Phishing emails will often use greetings such
as "Dear Account Holder/User,” "Dear Sir or Madam,” or may not even have a
greeting at all. This could be a sign the email is a phishing
Includes Poor Spelling and Bad Grammar. Major companies take the time to ensure their
communications contain proper spelling and grammar. Most won’t message their customers without a
few rounds of editing. So, if you spot something
misspelled or the email is filled with grammatical errors, you can be
confident the email is more than likely a fake.
Good to Be True Offers. If you
receive an email that offers some sort of incentive to click on a link or
download an attachment, and the offer seems too good to be true, that
email is probably a scam. The likelihood that it is a phishing email goes
up if it comes from an unrecognized sender or the recipient did not
initiate the contact.
While this list gives you some examples of what to look
for, remember cyber criminals are always coming up with new methods of attack.
The best thing to do is take time to review emails carefully, use common sense,
and if anything looks off, don’t click. Ultimately, taking a second to the
review the email before you click will save you both time and potentially money
in the long run.
If you find yourself struggling with time management issues,
such as failing to stay on task, ineffective scheduling, or procrastination,
you may want to consider implementing a time management technique. One such technique
is the Pomodoromethod. This time
management method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and is
named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer which was used by Cirillo as a
university student. (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.)
The idea behind the technique is simple: you set a timer for
25 minutes and work on only one thing for the duration of that time. When the
timer rings, you reward yourself with a short break. This technique forces you
to focus on that one task for a set period, while taking breaks to avoid mental
fatigue. For instance, rather than working on a brief until it is "done,” you
work on it until your 25 minutes is up. Then, you get up and stretch (or
whatever else you like do to on a break) for 5 minutes. Once your break is over, you go back to
working on the brief for another 25 minutes, and so on, until you complete 4
pomodoros (25-minute segments). After completing 4 pomodoros, you take a longer
The goal should be to work towards task completion to meet
your daily goals. As a result, you first
will need to create a prioritized task list to determine what your work day
will include. Using the task list and implementing the Pomodoro Technique
should help you to avoid interruptions and distractions while improving your
concentration. The more you can concentrate, the more work you should be able
to complete. The key, however, is to not fall victim to checking your email,
looking at social media, or chitchatting during the pomodoro.
If you want to try implementing this simple time management
technique, here is quick recap:
Pick a task.
Set a time to 25 minutes.
Focus on that task for
the entire 25 minutes.
When the 25 minutes is
up, take a short 3-5 min break.
After 4 pomodoros,
take a longer 20-30 min break.
A kitchen timer will definitely do the
trick, but if you are looking for something more hi-tech to use, there are
plenty of Pomodoro Technique apps out there for both Apple and Android devices.
There are also Chrome apps available to use with your Chrome web browser, some
of which allow you to block websites during use.
Passwords are a critical part of account safety. They can sometimes be a pain to remember, however, they are the first step in ensuring the security and confidentiality of the data that is stored on the device or in the account associated with the password. Despite their importance, if you were to do a quick Google search of the most commonly used password, you will see that "123456” comes in at number 1, and "password” comes in at a close 2nd. Also topping the list are passwords such as "admin” and "abc123”. I would add for lawyers, I often see the use of some combination of a bar number, birth date, and last name. When presenting CLEs, I often refer to these passwords as being on the password list of shame. So, I ask, is your password on the list? If so, you may want to keep reading.
While the Rules of Professional Conduct do not outright articulate standards for passwords, the care a lawyer should use when creating passwords can be implied through KRPC 1.1 (Competence) and KRPC 1.6 (Confidentiality).
Comment 8 of KRPC 1.1 states:
To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology…
KRPC 1.6(c) states:
A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.
When read together, it becomes clear that a lawyer has a duty to maintain adequate computer security. So, if your password falls on my list of shame, you may want to reconsider its use.
To create more secure passwords, try the following suggestions:
Mix it up. use a combination of letters, numbers, special characters, and some capital letters.
Make it personal. Use password phrases or a random combination of words that mean something to you, but don’t include things like birthdates, bar numbers, or that favorite quote that you have as a banner on your Facebook page.
Don’t use short passwords. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack.
Don’t reuse passwords. I know it is tempting, but if your password is cracked on one account, you don’t want to give easy access to your other accounts.
Don’t write your passwords down. You may chuckle about this, but I still see some lawyers using the post-it notes on the computer monitor.
Don’t share your passwords. This is a no brainer.
Change your passwords regularly. The more sensitive the information is, the more often you should change the password.
And if all else fails, you could always leave it up to the professionals and use a password manager.
Nothing has transformed the marketing of law firms in the last ten years more than the Internet. I was recently speaking at a bar association event when a gentleman asked, “Do people really look for lawyers online? I’m not sure people look for my kind of practice area on the Internet.” Although there’s no guarantee that someone Googles your exact practice area every day, there are more than 2 million Internet searches for the words “lawyer” or “attorney” every month.
Lawyers across the country are finding a steady drop in return on investment for their mass advertising efforts such as the Yellow Pages, television, and newspaper. A growing number of law firms are turning to the Internet with hopes of boosting their revenues and increasing their leads. For some this has become a reality, but most are still in the experimental stage. This article will give readers several of the best practices in becoming a rainmaker on the Internet.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the ongoing process of optimizing your website to be found on the search engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing are the big three) for the keywords and phrases with which you want people to find you. The goal of SEO is to drive qualified traffic to your website. It does not include pay-per-click (PPC) or paid search. There are more than 30 different components commonly used by SEO experts to help your website rank well. Below are strategies to get you started.
1. Know the keywords people use to search for your services. There are many tools you can use to find out exactly which keywords and phrases people use. I recommend you start with www.wordtracker.com and Google’s Keyword Tool, which can be found at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. In most searches, there are three parts used: geographical location, practice area, and the word “lawyer” or “attorney.” For example, someone looking for a personal injury lawyer in southern California may use “Los Angeles personal injury lawyer,” whereas someone in Chicago looking to file for bankruptcy may search for “Chicago bankruptcy attorney.” However, people are starting to use more and more words to describe what they are looking for: “I was injured in a car accident in Miami and need an attorney.” This is known as long tail search.
Key Action Points:
• Talk to your prospects and clients and find out what words and phrases they use to look for a lawyer in your practice area.
• Research those keywords and find out how many other people use them.
• Make a list of 20 to 30 words and phrases to use in your website.
2. Use keywords in your domain name. When possible, use the actual words with which you want prospects to find you. For example, Kevin Von Tungeln is a board-certified estate planning specialist in the state of California. His website address is www.estateplanningspecialists.com. Many law firms are still using the traditional method of naming their website the same as their law firm name, which can make it difficult to spell, harder to find, and does not assist their SEO efforts. However, be sure to check your state’s ethical requirements before settling on a new website name; some states do not allow lawyers to use any other domain name than their law firm’s name. Key Action Points:
• It’s okay to have multiple domain names.
• Register your own name first, then register domain names with your keywords in it.
• Use www.godaddy.com to register multiple variations. Even if you are not going to use them now, you may want them later.
3. Create compelling copy. I strongly recommend you consider hiring a professional copywriter to write the copy on your website. Yes, I know, every lawyer out there writes for a living. However, the gulf between writing a great legal brief and creating compelling copy can be like the Grand Canyon. The number-one purpose of your website is to compel visitors to pick up the phone and call you. A great copywriter can create credible copy that will get your phone ringing.
Another purpose of your website copy is to help you rank well in the search engines. One way to do this is by using the exact same words and phrases you researched in step one in the copy of your website. Each page should focus on four to six phrases. For example, one page may focus on four phrases such as “Orange County California personal injury lawyers,” “Orange County California personal injury attorneys,” “Los Angeles California personal injury lawyers,” and “Los Angeles County California personal injury attorneys.” Key Action Points:
• Consider hiring a professional copywriter to write your website copy.
• Be sure to include on each page the keywords for which you want to rank high.
• Include a call to action on every page. Tell people what you want them to do: call you, register, sign up, etc.
4. Add fresh content regularly. Perhaps the top strategy used by high-ranking lawyers today is to add new, relevant content to their websites on a consistent basis. This is one of the major reasons for the explosion in blogs in recent years. A blog is a type of website that is regularly updated, and the entries are often displayed in reverse-chronological order with the newest entry at the top. Although some law firms are selecting blogs instead of websites, I believe there is a place for each in online legal marketing. If, for economic reasons, you are forced to select between one or the other, I recommend starting out with a blog. Why? Because they are very low cost (or free) as compared to websites and, if done properly, will help you rank faster than a traditional website.
Anyone can start a blog at no cost using sites such as www.wordpress.com and www.blogger.com. At a minimum, we recommend updating your blog weekly. For any serious traffic, you need to be updating three to five times per week. Lawyers who want to be at the top of the search engines update their blog three to five times per day. Google loves fresh content. The more relevant content your blog gives Google, the more it will love your blog by ranking it higher. Key Action Points:
• Search engines love fresh content.
• The more fresh, relevant content you post on your website or blog, the higher you will rank on the search engines.
• Blogs are a great place to get started, but in order to be effective they must be updated frequently.
• Update your blog at least three to five times per week.
5. Use video to keep visitors’ attention. Now here’s a truly depressing statistic: On average, 85 percent of your website’s visitors will stay for less than 30 seconds and will never return. Seriously? Yes. If you don’t believe me, check for yourself. Look at your website’s statistics log and see how many unique visitors you have and how long they stay on average. (Virtually every website has at least a basic statistics package; just ask your website tech or hosting company how to access it. If you are not already using Google Analytics, have your tech install it. It’s much better than most. And it’s free.)
The bottom line is that you literally have less than 30 seconds to impress your website visitors. I believe all of us would agree that the longer visitors stay on your website, the more likely they are to connect with you.
One of the best ways to increase the length of time a visitor stays is by using videos. Anecdotally, our clients have seen a four- to fivefold increase in length of stay after implementing videos on their websites. These videos should be one to three minutes long and focus on educating prospects and website visitors about who you are, who you help, and why you are different. These videos do not need to be professionally produced, but you may want to have someone add a short introduction including your website and phone number. Once you have your video ready, upload it to your website—and to www.youtube.com for additional exposure. Visitors are more concerned with content than production quality. If allowed in your jurisdiction, use video testimonials from your clients as well. Key Action Points:
• The longer someone stays on your website, the greater likelihood they will connect with you.
• Use videos to quickly capture their attention.
• Your videos should educate prospects about who you are, who you help, and why you are different.
6. Develop educational tools and promote them on your website. Education-based marketing is one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of lawyers. There is a great amount of basic information you know about your practice area that prospects want and need to know. Think about some of the questions your clients have about child custody and divorce or how to avoid getting sued by employees or ways to protect their intellectual property. Identify their frequently asked questions or biggest challenges and put together a short report (three to six pages long), a PowerPoint presentation, or even an audio CD, and offer a free copy to website visitors who give you their contact information. (Remember, if you cannot get visitors to call you directly, the second-best alternative is to persuade them to give you their contact information with permission to contact them.) Give your education material a creative title such as “7 Questions You Must Ask before You Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer,” or “The 10 Deadly Mistakes People Make with Their Estate Plan,” or even “5 Strategies Inventors Can Use to Protect and Monetize Their Inventions.”
This kind of free educational information is a great tool you can use to start building relationships with many people who need your help but aren’t ready to walk in your door. It is not enough simply to offer people a free consultation. Almost every lawyer does that. Take it one step further and give them some great information that will help them think through the issues and challenges they are facing. Once you have created these educational tools, find every way you can to give them away to as many people as possible. Key Action Points:
• Use an educational report, white paper, or audio CD to inform prospects, clients, and referral sources.
• Every prospect has questions and challenges. Identify them and give them some information that indicates you can resolve their challenges and answer their questions.
7. Submit your articles online. Submitting short educational articles on the Internet is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest ways to increase your visibility and the traffic to your website. There are literally thousands of directories on the Internet that will republish your article on their websites at no cost. Simply Google “article directories” for a list. Key Action Points:
• Keep your articles short—between 400 and 700 words. Remember, people don’t read online, they scan. Use plenty of bullet points, clearly differentiate sections, and keep your paragraphs short.
• Write for a specific audience. Keep in mind your ideal clients, and write the article for them—not for other lawyers. Tell a case study. Use an example. Make it practical, interesting, and personal, as if you were speaking directly to the reader. Never use legal jargon unless you explain it.
• Grab their attention with the title. Make sure your title is less than ten words, has a number in it when possible, and tells them how to solve a problem. The title must grab the reader’s attention from the start. For example: “5 Mistakes,” “7 Pitfalls,” “3 Steps,” etc.
• Tell, don’t sell. Focus your article on informing and educating your reader about a specific topic. Don’t focus on “selling” your services. The goal is to get readers to visit your website.
• Don’t be generic. Give your opinion or state your perspective. People are looking for answers, not just questions.
• Determine if your article is a good fit for the site. Some sites target business professionals, others target individual consumers. Some have sections for each group. If they give you the choice, make sure you select the category that is most appropriate for your article and that best represents your target market.
• Only submit to websites that allow you to include your contact information with a live link back to your website. If they are not willing to give you a live link back to your website, go somewhere else.
• Give people a reason to contact you. Offer them a special report at your website or something else that will give them an incentive to contact you.
• Create a Google Alert at www.google.com/alerts to help you track where your articles are posted to and when they come out (set either your name or the title of your article as the Alert).
• Manage your expectations. Writing and submitting articles to various websites will rarely result in a new client. There are three major reasons why you should use this technique: (1) It will increase your visibility on the Internet. The search engines love free information (which is what your article is). (2) It will increase the number of visitors to your website through the direct links at the bottom of each article and by increasing the position of your website on the search engines. (3) It will increase your credibility. When an important prospect searches for your name on the Internet and comes up blank, that doesn’t look good. Having several websites with your articles posted on them immediately increases your credibility to prospects investigating which lawyer they want to hire.
8. Take action fast. One of the hallmarks of a top rainmaker is the ability to take action fast. It’s easy to put things off. It’s easier still to stay a cynic. The real challenge is acting on what you have learned. Here’s my challenge to you: Write down three to five specific strategies you will start implementing in the next 30 days. Give yourself realistic time frames and find someone to hold you accountable. Then go out and take action.
Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company that specializes in helping small and solo law firms generate more referrals and increase their revenue.
This short video shows you how to create different signatures in Outlook. PLF Practice Management Advisor Sheila Blackford leads you through the simple process of how to create and customize your signature and also how to insert an electronic business card, a picture or logo, and a hyperlink to your social media accounts. Originally posted on the Oregon State Bar website on May 15, 2018, by Sheila Blackford.
This video shows you how to create your own pleading template from scratch and describes the benefits of creating your own versus using a standardized template. Former PLF Practice Management Advisor Jennifer Meisberger walks you through each step of the process, including creating the title, caption, body, line numbering, footer, and then saving the template.
Taken from the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund blog.
Video communication is an inexpensive yet powerful tool that can help establish and maintain client relationships. The vastly improved quality, ease of use and low cost has propelled this technology to the forefront of many small businesses, including law firms.
Video calls and communication includes scheduled conference calls, but also routine calls – can now take place on the telephone.
Social scientists have been telling us for years that face-to-face communication where both sound and visual queues are used is the most beneficial form of communication – better than phone calls and far better than email or written correspondence. Video calls allow us to gauge the other person’s response to our message and spoken word. We can see facial expressions, gestures, head movements, body positioning, and shifting. We can see whether other participants are participating or distracted. We look for visual cues such as head nods and eye contact to see if our message is getting through, being rejected or being ignored.
Video technology is not complicated. Over 80 percent of American adults now own a smartphone equipped with a video camera. Many already use the video camera to communicate with friends and family, so why not their lawyer? Most laptop computers have built-in cameras, and HD-quality video cameras for office use cost between $50 and $100 and are easy to install.
There are also some easy to use products on the market for video calls and conferencing:
Zoom.us is my favorite. There is a free edition that allows the user to meet for an unlimited number of minutes with one other person (such as a lawyer/client). If the user wants to meet with a group, then there is a 40 minutes time limit and a limit of 100 users. But, there are also other inexpensive versions of the product – the business version is only $20 per month and the user can place unlimited video calls with up to 50 participants.
Introduce each client to your video communication efforts during the initial consultation. Let them know the benefits and that they can easily communicate with you using their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. Consider adding a brief provision to your representation agreement, highlighting the understanding with each client to try to use this technology rather than the telephone or in-person meetings. Make a note in each client’s contact information which tools they have to communicate via video.
It may seem a bit strange at first not to pick up the telephone, but soon your clients will be thanking you, and you’ll be thankful you read this tip!
Thanks to the author of this article, Reid Trautz. Reid is the Director of the Practice and Professionalism Center of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a blogger on the issues of business process improvement, technology, legal ethics, and effective practice management. Reid is co-author of the ABA’s “The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice” and a past ABA TECHSHOW chair.
I speak often at law schools, and law students ask me for career advice. One common question I get: what’s a “hot” area of law — in other words, a practice area where I might be able to get a job?
It’s an understandable question, given the challenges that some law students and graduates face in their job searches, but I often end up dodging. I ask the questioner: what areas of law are you interested in, and what subjects are you good at? If you are interested in and excited about a specific practice area, you’re more likely to have a successful career as a lawyer — more likely than someone who picks a practice just because it’s “hot.”
