I think the first time I heard the term “virtual law practice” was about ten years ago. I had just launched my own law firm in Spring 2006 and was poring over a number of books and blogs about how to best organize my office and be more efficient.
With the explosion of the Internet, I naturally explored online tools to help with my effort. Unfortunately, Jay Foonberg’s How to Start & Build a Law Practice didn’t help much in this regard. One of my first valued resources was and is Carolyn Elefant’s MyShingle blog, wherein she tackled many of the same solo issues I was experiencing. Stephanie Kimbro later popularized the concept in her book, Virtual Law Practice: How to Deliver Legal Services Online. Now, I stay up to date with legal tech on Sam Glover and Aaron Street’s Lawyerist blog.
“Virtual law practice” sounds quaint now in relation to how far the world of business has come in using technology, such as artificial intelligence, automation and bots. For a time, “virtual law practice” carried with it the connotation of a lawyer who had taken his or her law practice entirely online and provided low flat fee services by means of an online portal that clients would use to generate legal documents tailored to their needs. I think this definition is far too narrow.
Eliminating the traditional brick and mortar office paradigm as the nexus for conducting work has many benefits, not the least of which is greater productivity.
Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp and business management thought leader, addressed the problem with the traditional office in his book Remote: Office Not Required:
“Offices have become interruption factories. A busy office is like a food processor, it chops your day into tiny bits. Fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there, twenty minutes here, five there. Each segment is filled with a conference call, a meeting, another meeting, or some other institutionalized unnecessary interruption.”
It’s hard to be creative or productive when you can’t concentrate on a task long enough to complete it. Have you ever noticed how your computer slows down when you have too many tabs open on your web browser? Well, our brains are similar; if you’re juggling too many things, it won’t be long before they all come crashing down.
Jason Fried identified three ways you can implement a “Remote” mindset in your office, even if you don’t eliminate the office entirely:
- Provide private areas for individuals to retreat to when they need the space to be creative and time to think.
- Schedule silent time: an afternoon without meetings, conversations, knocking on doors, or emails, just employees working in a quiet environment on the tasks they’ve been assigned.
- Offer the option to take work outside the office. Fried suggests starting slow, providing the option to work away from the office one day per month, advancing to twice a month, then once a week. “It may not work for everybody but most people will probably find they got a lot more work done the day they were away from the office,” says Fried.
Whatever your approach, find ways to incorporate uninterrupted blocks of time for concentrating on creative work (such as writing, research or strategy) in your law practice. This will help you avoid, or at least minimize, the busy work and help you to get more done.
Last May I successfully ran for the GLSA Board because my personal mission is to support legal plans to address our access to justice challenge. Further, I believe that technology within the plans is the leverage needed to serve more Americans. Join us in Scottsdale next month on May 18th to hear from some legal luminaries as we gather for the GLSA Annual Education conference in conjunction with GP Solo, more information here.
I wrote here in Law Technology Today last year on the state of the industry panel at the 2016 annual education conference in Key West. It cannot be said enough that some of the GLSA legal plans are more than 40 years old, and even more importantly, these plans are being overlooked as the answer to the American access to justice problem. In turn, technology is the key component to improving efficiency and ensuring affordability.
In Scottsdale, Arizona, on May 18, the 2017 state of industry panel again features prominent plan players:
- Jeff Bell is the CEO of LegalShield.
- Brian Caron is the General Counsel & VP of Hyatt Legal Plans.
- Jean Clauson leads ARAG’s Network Development and is incoming GLSA President.
- Allen Rodriguez is the CEO of ONE400.
- John Wachsmann is managing attorney at Wachsmann & Associates, PC, in Colorado.
I interviewed these panelists and some highlights are below. You can read the full article here in ABA’s Law Technology Today.
How has technology impacted your plan and/or practice over the past couple of years?
Jean: Technology has afforded us the ability to more effectively connect and match consumers with attorneys nationally. Leveraging technology has provided consumers with legal check-ups, a mobile app, and direct access to attorneys in their geographic area for their specific type of legal need,
John: Our firm has tried to monitor and maintain technological proficiency. We purchased the highest-level case management software to assist with law firm management, billing, client portal options, email integration, paperless options, and document assembly. It has been a significant investment of both time and money; however, we believe this will help our firm remain competitive and help us best serve clients and legal plans. We are also in the process of updating our phone system to improve client access. Overall, we are adopting new technology to improve the client experience.
Where do you see technology for the law and/or legal plans in five years?
Jeff: We will see more AI to aid in research to support law firms and to prepare citizens to be confident in working with lawyers. We will also see significant improvements in connectivity and communications between citizens and their law firms.
Brian: The more ways in which technology connects consumers with companies will continue to have an impact on our business. Consumers expect to interact with their legal plan just as they would any other service. The next five years will see our members connecting with us through constantly evolving mediums.
Allen: There will be more software products built on AI. Lawyers and legal plan customers will be able to research legal issues using natural language tools such as Ross. Legal plan customers will be using bots to create their own documents on the go through mobile devices. Software will alert legal plan customers and providers of copyright and trademark infringements and generate takedown notices automatically.
Law firms are businesses, regardless of size. For solo and small firms, launching is like the early days of a startup. Firm owners must think like business people which means understanding the levers of success in your firm. What can you do to improve client experience and cash collections or your firm culture, including individual timekeeper performance? What technology will your clients demand? What systems and processes do you need to be efficient as a plan attorney? How can you use technology to attract more clients?
Today, we use technology in our everyday lives and clients demand efficiency. Thinking as an entrepreneur can also mean figuring out how to use solutions to satisfy clients, whether business clients or consumers. However, businesses make technology decisions based the return on the cash invested in the products and systems. Below are five business ideas for your law firm, including technology solutions.