But if you put a gun to my head and forced me to give a direct answer, then I guess I’d paraphrase that guy from The Graduate: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Privacy. There’s a great future in privacy law. Think about it. Will you think about it?”
My view of privacy law’s bright future has only increased from attending this year’s Global Privacy Summit, hosted by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) in Washington, D.C. The Summit draws roughly 3,500 attendees each year, and its opening session, held this morning in the cavernous main hall of the Washington Convention Center, was packed — a standing-room-only crowd, to hear the keynotes of Monica Lewinsky, who needs no introduction, and Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (affiliate link).
After Lewinsky’s and Ronson’s engaging presentations, IAPP’s president and CEO, J. Trevor Hughes, took the stage to offer welcoming remarks. He announced that IAPP, the world’s largest association of privacy professionals, now boasts more than 38,000 members in 107 countries around the world, with 120 cities having local their own local IAPP chapters. (About 3,500 members attend the Privacy Summit each year.)
“Make no mistake,” Hughes said. “The privacy profession has arrived.”
What’s driving the boom in privacy law and the ranks of privacy professionals? Certainly major social and technological changes are behind it, but there’s also a more specific catalyst: the GDPR, the European Union’s sweeping regulation of data privacy, which takes effect on May 25. Among its many requirements, the GDPR mandates that every organization have a Data Protection Officer (DPO) — who is often a privacy lawyer.
Thanks to GDPR, the membership of IAPP in Europe has exploded. Last year the organization had 4,000 members in Europe, according to Hughes, and now it has more than 10,000 — which led IAPP to establish a physical presence in Europe, with an office in Brussels and a half-dozen or so employees on the ground.
Another sign that privacy law is now “a thing”: at its most recent Midyear Meeting, the American Bar Association (ABA) approved a resolution on the IAPP’s Privacy Law Specialist accreditation, for a five-year term.
“With this vote, lawyers who wish to distinguish themselves from the crowd and demonstrate to potential employers or clients that they have taken extra steps to develop privacy law credentials have an opportunity to do so,” said IAPP Research Director Rita Heimes. In the states that recognize the ABA’s accreditation of law specialty certification programs, which is roughly half the states, lawyers who have been accredited as privacy-law specialists by IAPP will be able to hold themselves out as such.
Despite the tremendous rise in the number of privacy professionals, more will be required. According to Hughes, there are positions for an estimated 75,000 chief privacy officers (CPOs) — roughly double the current worldwide membership of IAPP. Because of this shortfall, a highly qualified CPO candidate is the so-called “purple squirrel” to recruiters, Hughes said.
“To meet the needs of the market today, we have to build, create, and train the next generation of privacy specialists,” Trevor Hughes told the Global Privacy Summit attendees. “Our work matters — and your work matters.”
David Lat is editor at large and founding editor of Above the Law, as well as the author of Supreme Ambitions: A Novel. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. You can connect with David on Twitter (@DavidLat), LinkedIn, and Facebook, and you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most states have rules of professional conduct for lawyers to inform clients of the status of their cases and to promptly reply to their reasonable requests for information. An efficient and timely way to comply with these ethics rules on client communication is via email (encrypted as necessary, of course), which supplies lawyers and clients with a communications record.
Templates to Save Time Responding to Email
To save time and labor in writing emails, develop automated responses for when you are on vacation or otherwise unavailable. You can also create quick replies to send from your smartphone, such as “I’ll read this later and get back to you” and “Let’s set up a meeting to discuss this — please send me your availability over the next few days.” To save even more time, consider composing templates or boilerplates that can easily be inserted into new emails and email messages you respond to. That’s the premise and promise of Ant Text, an add-in for Outlook and Outlook Web Access (OWA) running on Exchange Server 2013 and above, which includes Office 365.
Ant Text makes it easy to write and reuse form emails and meeting invitations using your own designs, logos, text and attached files. After you design the email templates, you can share them with the rest of your firm to ensure consistent communications with clients and potential clients. Ant Text provides the sharing function.
How Ant Text Works
Ant Text can be downloaded and installed manually by administrators, but Office 365 users can enable it without IT support.
For the add-in, click the Store icon on the Outlook Ribbon, search for “Ant Text,” and install it.
For OWA, click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window, choose “Manage add-ins,” search for “Ant Text” and install it.
Yes, you can do both; however, the Outlook desktop version is more advanced than the OWA version. Ant Text promises the desktop and online versions will have feature parity later this year. Until then, I focus on Outlook for the desktop.
Once Ant Text is enabled, select an email in your inbox and start up the add-in from the Ribbon. The Ant Text window opens on the right side of Outlook, allowing you to create a reply to the selected email by choosing a template.
Pull down the Settings menu items and click Ant Text. The Ant Text window changes, allowing you to create folders and forms. I first created a folder for new client inquiries. The folder appeared in an “Ant Texts” folder containing a default template. Don’t remove the default template. For folders to work in Ant Text, they must include at least one template. Then I created draft messages as models to reuse and dragged them into the folder structures under the Ant Text folder.
Templates for Retainer Letters, Inquiries, Meeting Requests and Much More
For my practice, I created templates to respond to new client inquiries for each state, outlining my areas of practice in the jurisdictions. I attached a sample retainer letter and New York statements of client rights and responsibilities to my model reply for the Empire State. I also included my law firm logo and v-card in the message and as an attachment.
I also replied to messages by setting up meetings, using Ant Text to set up reusable meeting requests. Although I can use Outlook Templates for form emails and default meeting requests, Ant Text templates make it easy to create forms with standard text and vibrant graphics using copy-and-paste functions and reuse that work on demand and within the context of messages and invitations.
Windows Desktop Client Works with Word and Excel Files
Besides the Ant Text Outlook and OWA add-in, the Danish technology provider also supplies a Windows client that installs to the desktop in one click. The client software allowed me to create and edit Microsoft Word files (.doc, .docx, .docm) files to insert text and graphics into new email messages and save them to a file structure made known to Ant Text in a configuration setting. The documents are stored on a local or network drive, which can be used to share the files with other lawyers and staff who also install the client code.
Ant Text’s Ant XL feature supports merging fields from Excel spreadsheets into templates in Outlook. Ant XL made it easy for me to compose a newsletter via email and simultaneously send it to a list of clients. Ant XL also supports merged fields and Out-of-Office templates in Outlook and OWA.
You can try Ant Text free for 14 days. The Standard subscription (10 Ant Text templates) is $14.95 per month, which amounts to $1.50 per template per month. The Business license allows the use of unlimited templates and Ant XL for $18.95 per month.
Sean Doherty is a sole practitioner advising organizations on technology controls that comply with industry standards, laws and regulations governing information technology, safeguarding privacy and preserving evidence in litigation. Sean previously worked as an analyst for 451 Research, where he directed the company's business and technology coverage of information governance, compliance, and electronic discovery. He also worked as a technology editor at ALM Media. Follow him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @SeanD0herty.
Video communication is an inexpensive yet powerful tool that can help establish and maintain client relationships. The vastly improved quality, ease of use and low cost has propelled this technology to the forefront of many small businesses, including law firms.
Video calls, conference calls, and also routine calls can all now take place on the telephone.
Social scientists have been telling us for years that face-to-face communication where both sound and visual queues are used is the most beneficial form of communication – better than phone calls and far better than email or written correspondence. Video calls allow us to gauge the other person’s response to our message and spoken word. We can see facial expressions, gestures, head movements, body positioning, and shifting. We can see whether other participants are participating or distracted. We look for visual cues such as head nods and eye contact to see if our message is getting through, being rejected or being ignored.
Video technology is not complicated. Over 80 percent of American adults now own a smartphone equipped with a video camera. Many already use the video camera to communicate with friends and family, so why not their lawyer? Most laptop computers have built-in cameras, and HD-quality video cameras for office use cost between $50 and $100 and are easy to install.
There are also some easy-to-use products on the market for video calls and conferencing:
Microsoft Office 365 for Business Professionals includes Skype for Business that can call clients and others from Outlook with just one click;
Zoom.us is my favorite. There is a free edition that allows the user to meet for an unlimited number of minutes with one other person (such as a lawyer/client). If the user wants to meet with a group, then there is a 40-minute time limit and a limit of 100 users. But there are also other inexpensive versions of the product; the business version is only $20 per month and the user can place unlimited video calls with up to 50 participants.
Go2Meeting and Cisco Spark are also popular in this market segment.
Introduce each client to your video communication efforts during the initial consultation. Let them know the benefits and that they can easily communicate with you using their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. Consider adding a brief provision to your representation agreement, highlighting the understanding with each client to try to use this technology rather than the telephone or in-person meetings. Make a note in each client’s contact information which tools they have to communicate via video.
It may seem a bit strange at first not to pick up the telephone, but soon your clients will be thanking you, and you’ll be thankful you read this tip!
Many thanks for this article to the author, Reid Trautz. Reid is the Director of the Practice and Professionalism Center of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a blogger on the issues of business process improvement, technology, legal ethics, and effective practice management. Reid is co-author of the ABA’s “The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice” and a past ABA TECHSHOW chair.
Everyone in your firm who fields phone calls is on the frontlines of client service.
To help staff members make the right first impressions, the Ruby Receptionists team suggests avoiding these phrases:
1. “I Can’t”: You want to help your callers get to where they need to go, and “I can’t” is a dead end. Even if you can’t do exactly what the caller asks, you can provide some kind of help. Think of what you can do and offer to do it. Here’s a quick example. Caller: “I need to reset my password for accessing the client extranet. Can you help me with that?” Instead of this…
Receptionist: I can’t. I’ll connect you with our tech support department.
…get rid of “I can’t” and move on to the good stuff!
Receptionist: Let me put you in touch with our tech support department.
They’ll be happy to help you with that.
2. “I Don’t Know”: You may not have the answer to your caller’s question, but saying “I don’t know” gets you nowhere. Bypass “I don’t know” and move on to the next part: putting the caller in touch with someone who does know.
“That’s a good question. Let me find the best person to answer it for you.”
It can be difficult or even embarrassing to ask for help. Your callers will feel better about themselves if you acknowledge their question and find the best person to answer it. If there’s no one in the office who has the answer at the moment, let the caller know that you’ll find out how to help them and call them back when you can. Then follow through!
3. “Hold, Please”: Sure, you need to place callers on hold from time to time, but it’s best to ask permission first. Rather than “Hold, please,” go with “May I place you on hold for a moment?” Ruby Receptionist’s live remote receptionist team always asks first, and when a caller declines to be placed on hold, we don’t press the Hold key. Take a message if need be and call them back – they’ll appreciate your attentiveness and manners.
According to a poll administered by the American Bar Association, 46 percent of consumers will ask a friend, family member or colleague for a referral when looking for a lawyer. Similarly, 65 percent report that reputation, ratings, and reviews have a significant influence on their hiring decisions. So, a good reputation among existing clients is critical to attracting more clients.
But how do you get there?
The secret to turning clients into loyal fans – the kind who consistently refer business your way over and over again – is to create meaningful relationships with them. Here are some practical tips to help you build trust with clients, generate loyalty and, form the kind of relationships that drive word-of-mouth referrals.
Inventory Your Infrastructure of Trust
Take a few moments to consider the fundamentals of your practice and make a list. What do you absolutely need to run your practice and serve your clients at a basic level? Think about the things you do or use every single day and ask: “Could I cut this out and still deliver the service my clients expect?” If it can’t be eliminated, add it to your list. For example, reliable internet, phone service, and email are probably must-haves on your list, as is doing a client intake process and so forth. Once you have your list, ask yourself:
What items on this list can be made easier?
Which can be automated?
What are my pain points surrounding these list items, and how might I remedy them?
If, for example, you write a similar email to clients over and over, you can turn it into a template to save time. Also, you might set up auto-pay so that you never get a service lapse in your high-speed internet.
It’s so rare that we take the time to inventory our fundamentals, but it’s important because the items on your list all play into the trust you’re earning with your clients. Before you can build a solid relationship with clients, you first need to consistently deliver the basic service you promise. By streamlining the everyday essentials that keep your practice running, you’ll not only reduce your stress (and the stress of your team) but have the service infrastructure that your clients can rely on. You want to make it as easy as possible to do what you say you’ll do for your clients, so wherever you can, create systems to ensure consistency.
Fostering Loyalty: Touchpoints
Every client interaction is an opportunity to either deliver on the trust you’ve built and use that trust to earn loyalty, or damage that trust and move backward. What are all of your clients’ touchpoints? Even seemingly small interactions are moments in time that make an impression in your client’s mind:
Your hold music;
How long your phone rings before it is answered;
How your phone is answered (friendly?);
The way your assistant gives directions to your office;
Think of touchpoints as ALL interactions between anyone your practice and a client.
Each touchpoint can affect a client’s opinion of your practice.
It’s time to make another list, one that includes all the client touchpoints you can think of. Once this list is complete, think about the impression you want your clients to have when they interact with your practice. Then, hone in on the touchpoints that impact that impression.
“Every client interaction is an opportunity to either deliver on the trust you’ve built and use that trust to earn loyalty, or to damage that trust and move backward. What are all of your clients’ touchpoints?”
Forming Real Relationships
Once you’ve built a solid infrastructure and refined your client touchpoints, take what you’ve learned in creating all of those smaller connections to create a larger “wow-worthy” experience. Don’t be afraid to see your clients as friends at this point: You want to approach your clients through a relationship-focused lens. Ask relevant and appropriate questions and find ways to connect with them on a personal level. You want your client to leave your office feeling cared about and connected in a meaningful way!
This article was written by Christina Burns, VP of Customer Success at Ruby Receptionist. This article titled “It Starts With Trust” was first published in “Happy Clients, Happy Lawyers” by AttorneyatWork and Ruby Receptions in March 2018.
People who feel stress over having enough time indicate lower life satisfaction, including symptoms of anxiety, poorer eating and exercise habits, and increased insomnia. Really, this is not surprising. However, a recent study, “Buying Time Promotes Happiness,” looked into whether the “famline of modern life” can be reduced by using money to buy back some time. Among the findings:
People who spent money on “time” were happier than those who spent money on “things.”
By “paying their way out of unwelcome chores” – for example, hiring a maid service, outsourcing IT, or hiring an off-site answering service, they freed time for more enjoyable and rewarding activities.
The key is: “open your wallet to ditch the negative moments that steal your time and, worse, kill your passion for the things you once enjoyed!
In addition to these tips for your practice, consider assessing how you’re spending your time in and out of the office. Over a week or two, write down your activities – everything you do. Be honest: Procrastination or lack of sleep, for example, may signal that something’s amiss. Track your attitude about your activities, too: dread, excitement, boredom?
“Buying Time” tells us to examine our lives so we can find “negative moments” to trade for more positive ones. What’s setting your teeth on edge? What can you delegate? And, perhaps most importantly, with whom should you spend more of your time?
Making time for relationships means you are much more likely to be healthy and happy at work and play.
Finding the Time is taken from “Get Happy” retrieved from “Happy Clients, Happy Lawyers” produced by Attorney at Work and Ruby Receptionists, March 2018.
For more details about the “Buying Time Promotes Happiness” study, read the Harvard Business Review article, “Want to Be Happier? Spend Some Money on Avoiding Household Chores.”
The opening ripple of ABA TECHSHOW 2018 a few weeks ago began at the conference’s second annual Startup Pitch Competition, where 14 legal technology startups competed. Voluble, a social media data analyst provider won, but not for sentiment analysis. The company creates trial exhibits from consumer posts discussing products, manufacturers and purchasing decisions. The exhibits aim to show secondary meaning, deceptive advertising, anti-competitive behavior, the likelihood of confusion and dilution, and more.
It would have been nice to see a runner-up to Voluble because there were plenty of candidates. Take Digitory Legal, which uses historical law firm billing data and industry trends to help firms manage the cost of matters. Or Qualmet, a web and mobile platform that allows corporate legal departments and outside counsel to measure and benchmark performance to drive business value. Or pick a champion from the finalists listed here.
Regardless of who wins or loses these pitch contests, they’re becoming standard fare at conferences and a benefit to startups and the legal tech community. The pitch format exposes new technology to the community in a concise, convenient forum and gives startups a mechanism to test, and perhaps validate, their problem identification and resolution. Once approved by the community, startups may find new champions, customers and venture capital investment, and maybe celebrate future anniversaries at TECHSHOW.
Themis Solutions’ Clio and Rocket Matter, web-based practice management software, are 10 years old and Worldox is celebrating 30 years of business. I covered Clio’s new integrations for Microsoft Outlook in “Overcoming Fear and Loathing of New Technology at ABA TECHSHOW 2018.” The Vancouver-based company is poised for significant calendar updates later this year. Perhaps at the Clio Cloud Conference Oct. 4-5 in New Orleans? In the meantime, Clio will be adding 20 new integration partners to its platform, which now sports version 4 of its application programming interface (API) and a total of 90 app integrations. You will find all the new integrations in the Clio App Directory.
I found some new Clio partners at TECHSHOW, including BirdEye and startups Gideon and Lawyaw. BirdEye automatically sends review requests to clients after users close a Clio matter. Gideon offers a messaging and client intake platform to qualify leads and convert them to clients. And Lawyaw automates document creation from more than 5,000 state, county and local court forms. (Gideon and Lawyaw competed in the Startup Pitch Competition.)
Rocket Matter introduced a workflow management platform for law firms, called Rocket Project Management. It automates matter management by creating transitions between different phases of a case, such as client intake, litigation, settlement, and file closure. Each phase or status can support tasks, custom data, calendars and date functions to comply with deadlines. When matters change status, predefined data substantiate the matter. The new platform works with Rocket Matter’s Communicator, an internal messaging tool, to alert lawyers of case status changes on their mobile devices. Rocket Matter also released integration updates for LexCharge payment processing and LawToolBox‘s rules-based deadline calculations. Look for Rocket Matter to integrate with Google G Suite later this year.
Worldox, a New Jersey-based document management system (DMS) provider, will celebrate a pearl anniversary at its user conference May 20 in New Orleans. There, it will announce the Beta version of its next-generation DMS, which will engage server-based email with predictive filing and build on Microsoft Azure, integrating with tools like Microsoft Flow and PowerBI. Besides the platform tools, the Microsoft cloud will allow Worldox to scale over 1,000 users. On a physical front, Worldox continues to expand its DMS market in North Africa, South America, the Middle East, Canada and Australia.
Empower Legal launched its Litigation Suite at TECHSHOW. The suite consists of streaming video tutorials that help litigation attorneys and their clients prepare for mediation, depositions and trials. Alan Fanger, an award-winning trial attorney and radio legal analyst, casts professional actors in the videos produced by Reflection Films and published on the Vimeo platform. The characters, testimony and events are fictional, but the lessons are real. For example, the mediation video conveys the essential elements of any mediation, including advice toward settlement: listen effectively, acknowledge litigation risks, accept the reality of settlement, be courteous to opponents, and establish a bottom line number to settle. Empower Legal makes Google Android and Apple iOS apps to view the videos. The Newton, Massachusetts-based company has two more videos in production: expert witnesses and investigations.
Lawmatics is a CRM and marketing automation tool designed for solo practitioners and small to midsize law firms. The startup company, founded by Matt Spiegel, the founder of MyCase, said Lawmatics is like Salesforce and HubSpot for the legal profession. The marketing tool is built on AWS and includes custom forms, an email agent and built-in e-signature functions. Spiegel demonstrated Lawmatics’ automation from lead intake to client conversion while showing me an accurate and dynamic picture of pipeline activity. But many lawyers will find the area between leads and retained clients outside their bailiwick. Spiegel agreed and said education would be a big part of customer engagement and the onboarding process. If Lawmatics is anything like MyCase, it’s one to watch. Investors are on board, and Spiegel is looking at growth mode.
Lynx Workflow’s FactBox, a web-based fact management and timeline software provider, came to TECHSHOW for the first time hoping to go beyond word-of-mouth advertising and social network marketing. The San Francisco company tackles inefficiencies in workflows for trial and other court proceedings, which can be decentralized, inconsistent and expensive. FactBox, like an Evernote for litigators, makes chronologies and timelines of key facts and links them to source documents. Explore sample case notes here.
Notes from the Expo Hall
AbacusNext redesigned the user interface (UI) to its CRM software ResultsCRM (formerly Results Software), which is now fully cloud-enabled and optimized to run on Abacus Private Cloud. The new UI provides a consistent user experience across desktop, web and mobile applications and supports drag-and-drop tiles and data modules for customization.
Case.one came to TECHSHOW with its recent launch of File.one, a new application in its .one suite of case management tools for law firms. File.one tackles the problem of files stored in multiple systems and locations using a search tool that simultaneously searches on-premises servers and cloud storage and supports approximately 120 different file formats.
DocsCorp‘s document comparison software, called compareDocs, has undergone a significant upgrade that includes two new comparison workflows: Compare Selected Text and Compare from Clipboard. The new Compare Selected Text and Compare from Clipboard functionalities give users the ability to compare specific sections or snippets of text vis-a-vis comparing an entire document with a modified version. The new workflows save time and allow users to stay focused on a particular task, such as changes to a single paragraph, a clause, or contents of a table.
Before TECHSHOW, Judicata’s Clerk, a web-based California legal research tool that has ingested thousands of pages of legal text and millions of case data points, was recently upgraded to correct citation errors based on the California Style Manual or The Bluebook. Besides remedying citations, Clerk assesses the strength of arguments, drafting (quotations and attribution accuracy of quoted text), and context, considering cases with similar causes of action, facts and judges.
Lit Software, a maker of iOS apps for litigation (TrialPad, DocReviewPad and TranscriptPad) came to TECHSHOW with two feathers in its hat. Earlier this year the Miami-based company updated TranscriptPad to include Impeachment Reports, showing deponent name, date, and volume of deposition with page-line source designations. It also enabled users to sort reports chronologically to see issue codes in the context of surrounding testimony. And in two months, Lit Software will release a new product, called TimelinePad, for depositions and trial. With the forthcoming app, users can organize litigation events in a timeline.
If you lack an iOS product, check out ExhibitView Solutions. Although the company makes an iPad app called iTrial, its trial presentation software ExhibitView 7 is primarily designed for Windows 10 and has many new enhancements, including the ability to create high-definition synchronized depositions in its TranscriptPro tool.
Web-based practice management provider MyCase released an easy button to receive and process online payments. Instead of asking clients to log into a client portal to pay, MyCase users can email clients a unique, secure payment link copied from their latest invoice. When clients click on the link, they are taken to a secure credit card form to pay. Besides email, MyCase’s secure payment link can be sent via chat or SMS message.
WordRake editing software, which makes prose clear and concise for legal documents, will soon support MacOS. Watch the Seattle-based company’s blog and check out the company’s writing tips.
60 in 60
The final ripple at TECHSHOW featured a crescendo of tips and tools from the “60 in 60” session, an annual affair highlighting the latest in apps, new technology and work hacks. This year, conference co-chair Debbie Foster, a partner at Affinity Consulting Group; Lincoln Mead, director of Information Services at Utah State Bar; Tom Mighell, vice president of Delivery Services at Contoural and also TECHSHOW co-chair; and John Simek, vice president of Sensei Enterprises, orchestrated the session and shouted out their favorite findings, which included:
Fastcase AI Sandbox, a private digital environment to analyze law firm data using artificial intelligence and data analytics tools, Fastcase resources, and other external libraries to derive new insights to drive decision-making.
DuckDuckGo, a search engine (and Chrome extension) that doesn’t track you, follow you with ads, or store your personal information. From the DuckDuckGo blog, check out “How to Live Without Google.”
ROSS Intelligence EVA. Upload a brief (drag-and-drop) to ROSS Intelligence, and EVA returns, for free, a hyperlinked list of cases cited in the brief that received negative treatments.
Other notable tips included AI tools like Voicera and Jog.ai that attend your phone conferences and transcribe phone calls; Anchor lets you record a podcast on your mobile device, with remote guests; and Tresorit, a cloud-based storage provider that puts encryption keys in the hands of customers.
And finally, until next TECHSHOW, cover your Apple watch to mute a call. Priceless, from Debbie Foster.
Sean Doherty is a sole practitioner advising organizations on technology controls that comply with industry standards, laws and regulations governing information technology, safeguarding privacy and preserving evidence in litigation. Sean previously worked as an analyst for 451 Research, where he directed the company's business and technology coverage of information governance, compliance, and electronic discovery. He also worked as a technology editor at ALM Media. Follow him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @SeanD0herty.
Today's blog was contributed by Tim Atmar of CyberlinkASP:
Five benefits of using Cloud Computing for Law Firms
Cloud computing or Desktop as a Service (DaaS), has been growing in interest and used by law firms of all sizes, largely in part to the continued development of the Cloud and better security features. Our Legal DaaS is available in a variety of different configurations based on a firm’s needs and requirements, and each of your hosted virtual desktops can be customized to individual users.
Five benefits your Firm can gain with Legal DaaS:
Cost Savings– Instead of budgeting for hardware upgrades, server patches or replacements, your firm only needs to budget for DaaS subscriptions which include all your applications (including your document management and time & billing software), your data, Microsoft office suite, Outlook exchange and a host of security and compliance features.
Managed IT– With our US based support, your firm will have 24x7 access to our award-winning service team to ensure your network, applications, printers, etc. are operating at peak performance.
Mobile Access– Your employees can access their virtual desktops from anywhere over the Internet. In addition, virtual desktops can be accessed from a variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets.
Data Saved in a Central Location– All files and data are stored in a central location rather than on multiple local workstations, and it is backed up on a regular basis, further reducing the risks of data loss from hardware failure.
Cybersecurity and Compliance– Our Legal DaaS gives your firm the ultimate in security and compliance. Your data is protected by a Fortigate network with a complete team of security professionals monitoring links and intrusions. The Legal Cloud is HIPPA, SOX and SSAE16 compliant and audited annually for your firm’s protection.
To learn more about our Legal DaaS and application hosting solutions for your firm, call Tim Atmar at CyberlinkASP at (512) 574-1594 or go to More Information.
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 email@example.com.
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.
Have you ever wanted to text an appointment reminder or a quick message to your clients without having to use your cell phone? Many clients are faster at reading and responding to their text messages than to their emails. There is an easy and free way to do this. It’s called Email-to-SMS Gateway. You just use your email program on your computer to send a short text message to your clients. No need to use a third-party service that you don’t know and trust. No need to install an application.
What is SMS Gateway?
An SMS gateway allows your computer to send Short Message Service (SMS), which is generally known as a “text message,” to a cell phone. However, the text message cannot be more than 160 characters and cannot include media.
If you want to send a longer text message with an image, video or audio, you’d need to use the MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) gateway. MMS is a type of messaging that has no character limit and allows media files. Most cell phones support both SMS and MMS. But keep in mind that if your client's phone plan doesn't have MMS, he or she won't receive the message.
The SMS gateway texting method requires you to know three things:
Your client’s cell phone number.
The name of the client’s phone carrier. You can look up the carrier at this website.
The SMS gateway address that corresponds with the carrier. The gateway addresses for major U.S. phone service providers are listed below for your convenience:
SMS Gateway (text only)
MMS Gateway (text and media)
(Include “1” before the phone number)
(Include “1” before the phone number)
Follow these steps to send text messages from your email program:
Compose a new email.
In the “To” field, insert the client’s 10-digit phone number followed by the appropriate @gateway address. Do not include hyphens or dashes in the phone number.
For example, if your client’s phone number is 503-123-4567 and the carrier is AT&T, this is the SMS gateway address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the carrier is T-Mobile, make sure you include the number “1” before the 10-digit phone number.
Write your message. Keep the message to fewer than 160 characters. If you need to write a longer message or want to include media, use the MMS gateway address or regular email.
Your client will receive your email in the form of a text message on his or her cell phone. If the client responds to your text, the message will be sent to your email inbox.
There are other options to send text messages from your computer, including using Google Voice and third-party online services. But SMS gateway is simple, reliable and free. You can test it right now by sending a text from your email to your cell phone.
This issue of Law Practice offers a preview of the speakers at TECHSHOW 2018. For more than 30 years, the Law Practice Division has gathered the top technology experts for this one-of-a-kind program. If you are resistant to the technological changes affecting the practice of law or just aren't sure where to start, mark your calendars now. One of the reasons lawyers are resistant to technology is they just aren’t sure where to start or how to evaluate the risk of transitioning to a new application or system. Understanding and evaluating that risk can be overwhelming.
This is what TECHSHOW offers lawyers: a one-stop location explaining what technology to use, how to use it and under what circumstances. Whether you are considering using cloud storage for the first time and need to know how to do that safely or whether you are considering using Office 365, TECHSHOW has experts to answer your questions. There are hands-on workshops, small group meetings and an EXPO. The experts at TECHSHOW have done all the research and can help you find the answers. Whether a first-time attendee or a veteran, you will benefit from TECHSHOW 2018. All you have to do is set aside the time to attend.
This issue of Law Practice tackles the current state of artificial intelligence use in the legal community and the prospects for it to change in the near future, the burgeoning use of ransomware, tips on how best to get to the meat of e-discovery matters and much more!
Finally, we’d like to thank our guest columnists. Skip Rudsenske contributed to the Highlights column and Peter Roberts to the Finance column. And we wish Mike Downey well as he hands in his final Ethics column.
Are you making evidentiary rulings with confidence? This faculty-led onlinecourse will develop the skills needed to rule accurately on issues of hearsay, foundation, privileges and burden of proof, and make correct determinations concerning both expert witness and lay witness observation through real-world examples and interactive tasks.
You are often called on to make instantaneous decisions on the admissibility of evidence from the bench. Do you have a firm grasp on all of the rules of evidence as they apply to criminal cases? This faculty-led onlinecourse provides you with the tools to make evidentiary rulings quickly and confidently in criminal cases.
This course is designed to provide you with a practical framework for ruling on evidence. You will be introduced to the principles of the Federal Rules of Evidence with a focus on using the rules to decide evidentiary issues. This course will benefit judges without law degrees who are looking for a better understanding of evidence as well as judges with law degrees who are looking for a refresher.
As we all reflect on the past year and plan for our New Year, let us ask ourselves how Lawyer Well-Being factors in to our plans for 2018? Well-Being in our profession has often been overlooked. But, to be an effective lawyer and leader one has to be healthy. Recent studies suggest our profession is not headed in a healthy direction. Yet, one author, in a recent publication, suggested that one significant contribution to achieving well-being is to engage more empathy in our interactions with each other, our clients, and ourselves.
I encourage you to check out the article and conduct your own empathy assessment!
In case you'd rather have a summary of this lengthy article, rather than reading the full post, here are some of the key summary points:
From the authors’ literature review and synthesis, the following summary points show the many important roles and functions of empathy in lawyers:
Empathetic communication, which builds rapport and positive interaction between lawyer and client, enhances the lawyer-client relationship;
A free flow of information which more deeply describes and discloses both the legal and non-legal aspects of legal disputes and issues better assists lawyers in developing and executing legal strategies and arguments for more effective resolution of client concerns;
Clients of lawyers with higher empathetic communication experience an increased level of satisfaction because they benefit from their lawyers’ attentive listening, understanding of legal issues from client perspectives and explanations of the legal process, strategies, and advice using language that the client can understand;
Clients prefer lawyers whom they perceive as empathetic;
Empathy, a multidimensional concept which involves the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the client, enables the lawyer to see the landscape of the legal issue or dispute from multiple perspectives, facilitates the effective resolution of client legal issues, problems, or concerns;
Empathy motivates helping behavior and makes lawyers more inclined to uphold professional standards;
Empathy contributes positively to lawyer mental health and well-being and equips lawyers to attain greater happiness;
Compared with students in other professions, law students tend to have lower empathy levels and those levels remain stable.
Research Background: Health Professionals, Lawyers, and Empathy Assessment. “Medicine and other health professionals have long recognized the importance of empathy among their populations, and as such, has been the focused attention in developing a number of empathetic measurement tools.” Empathic behaviors, as indicated in the wide body of literature noted by the authors, has many positive links with the professional performance and mental well-being of law students and lawyers. While the legal profession may have recognized its importance for the well-being and capacity its students and practitioners, the measurement of empathy has not occurred in the law setting to the same extent as in the medical and health fields. The multi-disciplinary team of Australian researchers sought to fill this void.
The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE), described by the authors as “the most significant empathy scale to date”, offers a valid and reliable tool to measure empathy in medical professionals. The JSPE consists of 20 items which divide into four (4) factors: view from the patient’s perspective; understanding patient’s experiences, feelings, and cues; emotions in patient care; and thinking like the patient. Researchers have adapted and applied the scale to students of other professions such as nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy. The JSPE as adapated to these cohorts has been retitled the Jefferson Scale of Empathy – Health Provider-Student Version (JSE-HPS). The authors adapted that version to the law context by changing the phrase “health care” to “lawyer”. The phrasing of each item in the new scale for lawyers and law students – JSE-L-S – otherwise stayed the same. The intent of scale remained consistent with the widely used valid and reliable self-reported empathy scale used for health student cohorts.
Research using the JSE-HPS in the medical, dental, pharmacy, and nursing professions has shown that empathy assessment works. Its valid and reliable results play a valuable role in those professionals’ education, training, and practice and in their well-being. Accordingly, in terms of the legal realm, the researchers argued that “it stands to reason that the same could be achieved and be highly useful”.
What the Researchers Did: Participants, Methods, and Results. Two hundred seventy-five students (nearly 92% had not cared for a person with permanent disability in their family) enrolled in an Australian law school participated in the study. The researchers adapted the four factor 20 item Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy – Health Provider – Student Version (JSE-HPS). The participants self-reported their response to twenty (20) items which comprised the four factor new empathy scale tested in the reasearch. The total score can range (from 1 to 7 for each item) from a l0w of 20 (each response as 1 – “strongly disagree”) to a high of 140 (each response as 7 – “strongly agree”). According to the test authors and researchers, “Higher scores reflect higher self-reported empathy.”
This part will not discuss the details of the principal component analyses performed by the researchers. The resulting analysis, according to the authors, “yielded a four-factor solution”. The name of each factor, i.e. “big idea”, of the new JSE-L-S empathy assessment, and each factor’s top item, appears below:
Factor 1 – “understanding the client’s perspective”, 5 items, top item – “Lawyers should try to think like their clients in order to render better legal advice”;
Factor 2 – “responding to clients’ experiences and emotions”, 7 items, top item – “Attentiveness of clients’ personal experiences does not influence legal outcomes” (a reverse scored item, i.e. higher response should be closer to 7, “strongly agree”);
Factor 3 – “responding to clients’ cues and behaviors”, 4 items, top item – “Understanding body language is as important as verbal communication in lawyer-client relationships”;
Factor 4 – “standing in clients’ shoes”, 2 items, top item – “It is difficult for a lawyer to view things from clients’ perspectives” (reverse scored)
End of the Year Reflection: Why I Love Being a Lawyer
As we close out this year and welcome in a new one, I wanted to offer something that might remind us all of why we love being a lawyer. This work is stressful, frustrating at times, and often depletes our energy. But, there is also great benefit and value in being a lawyer. At this time when we reflect on what we've accomplished this year and look toward the next twelve months, let's reflect on why we love what we do.
I've included "5 reasons why I love being a lawyer" from Daliah Saper to help us in our reflection:
"Amid the stress of practicing law, we often forget how much of an impact we have on the individuals and businesses who hire us to provide legal counsel. Being a lawyer is rewarding! For my last article in 2017, I figured I’d reflect on why I love being a lawyer. Here are my top five reasons, in no particular order. What are yours?
Exposure to different industries. Even though I focus my practice on three or four areas of law, my clients come from a wide range of industries. This week, I helped an e-commerce store, an apparel company, a surrogacy company, a musician, a distributor of colored contact lenses, and an author. Few other professions give you the opportunity to learn about so many different kinds of businesses and allow you to actually advise those businesses.
Events. When you represent a wide range of clients, you often get to attend interesting events or take interesting trips. Clients have invited me to movie premieres, fashion shows, art exhibits and galas. One year I was invited to attend the Arabian Horses Breeders Cup in Las Vegas, where the guest list included foreign dignitaries and Arab sheikhs!
Teaching and Mentoring. I credit two important mentors for helping me start Saper Law. Now, I welcome the opportunity to mentor newer attorneys whenever I have the chance. It feels great to be a resource.
Closing deals and creating new law. Most legal services have a natural start and end. I love being a part of the process of facilitating a negotiation, obtaining a settlement, or winning a case. Helping to create new law along the way is an added bonus.
Great war stories. Even though the average lawyer’s life is not like anything we see in the movies, most of us have unusual stories to share over drinks or dinner. Stories can range from unusual case fact patterns to interactions with opposing counsel. See also, Nos. 1-4."
Don't forget the impact you have on others' lives. Your work is important, valuable, and worthwhile. I hope you have time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation during this holiday season.
The next Tech Tip/Practice Pointer blog will be posted in the New Year.
Sometimes lawyers and law firms need to clean up online reputations sullied by lawsuits, bad press, negative reviews or poor social media choices. While there’s no magic bullet, reputation management is possible. There are two approaches you can take: Either hire a company to help you, or do it yourself. Here are the pros, cons and considerations.
Reputation.com, which has been around since 2006, is the oldest of a growing number of services that advertise help with managing or cleaning up online reputations. These services purport to employ strategies to make positive information about you rise to the top of search results, but a few words of warning:
They can be expensive, adding up to thousands of dollars annually.
A few are scams — companies that will take your money and run — so be careful.
Critics argue that they don’t provide anything above and beyond what you can easily do yourself to protect your online identity.
However, such services can be a good choice if you have plenty of money, are strapped for time or have a complicated problem that can’t be buried by other means.
Do It Yourself
With time and a bit of work, it’s possible to safeguard your online reputation on your own. Here are six tips to help if you choose to go this direction.
1. Begin monitoring. Set up a Google alert on your name, or if you have a complicated issue such as a lawsuit, consider a service such as Zignal, Klout or Brandwatch that will provide social media as well as general web monitoring.
2. Google yourself. When you get a handle on online content about yourself, you can start to change it.A typical order of appearance for top search engine results is:
Company or law firm web bio
Images of you from around the web
Articles about you or by you
Start with the first four items on this list. The good news is that they are completely within your power to edit.
It’s especially important to keep your firm web bio/profile up to date. Google rewards pages that are recently refreshed over stagnant ones. Every time you write an article or complete a major project, make sure your bio is updated and you’ll help your page to stay high in rankings. This pushes pages with unflattering information lower in your search results.
3. Protect what you can. Pay attention to social media privacy settings, and lock down as much as you can. Then go through your personal networks and eliminate language or photos you don’t like; this ensures that inappropriate content falling outside the privacy shield won’t be visible.
4. Address negative reviews. While there are competing opinions as to whether you should claim your Avvo listing, for example, unless you do, you do not have control over content published there. However, one thing you should never do on Avvo (or any other site) is respond in anger to a negative review. Not only will this look bad to potential clients, it may get you reprimanded by your state bar. A measured response is a more appropriate choice and will often actually make you look better and more professional in your online profile.
5. Combat negative or fake news. The rise of fake news complicates communications today, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach when addressing it. While you might be able to approach a professional journalist to ask for a retraction (though only if it’s categorically wrong, and if other options, like pitching an update, are off the table), approaching a blogger intent on digging for dirt will make your situation worse. Nefarious bloggers have been known to publish and sometimes alter correspondence with their targets, so your only option in such a scenario is to try to bury them in a flood of other press.
6. Get proactive. While you can’t control everything that is written about you, you can control what you write, create or produce. Content in credentialed publications appears high in search engine results. Ensuring you have a stream of this content (bylined articles, features on pro bono work, podcast appearances, etc.) will be one of the most powerful gifts you can give your online self.
Whether you have something as serious as a malpractice suit or as simple as photos from a party you’d rather forget, know that clients are searching for you on the web. Even attorneys without reputation issues need to regularly attend to their digital identity. Monitoring your online reputation and keeping it clean are integral parts of building and sustaining your practice, and should be ongoing priorities.
Helen Bertelli is a marketer and entrepreneur, having helped to build two PR startups as well as founding the marketing department for a national law firm and her own digital publishing company. She is now Vice President with Infinite Global, an international communications and public relations firm serving the legal industry. Follow her on Twitter @HelenBertelli3.
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As we approach the end of the year, it is a great time to run through your practice’s systems to see which ones may be ethics risks in their current state. This will help you prepare for an end-of-year audit of your biggest risks — and plan how to fix them in the new year.
The purpose of evaluating risks before the end-of-year crunch and New Year’s resolution time is to narrow your focus, so you can set priorities and zero in on bigger projects ahead. It seems we spend a lot of time in self-reflection at the tail end of the year. How great would it be to head into the new year with a clearer idea of where to focus?
Think of this “pre” year-end checklist as like a syllabus for your year-end coursework.
List Key Areas of Your Business
To begin this process, list the key components of your practice. For most of us, this will include at least the following:
Each practice will differ, but these are some common components of a solo and small firm practice.
What Keeps You Up at Night? Write It Down
With your list in hand, separate the components of your practice into those that keep you up at night and those that do not. Use a yellow pad or simple spreadsheet with three columns labeled “Concern,” “Worry” and “Not Worry,” respectively. Or download the worksheet here.
Do you ever awaken in the middle of the night worrying about a CLE deadline? Put that in the “Worry” column. Know that you have a kick-ass paralegal who keeps excellent track of all client deadlines? Put calendaring in the “Not Worry” column.
The items that keep you up at night will be the first-tier items to tackle when you begin your year-end audit. These may not actually be your biggest areas of risk, but if they raise your stress level, they need to be fixed straight away.
Evaluate Your Systems and Processes Honestly
Beyond the late-night heartburn, are there systems and processes where you really do not have it all together? Be honest with yourself — you know how to spot them.
Perhaps you operate with spotty client files, yet always manage to find what you need. If you look closely at your systems, you might realize there is not one single complete client file in either electronic or paper form. Put maintenance of client files on your tier-two list for your year-end audit.
Or maybe you know your malpractice insurance is not adequately protecting you. Are you overpaying because you never shopped around? Are you under- or over-insured? If you updated your practice areas, did you tell your carrier that you expanded into a new area of law? Or, do you just copy last year’s renewal application and send in a check each year?
Any part of your practice where you know you need to do better — even if it doesn’t bother you on an emotional level — needs to be identified as something to improve this year-end.
Remind Yourself Why
It is easy to get swept up in holiday festivities and enjoy a slower time of year for law practice. But remind yourself why it is worth investing time and energy in improving your systems.
Being investigated by the state bar over an ethics complaint is a major stress and serious time drain. Plus, consequences of a bar complaint can range from private admonishment all the way to disbarment.
You might think that ensuring your calendar is syncing to your phone or practice management software is helpful, but not critical, for ethics compliance. In truth, simple systems that help you keep on top of deadlines and return client calls might save you from a major headache with the state bar.
It is well worth the time and effort to shore up weaknesses in your systems.
Begin Looking for Resources
Once you identify your practice’s main pain points, take the next couple of weeks before the year’s end to gather resources for making improvements. Read legal blogs, take a crack at Googling your issues, and begin talking to colleagues. Get a handle on where you can turn when you actually sit down at the start of the new year to make some serious improvements.
Laying this groundwork will make that precious year-end time more productive and valuable. Make 2018 the year your practice runs more smoothly and is more ethically compliant than ever before.
Megan Zavieh is the creator and author of "The Playbook: The California Bar Discipline System Practice Guide." In her law firm, Zavieh Law, she focuses her practice exclusively on attorney ethics, providing full and limited scope representation to attorneys facing disciplinary action, and providing guidance to practicing attorneys on questions of legal ethics. Megan is admitted to practice in California, Georgia, New York and New Jersey, as well as in multiple federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. In "On Balance," Megan writes about the issues confronting lawyers in the new world of practicing law. She blogs on ethics at California State Bar Defense and tweets @ZaviehLaw.
What’s on your tech to-do list for next year? Maybe you’ve resolved to get more organized, go paperless once and for all, or move all of your practice systems to the cloud. Could be you’re dreaming of a new website — or a better laptop and new headphones would make you happy. What’s worthy of your technology investment next year?
We asked the practice management technology pros to recommend one good way for lawyers to upgrade their tech in 2018. Here’s wise advice from Heidi Alexander, Sheila Blackford, Joyce Brafford, Jared Correia, Tom Lambotte, Sharon Nelson and John Simek, and Lee Rosen.
(Tip: Consider Nehal Madhani’s advice on using “process mapping”to identify which areas of your legal workflow are ripe for automation — and where to invest in technology.)
HEIDI ALEXANDER: TAKING CARE OF YOU, FIRST
Quality client service is essential for a successful law practice. Indeed, elevating the needs of your clients will lead to more consistent collections, return clients and referrals. However, while there is no doubt that focusing on client service has its time and place, the only way you can provide real value and efficacy to clients is by putting yourself first.
Something accurate underlies that annoying recitation to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. The reality is that practice is stressful and if you ignore your own needs, you will burn out. If you are so busy that you can’t stop to take a breath, it’s time to take a step back from your practice and focus on you.
What does this have to do with upgrading your legal tech? Well, legal tech solutions are no longer a scarcity; you can find a product to suit any one of your practice needs. Most importantly, though, implementing a legal tech solution requires thoughtful research, vetting, planning, training and more — not to mention budgetary considerations. If you don’t have the mental bandwidth or proper mindset to adequately implement legal tech, it will lead to frustration, increased costs and ultimately failure.
So, before you dive headlong into system upgrades, work on first taking care of you. Schedule time for yourself every day, try exercising regularly, and learn about mindfulness. Test out mediation using an app such as Headspace or Calm, or just take a moment to breathe. (Try setting a timer or use Apple Watch’s Breathe app.)
If you can make these activities a habit, you’ll reduce stress and approach your practice with a clear head, thus enabling you to effectively implement whatever tech your practice needs in 2018.
Heidi S. Alexander (@heidialexander) is Deputy Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, where she also leads the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP). She is the author of “Evernote as a Law Practice Tool” and serves on the ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board. In 2017, Heidi was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on Professionalism.
SHARON NELSON AND JOHN SIMEK: CONSIDER THE CLIENT PORTAL
If you don’t already have one, consider implementing a client portal. Client portals will help you solve all sorts of problems. Clients can access documents pertaining to their matters. They’ll know the status of their matter whenever they want to check on it. Clients will be able to “follow the money” and know how much the matter is costing, how much may be left in the retainer and even pay their invoice online if needed. Client communications is much improved as well. Client portals can allow document collaboration and even facilitate secure, encrypted communications.
The good news is that many case management platforms provide client portals as part of the offering. Having a client portal integrate with your practice management is an excellent way to improve the client experience (clients adore client portals) and make your practice much more efficient, profitable and attractive to prospective clients.
Jared Correia (@JaredCorreia) is CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. A former practicing attorney, Jared is a popular presenter and regular contributor to legal publications (including his “Managing” column for Attorney at Work).
JOYCE BRAFFORD: EMBRACE SLACK
As an alternative channel for communication, Slack helps you be more responsive to conversations that really matter. It’s like a high-priority system for communication threads, tasks and calendars. Slack connects with many of the apps lawyers are already using, including Dropbox, Google Calendar, Box and Wunderlist. As a single platform to better communicate in the office and with clients, it’s a no-brainer.
LEE ROSEN: FOCUS ON BEST-OF-BREED APPS AND BRING THEM TOGETHER
Stop trying to find the magic bullet. There isn’t a single app that will properly manage your client information, track your time and billing, create your documents, control your calendar, and generate comprehensive management reports.
You’re asking for something that doesn’t exist and you wouldn’t really want it if it did. Software developers can be good at a bunch of things or great at one thing. Great always beats good, and you’re never going to be satisfied with the compromised software made by vendors trying to be all things to all lawyers.
Pick the best software for solving each of your specific problems. Then tie your best-of-breed applications together so that they share information. You won’t have to enter the same data twice, plus you’ll get applications built by specialists who completely understand your issues.
Pick the best document assembly system, integrate it with the best document management system. Tie both of those apps in with your client relationship management system and connect that to your time and billing product. Bring all that data together with your task management system and connect it to your phone system and your accounting application.
Products like Zapier, Automate.io and IFTTT are the glue connecting your apps to one another. Start small and, over time, go big.
You’ll end up with the best software, minimal data entry, and solutions that keep you satisfied rather than always wishing for more.
Lee Rosen (@LeeRosen) grew his North Carolina family law practice and sold it. He travels full time while helping lawyers grow their practices. His blog at Rosen Institute is an ABA Blawg 100 Hall of Fame honoree. He is a recipient of the ABA James Keane Award for Excellence in eLawyering.
SHEILA BLACKFORD: LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TO REDUCE PRODUCTION TIME
Lawyers who are tech-savvy are taking this year-end time to evaluate their business processes to identify ways to leverage their production time. Clients are choosing efficient law firms that deliver high value at the most reasonable cost. This means upgrading to technology tools that can reduce production time, such as document automation and document assembly software Pathagorus, along with speech recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Tools like this will help get the work done more efficiently.
In 2018, something you need to do is find out if your digital credentials are for sale on the Dark Web. Digital credentials such as usernames and passwords connect you and your team to your critical business applications: case management software, banking, online file storage and much more. Unfortunately, criminals know this — and that’s why digital credentials are among the most valuable assets found on the Dark Web. Far too often, law firms that have had their credentials compromised and sold on the Dark Web don’t know it until they have been informed by law enforcement.
Dark Web ID, from ID Agent, will detect your compromised credentials in real-time on the Dark Web. It vigilantly searches the most secretive corners of the internet to find compromised credentials associated with your law firm and notifies you immediately when these critical assets are compromised before they are used for identity theft, data breaches or other crimes. Ask your IT provider if it offers this service.
Tom Lambotte (@LegalMacIT) is CEO of GlobalMacIT, a company specializing in providing IT support to Mac-based law firms. Tom is the author of “Hassle Free Mac IT Support for Law Firms” and “Legal Boost: Big Profits Through an IT Transformation.”
This is our 29th annual report on what’s going on in the legal profession. As in all the previous reports, it is based on information my colleagues and I continually gather from many sources — law firms, legal networks, other providers of legal services, legal departments, surveys and the press.
As always, this is not an attempt to report on every development, many of which are generally recognized, but only on those we believe should be noted because, in our opinion, they are having or will have an impact on the profession.
PRACTICE AREAS/INDUSTRY GROUPS
(Note: Four years ago we first reported that a few firms were restructuring their practice into industry groups containing multiple practice areas. This trend has continued.)
Health Care, regardless of what has happened to the Affordable Care Act.
Immigration, regardless of what policies the Trump administration pursues.
Cybersecurity. Will continue to be the No. 1 issue for both in-house counsel and consumers.
Financial Services. The economy will continue to strengthen. This will fuel almost every area of financial services including IPOs and mergers & acquisitions.
Food & Beverage due to continued increases in labeling, ingredient and testing requirements.
Bitcoins for those firms that have or develop the expertise.
Elder Law. Increasing in scope, as we have been reporting.
Sports. Particularly contracts.
Real Estate & Construction, both residential and commercial, in most parts of the country.
Other Sports, including eSports and gaming.
Commercial Litigation. The number of cases, and therefore the profitability, in most large and midsize firms continues to decrease although there are exceptions. However, as we reported in our Midyear Update, there are reports that litigation funding is regaining strength
Labor & Employment, separate from immigration.
NO READING YET
Environmental except in California, New York, Washington and Oregon, which are increasing their regulatory activity.
HOT GEOGRAPHIC MARKETS
Dallas. One of the most notable signs was Winston & Strawn’s opening there early this year.
Louisville. As discussed in Of Counsel’s June issue.
MARKETING & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
(Note: As we said in our Midyear Update, there are so many strategies and activities, old and new, proven and unproven, and so much written about them that, except for the items below, we feel it is redundant to discuss or list them here.)
Website design and development. The DOJ is expected to start enforcing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, at least at Level A, early in 2018. Unless they also comply, law firms are not immune to these suits as well as to a loss of reputation and declining SEO performance on their websites, according to Content Pilot CEO Deborah McMurray.
Artificial intelligence. Just beginning to be involved in marketing, as well as providing legal services.
Sales professionals. The most aggressive personal injury firms are supplementing their advertising and promotion programs by hiring sales professionals. Other than personal injury firms, some firms are hiring non-lawyers to uncover and develop new business leads. It took literally several decades for the accounting profession to achieve worthwhile results from this strategy. Even with all the hue and cry for more change in the legal profession, we believe it will still not be even mildly successful.
Formal sales coaching training. Has been productive in some firms where supported and funded by firm management.
OTHER TRENDS & ISSUES
Another record number of mergers. This is due, in part, to some cross-border mergers but most continue to be acquisitions of small firms and smaller mid-size firms by larger firms.
Stagnant demand for legal services. This will continue.
Total number of lawyers in U.S. firms also remains flat. However, some midsize firms such as Spencer Fane have steadily grown due to first-year hiring and selective lateral entries.
First-year hiring will increase, according to Robert Half, in what it describes as “high-growth areas — Litigation, Commercial Law and Real Estate.” Frankly, except for real estate, we question this as far as firms go, but not necessarily in corporate legal departments.
Small offices. Some firms are closing them to reduce costs and to (hopefully) increase efficiency. However …
Virtual offices and working from home continue to increase. A major reason is that millennials prefer this and larger firms are developing systems and policies to accommodate them — as well as reduce space costs.
Gender bias lawsuits continue, according to the 2017 Law360 Glass Ceiling Report, because, while women comprise over 50 percent of current law school graduates, their share of equity partnerships remains around 20 percent and has not increased in recent years. However, note that each year there are women who are elected managing partners, succeeding men, in some mid- to larger size firms.
Alternate legal service providers (ALSPs) continue to increase in number as well as in the breadth of services they offer. However, note that there are still a substantial number of smaller in-house legal departments that need specialty services but do not yet use ALSPs.
In-house client teams. They continue to increase in both number and size in larger clients.
Legal incubators. A small but steady increase in the number of these programs continues to provide recent law school graduates with the training and infrastructure they need to launch solo practices.
Pressure on general counsels continues to increase as they are called upon to not only control costs but also provide business counsel as part of a company’s or organization’s management team.
More with less. Even the largest in-house legal departments continue to face pressure to reduce costs.
Blockchain being tested in other uses, not just in relation to bitcoin.This is part of the movement in certain states such as Arizona and Nevada to enact legislation or issue guidance regarding new technologies and digital currencies. As it becomes more widely used, this industry should expect more regulatory efforts.
Non-legal subsidiaries. As we reported in June, 15 years ago there were several hundred firms that were owned and managed them in a variety of industries. Although less noted until now, estimates are that many of them have continued. If properly integrated into the structure of the firm and well managed, they can enable firms to counter revenue and profit challenges as well as provide expanded service to clients.
Multidisciplinary practices (MDPs). As Susan Duncan discusses in her October post, some of the larger firms have gone beyond the subsidiary structure and have hired non-lawyers, i.e., consultants and other professionals, and integrated them into the practice or industry group structure as part of teams to serve their clients.
Other service delivery approaches involving technology, process improvement and knowledge management continue to be developed.
Non-lawyers managing firms. A Chicago firm recently announced it would hire a business executive to handle the firm’s operations, apparently at a level above that of chief operating officer. As much as law firms could benefit from effective business management, does this indicate a trend toward non-lawyer MPs and CEOs? Very, very doubtful. Several years ago a large Philadelphia firm brought in a Big 4 partner to be CEO. After two or three years he left the firm and the firm again elected one of its partners CEO.
Transition and succession plans. Not only solos but a gradually increasing number of partners in firms are addressing these issues in mid-practice, so to speak, rather than waiting until age, health or other issues force them to.
Contract and “flex-time” lawyers. The steady decline in the amount of billable work that began with the recession had already resulted in some of the larger firms replacing full-time associates — and even partners — with part-time lawyers who work only on projects as needed. Several of these firms have now formalized this structure and created flex-time lawyer platforms. There are now also several stand-alone flex-lawyer businesses such as Axiom and Caravel as well as virtual firms such as Taylor English and FisherBroyles.
Fee sharing. The District of Columbia is the only U.S. jurisdiction to allow fee sharing with non-lawyers. Otherwise, fees are not federally mandated but are set state by state. For the past four years, we have reported on the small but growing momentum to change these rules and allow non-lawyer ownership of U.S. law firms. Now, with PwC’s forming a separate entity called ILC Legal, the Big 4 will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of new rules and pose a big threat to the law firm business. As Craig Brown stated in a recent post, “ILC” really stands for “I like your clients.”
Less need for lawyers. Simultaneous with the gradual trend toward fee-sharing with non-lawyers is the continued growth of technology-powered services that do not require lawyers to deliver them. While lawyers are needed at various stages to help build these services, they are increasingly less needed in many areas to delivery them.
Chief Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC). This growing group is made up of people within law departments who, among other things, develop and keep the metrics on cases won and lost, fees billed and even diversity to provide information to the GCs so they can determine who they want to assign to a specific case or deal.
Cyber-attacks and theft continue to rise around the world and law firms are becoming prime targets. A principal reason why cybersecurity is a “red hot” practice area.
Law firm networks. As more of them are formed, they offer clients an alternative to efficient and targeted legal services without having to research large firms.
Alternate fee arrangements. Despite the predictions of the last several years, they have not replaced the billable hour except in two extremes: 1) Major litigation where clients want to drive down the fees, and 2) in many “basic” matters such as uncontested divorce where a fixed fee is more appropriate and accepted.
A Note of Thanks
As stated earlier, this is our 29th annual “What’s Hot and What’s Not” report. Like all the previous reports, it could not have been developed without the contributions of my colleagues, most of whose comments, by agreement, are not attributed to them. I am most appreciative of their input.
I will continue to publish periodic Legal Communiques as I see the need for them. However, this is the final “What’s Hot” report. As Kenny Rogers sings in “The Gambler”:
“You got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away, Know when to run. Never count your money When you’re sitting at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ When the dealing’s done.”
Bob Denney has provided management, leadership, strategic planning and business development services to corporations, professional firms and non-profit organizations throughout the United States and parts of Canada. A respected speaker and author, his articles have appeared in many legal publications. His firm publishes the highly regarded reports on What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession.
I know, I know — another cautionary tale about law firm holiday parties. We all know the drill: Have fun, but not too much. Keep in mind the party — whether it includes staff, spouses or clients — is a professional work event. What happens reflects on not only the individual but the firm itself.
You have no doubt heard the same old warnings as each holiday season approaches. And as you should; everyone attending a firm’s party should keep those in mind. But what about those hosting the party? Is there is a separate set of guidelines for partners and firm management to make the night a professional — and social — success?
If you’ve attended more than a couple of years’ worth of parties, you know it as a source of lucid folklore. Everyone remembers the year Jim did this, or Jenna did that, or what Jim and Jenna did together. Blowing off steam after a rugged journey to reach economic and business goals at year’s end is implicitly expected to generate juicy gossip or myths of scandal and embarrassment. Anything less is seen as boring, an unwelcome post-party verdict.
But this year is a little different.
Welcome to the most dangerous party in your firm’s history.
The Reality of 2017
As you are well aware, not much is the same in the practice of law today, and those changes are manifestly affecting the outdated template of the holiday party. For example, it has been found that 21 to 36 percent of practicing lawyers are active problem drinkers. Another growing segment medicates their stress or exhaustion with opiates, sedatives and stimulants, often problematically mixed with alcohol. Welcome to an open bar party at the end of the year!
Further, the issue of sexual harassment has dominated daily news feeds in recent months, across all industries. Past deeds are uncovered while current misbehavior is subject to new and severe in-house scrutiny. DUIs are no longer acceptable to the firm or the licensing and disciplinary boards. The firm’s legal liability for its holiday party can extend to physical harm, harassment, discrimination, workers’ compensation and a host of other legal theories to come.
According to studies, more than 10 percent of attendees at holiday parties act out in some manner that compromises their professional standing. They do so under the watchful eye of countless phones and cameras, waiting to be tomorrow’s Instagram post. And mind-altering substances are not always the culprit — many lawyers have strong personalities that become enhanced in the environment of the annual bash.
As defenses fall with each drink, lawyers might act out on their yearlong peer or subordinate crush. They may drink too much just to relax, even if they are not typically problematic drinkers (often a more destructive scenario than with the seasoned drinker). Others may decide to vent their frustration or anger about the firm, often when impaired and exhausted, or even attempt to drive home while legally incapacitated.
But on a Positive Note …
Although it might seem as if holiday parties are littered with landmines, the reality is they serve a positive and necessary purpose. In fact, because firm culture often is more impersonal and businesslike these days, hosting such events is critical to boosting spirits.
The end of the year is a milestone and a reckoning, good or bad. Lawyers, professionals and staff have been in the trenches together for a year attempting to reach personal and professional goals. The holiday party is essentially “shore leave,” an opportunity to bond, celebrate, find inspiration, build camaraderie, blow off steam, laugh, enjoy one another outside of the office, and give a nod to the holiday season. It is both a recognition of the sacrifices and achievements of the past year as well as a pep talk for the upcoming year.
In other words, a holiday party can and should be a wonderful experience filled with relatively sober and relaxed conversations, a toast or speech from firm leadership, and perhaps a fun activity. (I was at a firm where each year the associates made a video for the partners, which premiered at the party.) Attendees may even experience some gratitude for their bond with the firm.
Every firm is different, and some decidedly have more of a “family” culture, but this party should serve as a positive experience for all, no matter what the nature of your firm.
Predictable Problems: Mitigating the Risks
Taking a few discrete actions, including the below, can minimize predictable problems.
1. Send invitations and emails outlining the firm’s expectations:
What to wear
The importance of respectful physical and verbal behavior
The notion that the party is an extension of the workplace
A heads-up on the enhanced scrutiny of workplace behavior and a gentle warning to behave accordingly
2. Limit opportunities to become intoxicated:
Provide a certain number of tickets for alcohol for attendees.
Make the length of the party shorter rather than longer.
Don’t permit shots.
Offer good food and non-alcoholic alternatives (and include low-alcohol punch).
Give a relatively early “last call.”
Designate a member or two of management (not HR) to be sober observers to monitor potential problems.
3. Provide Uber or another ride-share service for every attendee to and from the party. It is impossible to identify every person who may be impaired, so the money will be worth it. My recommendation is that Uber be paid for even when the attendees go to an after-party or meet at a bar. These post-party gatherings are common and it’s often when the attendee has that one drink too many. This policy also protects attendees who choose to have a “pre-party,” a not uncommon tradition for nervous associates who may be socializing with senior partners for the first time.
At the end of the day, a party is still a party, with all the fun and risks attendant to a gathering with alcohol, music, food, and scores of different personalities and skills. As host, your firm can certainly put some boundaries and practical tools in place to avoid potential damage to guests and to the firm itself. Neglecting to do so in December 2017 would be a serious error.
Make this year’s party memorable for all the right reasons, even if there are fewer war stories to add to the firm’s history.
Ask Daliah: 5 ways to wish clients happy holidays (without the clutter of cards)
BY DALIAH SAPER
Dear Daliah: What is your opinion on mailing out greeting cards to clients for the holidays?
Dear readers: Every year, toward the end of November and beginning of December, my desk starts to pile up with greeting cards. The majority of them are part of a mass mailing with either a stamped signature or sometimes no signature at all. I look at them for 5 seconds, set them aside, only to look at them again for 5 more seconds right before I throw them out.
Every year I wonder why firms think it is a good idea to invest hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on these cards. Firms, especially smaller firms, should allocate their holiday marketing dollars more effectively.
This year, instead of sending out greeting cards to clients, consider one of these five alternatives:
E-cards. Instead of spending your firm’s hard-earned money on physical cards, send electronic greeting cards. Most e-blast programs allow you to quickly and efficiently personalize each email and track which clients actually open your greeting card. Additionally, an electronic greeting gives you more room to discuss your firm and highlight important and interesting news about your year.
Gifts to charity. Since e-cards cost a fraction of what regular cards do, use the funds allocated for physical cards to donate to a charity that resonates with your law firm. In your holiday news blast, let the recipient know you are donating the dollars you would otherwise have spent on greeting cards.
Physical gifts with social impact. Sometimes you have to give an actual gift along with a card. In those cases, rather than a fruit basket or a flower arrangement, give a gift with impact. For example, Packed with Purpose partners with socially conscious companies to create unique gifts that help give back to the community and people in need. You can choose from a variety of curated gift sets or create custom gift boxes to send your clients.
Gifts your clients sell. Or if your practice is like mine and you represent a variety of businesses, use this holiday season as an opportunity to promote your clients. Give gifts sold by your clients or work with them to create holiday promotions that you can share. In my latest news blast, I promoted my client Birchbox, and included a discount code they gave me specifically for my network. Your clients will appreciate the gift of increased exposure and your network will appreciate the gift of a good discount.
Holiday parties. In addition to sending a holiday greeting or meaningful gift, consider throwing a holiday party. Holiday parties allow you to communicate with your clients in a more relaxed setting. Plus, everyone benefits from the opportunity to make new friends and just have a good time. I usually photograph and video my holiday parties and include links to view the holiday party album in a follow-up email. You can view some of those videos here.
Daliah Saper opened Saper Law Offices, an intellectual property, digital media, entertainment and business law firm based in Chicago, in 2005. Saper is regularly interviewed on national TV, radio and in several publications, including Fox News, CNN, CNBC, ABC News, 20/20, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. She is an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
We are all vulnerable to disasters whether they be floods, tornadoes, ice storms, or other emergencies. The question is: how prepared are you?
Would your practice survive an ice storm that shuts things down for two weeks? What would happen if all the computers in your office were stolen? Or, what would occur if you had a heart attack tonight? Having your practice prepared for a sudden emergency or disaster is a must do for all solo, small, and large firms. A Disaster Recovery Plan can assist your firm in reducing or eliminating some of the dangers associated with a disaster, creating a better response to the emergency, recovering faster from the event, and it minimizes financial losses and service interruption.
To be successful, a plan will need to be strategically developed with foresight and planning offering the appropriate level of detail for your firm structure. Additionally, a plan will only be successful if it is supported by senior management and offers appropriate budget and resource allocations. Disaster plans should always be in writing and discussed and shared with all staff members of the firm. And, because this is a Disaster Plan, one copy should be kept off-site in case your electronic and hard copy files are inaccessible during the emergency event.
A Disaster Plan must, at a minimum, cover proper back-ups and recovery of files, create and keep updated an emergency contact list, and maintain adequate and proper insurance coverage through all emergencies and disasters.
If you’d like to learn more about Disaster Planning attend my session at the Plaza Lights CLE held December 7 & 8 at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Plaza (Presentation on Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery on December 7 at 2:50 pm: register at ksbar.org/cle) or at the Slam Dunk CLE Conference held January 29 & 30 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan (Presentation on Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery on January 30 at 8:30 am: register at ksbar.org/cle).
Have You Considered Adding Video Conferencing to Your Practice?
According to a study conducted by the Legal Resource Technology Center of the American Bar Association, only about 20% of lawyers were using video conferencing in 2016. And, of those 20%, only about 4% were using video conferencing regularly. But, when compared to other businesses, that is far below average. Why? The study didn't reach that far, but there are several reasons why attorneys may not be using video conferencing. They may be skiddish about the technology, unsure about the security features, and unclear about how to make client confidentiality work in the context of both technology and security. But, other businesses are using these tools regularly because video conferencing can reduce travel and other related costs by as much as 30%.
Video conferencing comes with many benefits, particularly in a rural state such as Kansas where traveling to meet with clients can be costly and transportation can be an issue for many clients. Setting up video conferencing in one’s office can allow an attorney to meet with more clients in one day than would be possible by travel alone. And, it can allow the attorney to cover a wider catchment area as well, thereby potentially meeting needs in underserved areas.
The most important question to ask when considering video conferencing is what am I wanting this service to do for me? This question will allow you to sort through potential products and services out there in the realm of video conferencing to find the one that works best for you.
·Do you want to collaborate on documents with clients, share screens, and chat with clients and participants while on the conference?
·Will you use one room in the office for video conferencing that will remain set up with all of the necessary tools or will you be carrying your laptop around to do video conferencing on-the-go?
·Are you looking for a cloud-based service and, if so, what questions do you need to ask to know what happens after the call(s) – where is the data stored and what type of security is used?[i]
Additionally, the attorney will want to consider the cost of the product. There are some free products out there, but not many. A few, such as Zoom, will allow you to use the product for free up to 40 minutes and up to 50 participants, but if you want to add the additional features, support, and functionality, then you must pay for the service. And, this is true across the board. In order to have access to increased functionality and features, the attorney will need to pay for the service and the product.[ii]
When selecting a product, be sure to pick a tool that is easy to use. You will need to be competent on this tool so by picking one that is easy to master you will better ensure your ability to reach the level of competence. Also, your clients will need to use this product and if there is an excessive amount of downloading and technological sophistication needed to use it then you may have upset clients and decreased satisfaction with your services.
Support is an important feature to think about when considering video conferencing. Paying for a product will increase the accessibility to support and this will allow the attorney to focus on being the attorney on the call and not the tech expert. Thus, if the client has trouble logging in, or there is a problem with the platform, then there is someone else to call other than the attorney having to try to troubleshoot all of the tech issues along with the legal ones.[iii]
Some accessories may be necessary to make your video conferencing services flow. You will need a computer, security software, and the video-conferencing service. Zoom, Google Hangout, Skype for Business, WebX, and Go-to-Meeting are just a few of the services on the market today. You will want to explore the products available to find the right fit for your practice. Additionally, when setting up video conferencing in your practice you will want to make sure you have a high-quality webcam and headphones. Even if you are the only one in the room, or in the building, you may want to use headphones. Oftentimes, when speaking directly toward the computer it can leave a muffled echo that does not sound professional. You will want to test your sound quality prior to the first video conference with a client.[iv]
When considering any type of technology every attorney must consider the implications to client confidentiality. Given the range of ethical issues raised by using technology in a law practice, we must always try to identify appropriate security measures to keep client information safe and protected. Here are a few questions to ask regarding technology and data security at your firm:
·Are your physical, organizational and technological security measures adequate?
·Are you using firewalls and intrusion detection software appropriately?
·Are you using anti-malware software appropriately?
·Are there firm policies in place regarding technology use?
·Are firm lawyers and staff given adequate technology training?
·Do you have measures in place to ensure data integrity?
·Is your data backed-up?
·Are your passwords, other access restrictions and authentication protocols sufficient?
·Do you use encryption, where appropriate?
·When discarding equipment, do you take appropriate measures to guard against unauthorized disclosure of client information?
·Is there an incident response plan in place at your firm?[v]
Once a choice is made regarding a type of security, a video-conferencing product, and the place and type of storage for client information, all of this information should be listed in the client engagement letter providing notice to clients about how and where their information will be kept and secured by the firm.
Video conferencing can open your practice to new areas, new clients, and new possibilities. While there are many things to consider before jumping in to video conferencing, it can be an exciting opportunity to grow your practice. Before starting, you will want to remember to arrive at your conference early, every time, because software glitches happen, and you want to be prepared. If you are early to the conference, then you have a chance to troubleshoot problems and glitches. And, remember if you are on the screen, or in the room, then people can see you. You are always visible during a video conference, so be prepared to watch your mannerisms and facial expressions and be “on” for the entire call. [vi]
If you have any questions related to video conferencing, contact Sara Rust-Martin, KBA Law Practice Management Attorney, 785-861-8821, or email@example.com
[i]Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
[ii]Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
[iii]Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
[iv]Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
[v]Legal Ethics in a Digital World, The Canadian Bar Ass’n (2014).
[vi]Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
The Skill of Being a Successful Lawyer: Relationship Building
In law school, students are taught legal knowledge, how to write as a lawyer, and even how to think like one, but future lawyers are not often in classes on the most important skill of being a successful lawyer: relationship building.
To be a successful lawyer you will need relationships – all kinds of them. You need people to help you build your ideas, develop solutions to your problems, and offer key introductions to the “right” people when necessary. Professionally necessary people establish our network. We come to rely on them for all sorts of things inside and outside of the office. And, successful lawyers have a strong, diverse network.
Who makes up your network?
Don’t make the mistake of limiting your network to only lawyers or to people who are too similar to you. “When you interact only with people who are in similar positions, have similar views and share similar experiences, the result is an echo chamber – your network echoes back the same information and ideas to you. And, if everyone in your network has the same contacts that you have, you limit your opportunities to learn, grow, and develop new business.
The echo chamber effect is intensified on social media. Your news feed in Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms is likely to contain content from mostly those within your close circle of family, friends, and colleagues, many of whom have the same interests, concerns and views that you have, and is less likely to contain many people with differing points of view or perspectives.”[i]
What have you done to build or cultivate your network this week?
Be mindful of the limiting practices outlined above when building your network, whether online or off. “Instead of joining groups or speaking only to people who are like you, seek out people who have had different experiences and have different perspectives than you do. Look for new ideas and resources outside of your circle to avoid recirculating the same old information. Follow people from different industries and with different points of view on social media. Actively cultivate relationships with people with whom you disagree.”[ii]
Building business is, ultimately, all about relationships and trust, and these take time to develop, so the earlier in your career that you begin, the more successful you will be.
[i] Leading Through Relationships. Allison C. Shields. Law Practice (Nov/Dec. 2017).
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
If the link is inactive on your screen, simply cut and paste it into your browser to read the full Newsletter.
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....
INCREASING HAPPINESS AT A SMALL FIRM by Christine Bilbry at PRI (Florida Bar Association)
Large companies and law firms are usually well equipped with established systems to reward high performing employees and to assist an employee experiencing a personal crisis. But what is a small firm to do if the budget does not support ski slope retreats or comprehensive employee assistance programs? How can you make your employees feel valued when you have limited time and resources?
To move your employees from their current states to a place of engagement and positivity requires some effort on your part. Don’t assume that your employees know that you appreciate them. Employees need to be acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done. The most basic and immediate thing you can do right now (and I mean as soon as you finish reading this article) is to decide what behavior you want to see more of from your employees, walk out of your office and up to the employee who has most recently displayed that desired behavior, and tell them that you noticed them doing “x” and that you just wanted to take a moment to thank them for what they did. It can be anything. “I really appreciate your help with that project yesterday.” “Hey, thanks for unjamming the copier for everyone.” Keep a few $5 and $10 Starbucks gift cards in your desk for those occasions when an employee has gone above and beyond. To reinforce the good behavior, give positive feedback as soon as possible.
Why would you want to do this and what’s in it for you? Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work states, “We found that managers of companies, if they just increased their praise and recognition of one employee, once a day, for 21 business days in a row, what we find is that six months later those teams, as opposed to a control group, had a 31% higher level of productivity.” It should be noted that his research focused on recognition of an individual’s work. Being part of a team is great, but when a boss says, “Good job everyone,” it carries a lot less weight than acknowledging the specific actions of an individual employee.
There are many low and no-cost ways to increase employee engagement at your firm. If possible, implement a flexible work schedule for your staff. Respect your employees’ personal lives, which means no work calls or emails after hours. Encourage healthy lifestyles by providing nutritious snacks in the break room and consider having outdoor walking meetings to give people a break from the office while still being productive and enjoying some fresh air and sunlight. Everyone loves food. Throw a pizza party or have a barbecue in your parking lot on a Friday afternoon. Making your office a positive place to be benefits everyone. 1001 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson Ph.D. is a good resource to start you thinking about how to increase happiness at your own firm.
If there is generally low morale in your office, you may need to consider that you are setting the tone that has now spread to your staff. In the forward to the book, The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energyby Jon Gordon, Ken Blanchard shares an exercise he does at his seminars. He asks attendees to get up and “greet other people as if they are unimportant.” He then asks them to “continue to greet people, but this time, to do it as if the people they are greeting are long-lost friends they’re glad to see.” He describes how the volume and energy dramatically shift in the room during this activity and then he tells the attendees, “Every morning you have a choice. Are you going to be a positive thinker or a negative thinker?” This also applies to how you treat your employees. “You can catch people doing things right, or you can catch them doing things wrong. Guess which of those two activities energizes people more?”
Creating a happiness initiative at your office benefits you and everyone around you. It can alleviate stress and have a positive effect on mental health and resilience. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to employee happiness and engagement. Find what feels authentic to you because praise and recognition must be sincere to be effective. Even small changes and gestures from the boss can have dramatic results.
The problem of lawyers who won't quit isn't a new one. In fact, it's one of the first I encountered when I entered the legal industry. What is new is the that this problem's consequences are more difficult to deal with in today's marketplace.
My first law firm had three of its prime offices reserved for attorneys who rarely made appearances. The offices sat mostly dark, cluttered with old files and papers reminiscent of a busy practice and plenty of personal momentos accumulated over a noteworthy career. The supporting staff had long since been reassigned or retired. When year-end profits were distributed, checks were cut to these attorneys whose names I recognized from letterhead, but whom I had never or rarely met.
I started my management career in the corporate environment. I had never encountered this situation there and it made no sense to me. People who didn’t work weren’t still collecting paychecks. They didn’t have offices. They didn’t get a piece of the profits.
Back then, when an attorney became a law-firm owner, there was an expectation that it was a bestowment for life, ending only upon the voluntary withdrawal of the owner or the owner’s death or permanent disability. It was rare for someone to withdraw voluntarily.
Let’s face it: Lawyers are about being lawyers. For most, their entire identities are based first and foremost on being lawyers. That’s why, even with the best of intentions to step aside at some certain age, lawyers find themselves emotionally unable to pull the trigger when the time arrives. Because, upon retirement, there is no longer an answer to the existential question of “Who am I?”
Hobbies cannot fill the void. Many lawyers think that their hobbies will see them through. But if the hobbies are just pleasurable time-fillers, it becomes apparent that they’re just not enough. Plus, some hobbies are predicated on certain levels of continued health, and one may not be able to participate fully or at all when retirement arrives.
Activity that provides both meaning and purpose is required to create a satisfactory alternative to one’s former career — not just activity to fill the day and pass the time, but activity that provides a new sense of identity in doing something that is both of significance in the universe and that imparts a sense of personal satisfac- tion. For some, there must be a monetary reward to achieve satisfaction. For others, there must be a distinct lack of reward other than knowing one is giving back and doing important work. The bottom line is that it has to be activity that one can feel passionate about and take pride in, and one that creates a sense of worth and accomplishment.
It’s not surprising that for the majority of lawyers, planning for this “next step” is not something that takes priority in their busy lives. Only a rare few have a calling that they look forward to answering in some next phase of their life. Yes, some aspire to write, teach, volunteer, create a foundation, become entrepreneurs or travel the far reaches of the world. They’re the lucky few. For most, a lot of questioning and soul searching is required in order to identify the next step, let alone lay the groundwork to make the transition possible. And as a result, although there may be an occasional creative thought, it disappears quickly, like the morning mist under the glare of sunlight.
For a time, growing firms began proactively protecting themselves by incorporating such safeguards as mandatory retirement or de-equitization ages. Partnership agreements were amended to spell out clearly any options for continued employment at the firm past a certain age, as well as for voluntary withdrawal. These changes ensured that there was continued room at the top for younger lawyers to move up in status and earnings. They ensured that the next generation would have a reason to stay, thus ensuring the succession and perpetuation of the firm.
While these changes worked overall to deal with the challenge of lawyers who refused to retire despite being long past their prime, they sometimes became cases of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Advancements in medicine and nutrition mean that a lot of lawyers are still capable of making positive contributions much later in life than anticipated when these agreements were amended. Seventy-five has become the new 65. Not for all law- yers, certainly, but for many. Some would say for most. We are seeing now that a lot of lawyers with many more good years to contribute are being forced out of their firms too soon. Many struggle to re-position themselves elsewhere, where they can continue to practice andcontribute.
While the implementation of mandatory retirement ages has been successful in creating room for succession, it has done nothing to assist departing lawyers with finding their new purpose. It has created a lot of angst for many. It has cast too many adrift.
I’m not a big fan of mandatory retirement. That’s because I’m the one who often gets the calls from the aged attorneys who are stunned by how lost they are. Yes, their fate was not a secret. Yes, there was plenty of advance notice. But when the time arrives, they find that the hobbies and small opportunities within the industry, which they thought would sustain them, are simply not enough. There is not sufficient purpose and meaning. All of a sudden their identity and self-worth collapse in an unsatisfying mess.Another less-common reason for refusal to retire is one of economics. Notice I didn’t use the word “simple” when referring to economics, because there’s nothing simple about it. For some, their significant retirement savings vanished during lengthy recessions. The flip side to living longer and maintaining vitality longer is that one’s desire to maintain an active lifestyle extends one’s need to earn a living, as well as to build a sufficient retirement nest egg. As my 93- year-old mother frequently says, “I have learned how to continue on while outliving all my friends and siblings. I will never learn how to outlive my savings.”
With increasing frequency, lawyers share with me that they cannot afford to retire due to personal financial circumstances. In some instances, one or more ex-spouses may have claimed a share of retirement savings in property settlements. In addition, we have seen an increase in what I lovingly call “do-overs.” Formation of new family units later in life creates a need for significant financial means to pay for second rounds of college, grad school, weddings, and so forth at a later age than previously experienced.
Within law firms there is now a dichotomy between what may be good business practice for the firm itself and what may be desirable or necessary for individual members. Because of the inherent conflict of interest for so many owners, firms often lack the ability to make necessary changes in the absence of a clear consensus.
Let’s look at a midsize urban firm that never anticipated these issues or modified its member agreement. An octogenarian partner is still occupying an office and making use of a part-time staff member. He is a current member of the bar, but his role is exclusively social.
On an objective basis, he has not produced revenue for the firm in many years. He continues to earn a disproportionate share of firm profits. No doubt he feels that this is his right for all of the sweat equity he invested in building the firm. In reality, he has probably long since been repaid in full.
The firm’s only mechanism to change this situation is to call for a vote to eject him. It will require a unanimous vote of all but the partner in question. Let’s be completely candid. If you were called upon to cast a vote, how good would you be at distancing your emotions from what was good for the firm? I suspect that you would be having a conversation with yourself: “What if I am next? What does this say about our gratitude and loyalty? If it were me, I wouldfeel horribly betrayed and humiliated!” The more collegial the firm, the more difficult it will be for each owner to cast his or her vote dispassionately in favor of the health and viability of thefirm.
So while the economic reality and well- being of the firm call for one decision, the likelihood is that just calling the vote will be a damaging and destructive — probably divisive — exercise for the firm. The managing partner in this firm, to his credit, did not call for a vote. But when he turned to me for other suggestions, my only one was that he try to cut a deal with the elder partner to retire voluntarily.
Deep down, I know that it is not a question of money that keeps the partner at the firm. Emotionally, he is just not capable of letting go of his identity. Unless the firm can replace his current role with one that provides sufficient purpose and meaning, no negotiation will be successful.
Yet another manifestation of the same problem presented itself to me recently. A retired attorney who was more than 90 years old sought my advice on starting a solo practice. His reasons were not related to any financial need. I spent a good deal of time exploring what was motivating this attorney to want to start a practice from scratch at his age. It took a while for him to get to his real motivation: He needed to do something that would earn him a greater amount of respect from his children upon his passing. Retiring from a long- standing career with reasonable economic comfort wasn’t enough. He needed to be engaged actively in what he considered important work. He needed to rebuild his identity. His biggest concern was that he achieve this goal without losing any of his nest egg. So we dealt with the economics, given his desire to work limited hours, that would allow him to achieve his goal.
I remember when firms reluctantly came to the realization that they were not responsible to look afterthe post-retirement financial well-being of their members.
That’s when firms starting putting in retirement savings plans, purchasing buy-sell insurance policies and making members aware that they were responsible for their own financial well-being upon retirement.
That’s all well and good but, in my opinion, the most important component in this process has been and is still being ignored. Who will help these aging attorneys build a vision for the next stage of their life?
How will they identify what will create sufficient meaning, purpose and passion to help them maintain a strong, albeit changed, identity?
My observation is that this kind of examination isn’t on the radar screen of most attorneys. Nor is law-firm management thinking about assisting attorneys in this area. I regret that I am so often in the position of informing law firms and individual lawyers that there is yet one more difficult task that they must undertake.
So what should be done? I don’t claim to have all of the answers. I hope that bar association senior lawyers sections give this some thought. Initial thoughts I have involve seeking counsel from life coaches or psychologists. It’s never too late or early to begin to address this eventual challenge. Spend quiet time alone and with family, friends and colleagues, trying to uncover where your passions lie. I’m convinced that there has to be passion on your part about whatever the next step involves.
At the firm level, management can encourage proactive thought and provide forums for discussion. Perhaps they can bring in a speaker or two who can talk about transitions and discovering how to navigate one’s individual path to a next phase that is meaningful and rewarding. Perhaps develop a recommended-reading list.
Every firm should think about what alternatives it can offer for attorneys approaching retirement and openly discuss the possibilities. If a lawyer is interested in developing a new path, then hammer out the details to make it a viable alternative. All or nothing should not be the only possibilities for a senior lawyer’s career.
I encourage bar members and firms wrestling with these issues to begin these discussions. As so many of us enjoy longer lives, let’s work to maximize our enjoyment and sense of satisfaction to the very end. ⚖
Safeguarding your business and personal data has never been more difficult or more important. How do you safeguard sensitive/confidential data? The manner of protection often depends on what kind of data you are safeguarding and how important or sensitive it is to you, your organization, or your customers.
Here are some tips on how to protect your data at work and at home.
Password-Protect Your Access Always use a strong password or pass-phrase to protect access to your data.
Identify Where the Data Is Stored Have specific places within your network or computer where you store sensitive/confidential data. Those network shares, hard drives, servers, or system folders can then have specific protection methods used to keep them more secure.
Encrypt Stored Sensitive/Confidential Data Whenever possible, encrypt stored sensitive/confidential data, whether it is being permanently or temporarily stored. This can help prevent unintended disclosure even if your system has been compromised.
Thank you to Florida Bar Association’s PRI for today’s Security Awareness Tip!
ABA House urges changes affecting undocumented immigrants, among other policy decisions
NEW YORK, Aug. 15, 2017 --The American Bar Association House of Delegates, which determines association-wide policy, adopted policies over two days that urges Congress to add courthouses to the “sensitive locations” list for immigration enforcement and licensing groups to admit to the bar undocumented law school graduates under certain circumstances.
The action by the House — made up of 601 delegates from state, local and other bar associations and legal groups from across the country — met in New York on Aug. 14-15 at the close of the ABA Annual Meeting, which began Aug. 10.
Resolution 108, proposed by the ABA Law Student Division and embraced by the ABA Young Lawyers Division, recommends that state courts with authority to regulate admission to the bar admit undocumented law school graduates if they are “seeking legal status.” The resolution passed by voice vote with modest opposition.
Resolution 10C urges Congress to amend Section 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to expand and codify Department of Homeland Security guidelines regarding immigration enforcement. It would specifically add courthouses to the government’s “sensitive locations” list.
Under current U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy, a handful of locations, such as schools, healthcare facilities, places of worship and religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations, are off-limits to agents. Proponents of the resolution cited examples across the country where individuals avoided courthouses because of fears that ICE had been notified of their pending presence and their undocumented status. They argued that without designating courthouses as “sensitive locations,” the effect would be to chill participation of undocumented victims and defendants from the justice process as well as to deter other witnesses from testifying.
In one case cited, a domestic violence victim refused to testify when she learned that ICE agents were present and looking for her, and the defendant walked free.
In Resolution 10B, the House reaffirmed the ABA’s opposition of a half century to mandatory minimum sentences because it limits a judge’s flexibility to consider circumstances and has a disparate impact on African Americans, whom proponents say are more likely to be charged with offenses with sentences in this category.
The House considered resolutions in these areas over its two-day meeting:
· Juvenile justice: The House approved several resolutions related to the juvenile justice system. Drawing from the ABA Criminal Justice Standards, Resolution 112A seeks to address the predicament faced by juveniles caught in child welfare and criminal justice systems at the same time. Resolution 112C urges governments to adopt policies that favor release on recognizance, advocating that pre-trial detention should not be occur solely on the ability to pay; and Resolution 112E would prohibit the use of solitary confinement for those under 18 years old.
· Gun violence: Following the lead of several states, the House approved Resolution 118that urges governments to allow courts to issue gun violence restraining orders, including ex parte orders. Proponents called the resolution a “modest, common-sense reform” that would help families and others prevent suicides and other acts of violence through temporary restraining orders. Opponents raised First and Fourth Amendment issues as well as the one-sided nature of an ex parte proceeding. The resolution passed on a voice vote with modest opposition.
· Records expungement: Two different resolutions would affect those exonerated from a charge as well as those found guilty of minor offenses. Resolution 112F urges governments to allow individuals to petition to expunge all criminal records pertaining to charges of arrests that did not end in a conviction. Resolution 112G urges that convictions for minor violations for certain crimes related to homelessness be eligible to be expunged.
· Federal courts: In passing Resolution 104, the House reaffirmed its opposition to restructuring the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, one of 13 in the federal appellate system. Legislation has been proposed in Congress to split up the circuit, but there is strong opposition in the legal community. Speakers said the large majority of the 29 appellate judges on the court also oppose the split, as have bar groups in the western states and others.
· Gideon issues: Resolution 106 urges Congress to give the U.S. Department of Justice more powers to ensure compliance with the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright,which gave defendants in most criminal cases the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Proponents said the promise of Gideon has been broken as many defendants are provided counsel who prove ineffective. Resolution 115 supports the appointment of counsel at federal government expense to represent all indigent persons in immigration removal proceedings.
All resolutions and their disposition can be found on the ABA site. Only proposals adopted by the House constitute association policy.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statementonline. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.
Credentials or outcomes: What’s the fairest way to assess lawyer performance?
Posted Jul 13, 2017 8:00 AM CDT By Paul Lippe, Gregory Richter and Paul Williams
When we meet with law firm managing partners and senior partners, we often ask them how well they understand their metrics.
Do you understand your firm’s profits per partner? Yes.
Do you understand how many hours you and other partners have billed and what billing rates are? Yes.
Do you happen to remember your LSAT score and law school GPA? Why yes, as a matter of fact.
Do you know what the bonus calculation is for the general counsels of your five largest clients? No.
Every communication or interaction between a modern enterprise and its law firms reflects how the client measures performance, which is expressed in financial statements, and the goals and bonus plans for the CEO and the general counsel. In most companies, the board and human resources play a large role in assessing performance, and GCs are looking for ways to be more in sync with them. To not understand the general counsel’s metrics and bonus calculation is to operate with blinders.
In our first and second articles about performance, we discussed how metrics could help lawyers improve their performance and professional satisfaction. In today’s world, where most lawyerly conversations touch on areas for improvement like diversity, design thinking, innovation, artificial intelligence or project management, the amazing thing is that we have no agreed-upon way of assessing how these initiatives actually impact performance.
The heart of the problem is that the law school Langdellian method doesn’t distinguish much between what judges do and what lawyers do, treating both as practicing legal reasoning, and it understands lawyers to be at the center of things, not needing to seek feedback. So while there are lots of good reasons to resist outcomes-oriented metrics for judges, few of those make sense for lawyers. Yet most lawyers want to be assessed on “lawyer-out” criteria:
• Legal reasoning.
• Thoroughness and effort.
• Ethical intent.
As one friend recently joked: “If you judged lawyers the way they judge themselves, then every action by every lawyer who went to an elite law school would be exactly the same level of quality, since they define the quality of their action on the quality of their credentials.”
To understand the implications of getting to a place where you can better measure performance, look at what’s happened in the world of advertising. Ninety percent of all growth in ad spending in the last decade has gone to Google and Facebook, because they can demonstrate the performance of ad spending in a way traditional media never could.
• The multiple—the value investors ascribe to earnings, which is usually an amalgam of growth rate and intangible factors such as reputation, predictability, etc.
So the opportunity is for lawyers to embrace modern methods of measuring performance to show how what we do translates into value for the client.
We think this is so important we’ll call it the Lippe-MLA Legal Performance Model.
Once we shift the lens from lawyer out to client in, it becomes pretty easy to better understand and improve performance.
What do lawyers do to contribute to revenue, now or in the future?
• Put contracts in place that define and manage revenue.
• Help create intellectual property rights that protect market position and improve margins.
• Help acquire assets that are the source of future revenues.
• Manage regulations or enforcement that impact market access.
• Support business relationships that are viewed positively by customers, thereby improving the client's Net Promoter Score.
What do lawyers do to reduce expenses, now or in the future:
• Help prevent problems or rule violations that ultimately get expressed as expenses.
• Reduce direct legal expenses.
• Help other parts of business, such as procurement, be more commercially effective.
• Avoid creating friction or unnecessary problems that impede efforts at transformation or other strategic changes.
• Avoid litigation, correctly predict the outcome of litigation, or manage litigation to a better outcome.
What do lawyers do to improve the balance sheet?
• The balance sheet is the reflection of historical financial performance. By definition, matters of risk—such as the potential risk that a customer won’t pay, or that a derivative will go into default—should be priced into the balance sheet. If risks are priced properly, then everyone in the organization will be on the same page in terms of understanding and taking appropriate risks.
• The balance sheet should be the place for truth-telling, so legal should help create a culture where problems are recognized and addressed, not suppressed to metastasize into bigger problems.
What do lawyers do to improve the multiple?
The value investors ascribe to future earnings is an amalgam of their assessment of corporate competence and market opportunity. While there’s not a ton that lawyers can do about market opportunity, all the higher order things lawyers hope to do—improve reputation, be seen as ethical, avoid one-time losses or enforcement problems, improve governance and compliance, anticipate and manage cyber risk—should be reflected in the multiple.
When we see companies like Volkswagen, Wells Fargo or Uber struggle with huge performance, ethical and reputational issues, those problems get expressed as a reduction in their multiple, and it usually takes several years of consistent performance to get past those problems. Often, lawyers’ response to reputational problems is to add tons of proceduralism, but there is scant evidence that such proceduralism actually reduces investor uncertainty.
Once we start to measure performance more rigorously, we see what we can do better, and we see how some of the things we’re already doing matter more or less than we think.
• Diversity can help improve the multiple because it enhances corporate reputation and avoids reputational problems, and it should improve revenue by enhancing market access.
• Innovation helps reduce friction and find new market opportunities.
• Ethical reputation and consistency of earnings will improve the multiple.
• Design Thinking can get rid of superfluous friction that makes clients think we’re still living in a Dickens novel.
Given the need to realign lawyers to the way clients measure performance, we can probably suggest five laws for legal metrics:
1. LegaI metrics must be outcomes-based, aligned with institutional metrics.
2. LegaI metrics must be process-specific, i.e., sales-related metrics should be completely different from litigation-related metrics.
3. It’s better to imperfectly measure important things than perfectly measure unimportant things.
4. Metrics work much better when considered in conjunction with possible innovations like design thinking.
5. Lawyers who say they’re not good at metrics are just being lazy—they are more than capable of measuring those things they care about.
Like most professions, law makes aggressive claims for its distinctness from the world in which it operates. But perhaps the path forward is more about embracing the metrics culture of the broader world.Paul Lippe, the former CEO of Legal OnRamp, is a member of Elevate Services’ Advisory Board. Gregory Richter is vice president and global head of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s In-House Practice Group and Solutions Practice Group. Paul Williams is a Major, Lindsey & Africa partner and a member of the CEO & Board Practice of Allegis Partners, MLA’s sister organization focused on executive search.
This New York Times article is worth a read. It covers a study in NY where judges were asked to track the gender of those speaking in court over a four month period. The results show that in some sectors of the legal profession, women have not increased their presence in the courtroom in decades. In other sectors, there is more gender equity. The article explores some of the reasons why those differences might be occurring.
In many of my subscribed-to blogs, journals, LinkedIn, and other social media sites, Leadership seems to be everywhere. Authors and bloggers are discussing such basics as what it means, to more nuanced ideas such as should we be seeking to be leaders rather than just managers of our organizations? And, it seems this is not such a new conversation. I dug in the archives of the Law Practice Management magazine published by the Law Practice Division of the ABA to find an entire edition focused on leadership. I am sharing the link to this important and interesting topic with you so you, too, can share in the conversation:
No More Ransomware: How One Website is Stopping the Crypto-Locking Crooks in Their Tracks
It is about time the good guys caught up to the bad ones - or they are working on it. The site described in this article collects ransomware decryption tools and then allows the user to upload an encrypted file which it will then diagnose. Yes, that is correct, it offers the appropriate diagnosis as to which ransonware encrypted it and offers a tool to decrypt it, if one exists and/or is available. This site could be extremely helpful to someone caught in in a ransomware attack or for someone who wants to become more savvy and educated about cybersecurity.
Really, that should be all of us because if it hasn't affected us yet, it likely will.
To read the full article, cut and paste the below link into your browser:
Security Awareness Tip: Multi-Factor and Two-Step Authentication
Want to better protect your information? Below are two types of authentication that can help safeguard your data and identity.
Multi-factor authentication is an approach to authentication which requires the presentation of two or more forms or “factors”: a knowledge factor (something you know), a possession factor (something you have), an inherence factor (something you are) and a geo-location factor (someplace you are).
Using your PIN (“something you know”) while making a purchase with your debit card (“something you “have”) is an example of multi-factor authentication.
Two-step verification, another useful authentication method, sends a verification code to a user’s phone after the user enters his or her username and password; this code must be entered to gain access to the account. Several websites, web applications and e-mail service providers offer this option. If offered as an optional feature, it is worth it to enable it for better security.
Did you see the feature in the New York Times this weekend, The Lawyer, the Addict? It's been the theme of many of my listservs since it popped into peoples' newsfeeds. The article is a compelling read, made so in large part by the writer's viewpoint from outside of the profession.
Those of us in the profession have repeatedly heard the statistics on lawyer depression, addiction and suicide. In every one of those areas our profession ranks worse than most all others. Some of us have lost a colleague to depression and suicide. Lawyers have offices where we ask people to bring in their stress, their problems, difficult situations, threats they are concerned about and other such matters.
But I think this story of Peter, dying from the impact of his drug addiction while still maintaining appearances as a partner in a high-powered law firm, breaks some of our assumptions about what addicted lawyer behavior looks like. His last call from his death bed was to call in to a scheduled conference call.
I have no great wisdom to share on this critical topic today. But it bears repeating to say, if you are in trouble, reach out for help. Many bar associations provide crisis counseling to members now. In Kansas, the Kansas Lawyer Assistance Program (KALAP) provides assistance to attorneys in the state. To reach a confidential person through KALAP, call the hotline at 800-342-9080 or 785-368-8275 during office hours. To learn more about KALAP, visit the website kalap.com. There are other community resources for many situations. Ask for help if you need it.
Thank you to Jim Calloway, Practice Management Attorney at the Oklahoma Bar Association for publishing a portion of this post.
Stress is part of life. You can’t get around it. If you did manage to get around it, you would likely be dead.
You actually need stress to live.
Without stress, you would not get up in the morning, get to work on time, put food on the table, or shift positions when you are uncomfortable.
Stress is your body’s way of letting you know you are out of balance. Feeling hunger—that’s a stress. Feeling cold — another stress. Worried about paying your bills— stress again.
If the weather outside gets colder, the blood vessels in your body will constrict to help your body’s temperature accommodate. If this isn’t enough to maintain your body’s temperature, you will feel cold. All stress. That cold feeling will then motivate you to put on something warm. Presto, you have now adapted to the change in weather.
That’s pretty much how it works. You feel stress. A stress response is activated in your body that triggers physiological changes that motivate you to seek relief.
The problem isn’t so much stress, but the inability to get relief from stress, like being hungry and never getting any food, or being cold and not having something warm to wear. Not only is the stress an issue, but so is the stress response, which becomes over-activated, leading to a whole host of pathological problems like increased blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, inflammation, depression, and so forth.
Why is this a problem for you? You, like most people, ignore your stress. For example, when you feel tired, do you sleep or drink coffee? When you are anxious, do you take care of your feelings, or do you numb them with food, alcohol, or work?
The key to resilience is being able to recognize stress warning signals to motivate you to take care of yourself, not let the stress take the care out of you. You have the power to transform your mind and improve the functioning of your body, if you choose to pay attention, or you can let the functioning of your body deteriorate over time. Here are some tips to get started:
Listen to your body’s whispers before they become screams.
You want to learn to quiet your mind and your stress response long enough to become fully aware of why your body is in stress to begin with. This involves being mindful while witnessing and observing, nonjudgmentally, the sensations you experience in your body and how it may be speaking to you. Witnessing has its roots in the Buddhist meditation practice called mindfulness, which involves being in a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, sensations and feelings, as well as of the surrounding environment, and has the added benefit of turning down the stress response, which then improves your mood, ability to cope more effectively.
To do: Pause. Take a deep breath in, counting to four, and let the breath out, counting from four down to zero for five cycles of breath. Allow your thoughts and tension to be released with your breath. As you quiet down, ask your body what it needs. Ask your heart what it wants. Observe any sensations that arise, listen to thoughts, do not judge.
Move your body.
The term “survival of the fittest” means your ancestors had to be fit to survive. Not only did the strongest and fastest person get to the food first, but research also tells us that regular exercise helps your cardiovascular functioning and reduction of stress response activity. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, as long as you do it. I personally recommend alternating days of vigorous exercise (can’t hold a conversation), with days of moderate exercise (holding a conversation), with active rest days (strolling with the dog).
To do: You feel anxious? See if going for a walk or a light jog helps. Feeling achy? Try stretching. Low energy? Perhaps this is from lack of activity. Begin by moving your body for 10 minutes—taking the stairs, parking your car farther away from the store, or dancing to your favorite tune.
Food is your fuel.
Food is not your enemy, nor is it your savior when you are anxious. Rather, food is fuel, your source of energy, not your source of inflammation. If you were to slow down and eat mindfully, or take the time to listen to how your body reacts to different foods, you might discover that certain foods leave you feeling more achy, tired or irritable, even though in the short-term, they enable you to feel better as your cravings are tempered. Indeed, studies show that sugar intake, particularly in the form of glucose, is likely more of a risk factor for developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease that high salt intake.
To do: Eat mindfully. Enjoy the aromas, the colors and the textures of the food on your plate. Chew. Notice the tastes. Choose food that is grown naturally in your environment. Choose grass-fed foods. If it doesn’t grow in the earth, don’t eat it regularly. How do you feel, not only immediately after eating your food, but the next day? Ask yourself, “If I loved myself and really wanted to be able to function as my best, would this food serve the purpose?” Aim for an 80/20 healthy eating plan (20% of the not-so-good stuff, if you can tolerate it and you still really want it).
Make time for rest and recovery.
We live in a society that encourages us to push ourselves, go faster, work harder, sleep less. Even high-level athletes know that their best performance happens when they take the time to allow their body to rest and recover. Even modest sleep deprivation of one or two hours negatively affects your physiology, especially stress physiology.
To do: As yourself why you might be tired. Are you rested when you wake up in the morning? Examine your food intake. Examine the stimulants you may be taking (caffeine, sugar, etc.). Examine the quality of your sleep—how comfortable is your bed? Do you have physical pain disturbing your sleep? When does your energy lower during the day? When do you lose your focus? Perhaps this is a time to take regular naps or practice a 10 to 20 minute mediation.
About the Author
Elva Selhub is a physician and an internationally recognized resiliency expert. She is the author of several books, including Your Health Destiny. Follow her on Twitter @DrEvaSelhub.
Many of us use checklists – for home projects, honey-do lists, and lots of other places. Yet, when you start talking about and suggesting using checklists in the daily practice of law folks look at you like you’re a bit crazy.
One of the problems for the disconnect could be the definition of checklist. “As lawyers, we love definitions, even definitions of something as simple as a checklist. [W]e refer to checklists, but what we are really talking about are systems or making sure that (1) tasks get done (2) correctly (3) every time. It is that simple and that complicated.” [i]
When you really think about it, we rely heavily on checklists in our daily lives. We make Christmas lists, shopping lists, lists for planning a wedding or other event, and lists for almost everything else we do. [ii] Sometimes we put them on a sticky note, or neatly write them down, and other times we keep them in our heads – but too often when we keep them in our heads, we forget something. [iii]
The value of checklists is clearly apparent to some, while others need some convincing. Many authors, researchers, and practitioners have contributed to assert that checklists will add value to your work by making your office more efficient and your practice more effective. Checklists can help lawyers mitigate malpractice risks and comply with ethical implications. Why? Because they assure that you will be doing what you say you will do and what you are required to do. Additionally, checklists can reduce training costs and help orient new hires on your firm’s practices. Once you have these checklists developed and streamlined you will not need to re-establish them each time a new employee is hired.
All of this is contained in the book: “Checklist for Lawyers” by Daniel Siegel. This book is the newest addition to the LOMAP Lending Library. Two of the most exciting contributions provided by this book are the recommended lists of checklists and the sample checklists. This book is available to check out from the Lending Library for 30 days by contacting Sara Rust-Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, if you’ve not read the “Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Dr. Atul Gawande then please consider purchasing this game-changing book about the critical need for checklists. While the context for the need for checklists in this book centers around the medical field, the larger issues are still ever-relevant for attorneys (eliminating mistakes). In the book, Gawande discusses how the modern-day accumulation of knowledge has become so unwieldy that it cannot be delivered reliably even by highly-trained and highly-skilled professionals. Instead, “[a]voidable failures are common and persistent.” [iv] Gawande argues that this is why checklists are essential as they “improve outcomes with no increase in skill.” [v]
Lawyers are facing complex problems every day. Checklists are systems designed to break down these complex problems into manageable, measurable tasks. All in all, checklists can simplify your complicated practice. They can assist you in meeting deadlines allowing you to provide the best representation to your clients so those clients not only remain your clients but sing your praises!
[i] Daniel Siegel, Checklist for Lawyers (ABA Law Practice Division, 2014).
[iv] Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Metropolitan Books, 2009).
In this special mega-episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles speaks with all three finalists for this year's Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction about their novels, careers—and the first time they remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird.
Jodi Picoult, author of Small Great Things, shares how research for this novel changed her views on race and racism.
Graham Moore, author of The Last Days of Night, discusses how he approaches writing historical fiction about real people like Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla.
And James Grippando, author of Gone Again, talks about how he’s been able to balance his work as a mystery writer with actively practicing law.
To listen to the full podcast, cut and past this link into your browser:
Do you have a pre-conceived notion that mindfulness involves a hippie way of life, like tuning out the world and living in a temple at the top of a mountain? Do you think it’s a fad with no supporting evidence of its benefits? Or, like many people, do you think mindfulness can only be found in shavasana?
Although I hope to inspire you to practice mindfulness (as the benefits far outweigh the investment), I know many of you may take a quick glance at this article and simply continue on with your busy, stressful and demanding day.
Before moving on though, I encourage you to take a moment to see if you can relate to any of the following statements: Do you find yourself wasting precious time thinking about the past or worrying about the future? Are you often multitasking, but unable to focus? Is stress or anxiety keeping you from performing at your optimal level? Are you constantly on overdrive? Do you feel depleted by the end of the day but unable to sleep?
That was me the first five years of my career as a lawyer, and in all honesty, I loved it. I lived for the adrenaline rush; I wanted to help as many clients as possible; I wanted to move up the corporate ladder to partnership as quickly as my mind and body would allow; I absolutely did not want to slow down—I was Wonder Woman. My mind was constantly going 180 miles per hour with no end in sight, but I thought this was the life of a lawyer and that I had to accept it. It was not until year six, when I realized that a career in law would not be sustainable at this pace, that I found a way to stay focused, calm, and controlled: I discovered “mindfulness.”
Yes, it may still be viewed by some as a bunch of people seeking spiritual growth, but the undeniable benefits of mindfulness have led to its adoption by businesses such as Google, Facebook, Target and many others. Today’s professionals are busier than ever. With increased client demands and workloads, technology at our fingertips, industry pressures, and distractions abounding, lawyers must be capable of focusing on the task at hand to better serve their clients and themselves.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness. This buzz word is found everywhere but what does it actually mean? Well, it can have many different meanings and can be practiced in many different ways. This is probably why, as lawyers, we find it so difficult to grasp, practice and implement. When I tell friends and colleagues about it, they often ask questions like: Show me how. Where do I start? It sounds complicated. I can’t. And, my favourite: I have no time.
Mindfulness, simply stated, is a full awareness of precisely what is happening in the present moment. It involves stilling the internal chatter of the mind and concentrating on what’s happening in the moment, without dwelling, judging or trying to change anything. In other words, no over-thinking (which can be extremely difficult for lawyers but a nice change)—or the opposite, banishing all thoughts.
Mindfulness to me means “self-awareness.” Being aware of your thought patterns, your breath, your body, your surroundings, etc.—what is happening at this very moment in time. Self-awareness can truly be as simple as focusing on your breathing (slow down your breath) while you are standing in line to file a motion versus worrying about the motion you must argue, panicking that you may not have enough time, followed by the negative self-talk. Which of these scenarios would actually be beneficial to you?
The Benefits to the Body, Mind, and Work Performance
Research has shown that when we stay focused on the past or the future it can cause unnecessary stress, which activates our sympathetic nervous system, the driving force behind the body’s fight-or-flight response (aka the adrenaline rush). Working continuously in high gear can have serious negative effects on our mind and body. Physical symptoms of stress include low energy; headaches; upset stomach and nausea; aches, pains, and tense muscles; and insomnia, to name a few. Serious mental health risks include depression, anxiety, and burn-out.
Although it is highly unrealistic to live stress-free, we can “dial down a prolonged fight-or-flight impulse” by activating our parasympathetic nervous system (our relaxation response) through mindfulness/self-awareness. We are training our minds to reduce the activities in the part of the brain responsible for fight-or-flight response and activate the parts of our brain responsible for “executive functioning” so that we can respond appropriately in difficult situations.
Self-awareness has been shown to cultivate many attitudes of joy, peace, and calmness that contribute to a more satisfied life. Being aware makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, easier to be fully engaged in activities and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events as they may arise. By focusing on the present, many people who practice self-awareness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or the regrets over the past, and have deeper connections with others.
On top of greater well-being, research has shown that mindfulness/self-awareness can also help reduce psychosomatic symptoms and improve physical health in a number of ways, such as reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep and alleviating gastrointestinal difficulties. Further, in recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders.
But how can it really improve your performance at work? Given that self-awareness has an impact on your attention, it has been shown to improve focus – meaning you are less distracted and can complete tasks more efficiently. Mindfulness also improves listening skills, as you are present in the moment, attentive, and focussed on the conversation and the flow of information instead of thinking of your response, your to-do list, or even what you will have for dinner later. An article in the Harvard Business Review noted, “Neuroscientists have shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking and sense of self. While more research is needed to document these changes over time and to understand underlying mechanisms, the converging evidence has been compelling.”
Tips for Lawyers to Practice Self-Awareness
Let’s face it, lawyering is difficult. We all have days where it feels as though the ground beneath us is about to give and we’re spiraling out of control. When you feel this way, what coping mechanism do you use to feel grounded again? Practicing self-awareness allows us to pause, reflect and respond from a place of calm rather than reacting.
To start, try to set aside a few minutes each day: when you are brewing your first pot of coffee in the morning, on your commute to work, while waiting in line. It is important to remember that you will likely not spend much time in a true state of self-awareness, as the mind tends to wander, which is entirely expected given its true nature. Mindfulness is not about “controlling” the mind, it’s about being aware.
Here are a few tips that may help:
1. Breathe: The very thing that makes mindfulness so accessible is that it can be practiced anywhere. The simplest way to begin is with your breath. Sit or stand in a comfortable position and breathe naturally. No need to count inhalations or exhalations: simply relax, focus on the sensations in your throat, chest and abdominal wall as the air enters and leaves your body. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
2. Use what you enjoy: Try bringing the present “here and now” awareness to everyday activities. For example, when walking to work, notice the warmth of the sun on your face, observe the leaves, grass and smells around you (note to self: put your cellphone away for just a few minutes, the world will not end, I promise!). This can be done for any activity. When the mind starts a narrative, bring it back to the activity/pleasure of the moment. What brings you joy—hot showers in the morning, spending time with loved ones, a good meal, listening to music, working out, yoga, etc. Use the things you enjoy and practice full awareness in those moments.
3. Find your center: Start using the above self-awareness techniques in a variety of situations, especially when life becomes stressful. “Check in” throughout the day. If you notice you are, for example, stressed about an upcoming deadline, spend a few minutes in mindful breathing. Don’t try to push your anxious thoughts away, rather try observing your thoughts and acknowledge your stress and where it is stemming from. Calm your breath. After a few moments, return to the task.
5. Stay aware: You can try mindfulness in higher stakes scenarios as well—such as difficult conversations with opposing counsel, contentious mediations, in court, etc. Practice mindful breathing beforehand, and then, even in the thick of a conversation, stay aware of your breath, body and emotions. Remain in the moment rather than jumping ahead to how you’ll respond or fend off an argument. This will help you be a better listener and avoid saying something that will not help advance your client’s case.
STOP: In the midst of your day, a stressful situation, or a moment of bliss:
Take a deep breath;
Observe what is happening inside and around you at the moment; and then
Proceed with whatever you are doing.
Eventually, your default setting will be calmer—and your body and mind will thank you.
We as professionals must start valuing and making time for self-care, wellness and taking care of our emotional, psychological, and physical health. It is imperative, not only for a long and prosperous career in law, but also to provide our clients with the best and most efficient legal services possible.
I hope you will practice a little self-awareness, one breath at a time.
About the Author
Marie T. Clemens is an attorney with Moodie Mair Walker LLP in Toronto, and is a yoga instructor. Contact her at 416.340.6808 or email@example.com.
Wi-Fi networks make it easy to connect the systems in your practice, both to each other and the outside world. However, they often make it easy for an intruder to gain access to those same systems and the data therein. You can significantly reduce this risk by making a few important changes to your network configuration.
Secure Administrator Access
Start by setting a strong password for administrative access to your wireless router. Many networks are breached because the default password was never changed. You will need to log in to your router’s configuration website to reset this password and update the other security options discussed in this tip. For most wireless routers, you access this website by entering “192.168.1.1” or “192.168.0.1” into your browser address bar. (Make sure you are connected to your network first, either via an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi.)
With administrator access locked down, you should now secure access to the network itself. Most wireless routers today support a primary Wi-Fi network, one or more guest networks, and wired, local network (LAN) ports to connect directly to the router. We recommend that you keep your office devices and staff on the primary Wi-Fi (your “private” Wi-Fi network) or LAN, and use a guest network for any clients or visitors who need internet access.
Enforce Wi-Fi Authentication
Access to all of your Wi-Fi networks needs to be password-protected. For small businesses, the predominant standard is referred to as WPA2-PSK or WPA2-Personal, or just WPA2 (WPA2-Enterprise can provide more flexible authentication options for larger practices with many users, but requires additional configuration, which may require IT services). With WPA2-PSK, a shared password is used to access the network. Use your password manager to generate a different, strong password for both your private and guest Wi-Fi networks.
From your browser, you will need to find the wireless settings section of your router’s configuration. For each wireless network, you should:
● Set a network name, or SSID. This is what users will see when they choose from available wireless networks. Clearly differentiate your private and guest network names.
● Choose “WPA2-PSK” for the network authentication method and “AES” for the encryption method. Depending on your router, these may be grouped together or split into two separate options, and they may use different labels like “WPA2-Personal” or “WPA2”. Do not use “WEP”, “WPA” (without the “2”), or “TKIP” (without “AES” included), as these options are less secure and may be easily circumvented.
● Enter the password you generated for the network, also known as the pre-shared key.
Limit Guest Access
Your guest network is there to keep your clients and visitors separate from your private network — and out-of-reach of your confidential information. If you’re not careful, however, you may inadvertently allow your guests much greater access. When configuring your guest network, you may see an option to allow guests to access your LAN, local network, or intranet. Make sure you do not allow LAN access so that your guests cannot reach office systems that are wired directly to the router.
Keep in mind that wireless routers can typically be reset to their factory configuration with the push of a button or a straightened paperclip. Once reset, the default password is the only defense between an attacker and your network. If possible, keep your wireless router in a locked enclosure or cabinet with the reset mechanism inaccessible.
After completing these steps, you will have locked down access to your network configuration and created a secure way to connect your staff and clients to the network resources they need.
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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
The Abacus Professional Services team offers legal technology solutions that increase revenue, reduce costs and maximize efficiencies by customizing how you use the powerful Abacus products and services to meet your specific needs.
Our proven approach helps you assess your infrastructure and workflows, identify opportunities for improvement, design a customized plan to address your specific needs, maximize the value of your Abacus solutions, and implement cutting-edge technology to help you grow and thrive
The Abacus Professional Services process involves a collaborative discussion between you, our valued client, and our team of attorneys and technology specialists who are ready to translate your needs into custom tailored solutions that solve your business challenges and help you reach your success goals.
Keys To A Successful Website: A Checklist For Law Firms
A professional and well-designed website is a must in today’s business world. Attracting clients, growing your business faster, and showcasing your law ﬁrm are just a few of the beneﬁts that come with a great website. But are you sure your ﬁrm's website is hitting the mark?
Does my website regularly attract new business? Does my website look modern & professional?
Can my clients easily access their case information from my website?
When creating a website for your law ﬁrm you have two primary options:
1. Hire a web developer to design your website from scratch.
2. Utilize legal practice management software that has a built-in website package.
How to Decide:
Modern & Professional Design
Is my logo prominently featured? Is the design clean and simple, not cluttered and busy? Is the text easily readable? Is my content interesting to clients and does it showcase our legal services in a professional and understandable manner?
Can visitors easily access their case ﬁles and information from the site that is important to them? Is it going to work on all browsers, and on both Macs and PCs? Will it be easy for visitors to get in touch with me, using a form or contact information?
Your Law Firm's Branding
Does the site design match my law ﬁrm’s colors / branding? Does the site use my law ﬁrm’s URL/domain name? Is the navigation organized in a logical, thoughtful way? Are the images and graphics appropriate and rendering properly?
Design & Branding
Is it, or can it be, integrated with the software I use to manage my practice?
Features for Lawyers and Clients
Are my clients able to receive and pay their bills online? Can my clients contact me about their cases using my law ﬁrm's website? Are there calls to action to get visitors to contact my law ﬁrm? Are my clients able to access documents and other case-related information using any Internet-enabled device?
Analytics & Tracking
Will I have to create a Google Analytics account to track my visitors? Will the developer install Google Analytics? Will there be any tutorials on how to read the analytics reports?
Can clients access case-related information and communicate about their case using the app? Will it be compatible across all types of smartphones and tablets? Will the mobile site be updated when the main site is updated? Is there a mobile site included or does it cost extra?
A great website can do more than just improve your online presence, it can boost your law ﬁrm’s productivity and proﬁt. By doing some due diligence before you start the project, you’ll save yourself time and money and have a website that fulﬁlls both your needs and the needs of your clients.
Law practice management software providers (like MyCase, web-based law practice management software) are a great place to start – it’s often very cost-effective and quick to build a professional website that is totally integrated with your law ﬁrm's business operations. You can learn more at www.MyCase.com. MyCase is a Member Benefit partner with the Kansas Bar Association. To check out Member Benefits go to ksbar.org/page/benefits and click on mycase.
Other web-based law practice management software providers may have similar services available. Mycase is not the only software provider of this kind or type. It is important to consider all of your options when choosing a legal practice management software to build a website for your practice.