Four years ago, a Yoodle poll reported that 54% of seniors use the internet. And research from the National Law Review indicated that 96% of Americans use a search engine to find a lawyer and about three quarters of those that start to search online, use a phone to contact the potential attorney. Also, over two thirds of searches are done using both a computer and a phone and almost three quarters of clients only contact ONE attorney.
So, do not be one of the 27% of firms that do not have a phone number or 68% without contact email information on the firm’s home page. Better yet, license a solution to set appointments using calendaring software. Also, ensure that your website works equally well on a phone as well as a computer, in other words is mobile responsive. You will only have one chance when someone visits your website. Put your best digital foot forward.
Your firm’s vision or goals are your own and like business planning in the corporate world, every law firm should have a strategic plan. Are you looking to balance work and family with a moderate case load or are you looking to build a huge practice? Choosing your goals are essential to your strategic plan.
Your strategy will drive your budget. If you are in growth mode, you will need to plan additional resources. Start with your revenue building up from expected billings and be specific month by month; never just divide an annual total by twelve. When you are planning for expenses, start from zero every year.
Legal Practice Management
Businesses have project management systems and other time and billing software that help them manage the workflow as they deliver products and services. The LPM (legal practice management) system will allow attorneys to systematize their delivery and provide a communication platform with clients. Most LPMs are integrated with accounting, time & billing and perhaps client development systems like customer relationship management (CRM) to help create your pipeline of business and manage your contacts.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are critical to measure client satisfaction, performance, profitability, and collections, all measures that are more than traditional billable hours and profits per partner. An accounting system and LPM are very helpful for collecting the data necessary to create a set of KPIs that cover your firm’s workflow but KPIs can be tracked using a simple spreadsheet program like Excel. KPIs can help discover what is working well and where change is needed in your firm.
If you want to learn more about the business of legal, technology for your firm, and how to implement simple KPIs for your firm, join us in Scottsdale on May 18th at our annual conference – Register here.
Raise your hand if you went to law school to help people. Everyone, right?
So who helps you? GLSA and the GPSolo Division of the ABA are here to help. The 2017 Joint Spring Meeting (#17JSM) will meet many of your needs.
Start with 13 hours of CLE applied for; that’s almost a full year of CLE for one very low price.
Topics? We have everything from an Adobe Acrobat Masters class to Zombies and their tax issues. There are sessions on ERISA, Traffic Ticket niche practices, and Water Wars. Attendees can learn about practice development and get in-depth tips on KPI, from our own Mary Juetten. All in all, there are 29 opportunities for learning and 3 tracks for lawyers, trustees and a client development/technology focused track.
The planning committee has put together fun sessions with Peter Blauner (writer for “Law and Order” and “Blue Bloods”), and Kelly Minkin (World Poker Tour) that are guaranteed to bring something new, creative and outside the box to your practice, whether you’re a lawyer, administrator or trustee.
On the tech side we have sessions on free legal research resources, eDiscovery processes and procedures, responding to a data breach, leveraging technology for law office efficiency, and balancing ethical considerations with emerging technologies.
Practice development, everyone needs more clients, or at least a good pipeline – we have sessions on building a seven figure law firm, cross-marketing your publications and your practice, how to be successful as a legal plan attorney, and how to build a lead generating system for your firm.
For the trustees, we have ERISA sessions, both the two part session with Kathy Hesse and some practical applications, there is a session on fiduciary duties for trustees, and understanding credit scores.
You want innovation? How about crowdfunding litigation? How about embracing the law robot revolution and SciFi visions of the legal future?
The speakers are all engaging, entertaining and educational. We also have two wellness sessions to help you pursue the ever-elusive work/life balance.
The setting will be the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. This spectacular resort has four top-ranked restaurants, indoor and outdoor meeting facilities, spa and fitness programs at Well & Being Spa, six pools, two 18-hole championship golf courses. The Welcome Reception will be at the brand new Copper Canyon venue – bring your cowboy hats and dust off your dancing shoes. So if you can’t find something fun to do, you aren’t trying!
So you have networking – over 200 lawyers, administrators and trustees and over a dozen exhibitors; you have substantive CLE; you have recreation; you have technology tips; you have great food and shopping in Scottsdale. There truly is something for everyone, so what are you waiting for? Register today.
Don’t take my word for it, come see for yourself. Or listen to Part I of the Conference Preview.
I bet you know what your AVVO rating is. And, you probably know your Yelp star rating. But, do you know what you Net Promoter Score (NPS) is? Even if you’re not familiar with the term, I’m pretty sure you’ve been asked to rate someone using the system.
Have you ever been asked, “How likely are you to recommend X to a friend?”
That’s it! That business is asking for you to contribute to their NPS.
Net Promoter Score is a customer loyalty metric developed by (and a registered trademark of) Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company, and Satmetrix Systems. It was introduced by Reichheld in his 2003 Harvard Business Review article “One Number You Need to Grow.”
NPS is most often based on a 0 to 10 scale. People who respond with a score of 9 to 10 are called “Promoters,” and are considered likely to be repeat customers or tell others about how great your service is. People who respond with a score of 0 to 6 are labeled “Detractors,” and they are less likely to repeat or promote your service and may even speak negatively. A 7 or 8 response would be provided by a so-called “Passive,” and their behavior falls between Promoters and Detractors but they are unlikely to impact your reputation either way.
The Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters. For purposes of calculating a Net Promoter Score, Passives count towards the total number of respondents, thus decreasing the percentage of detractors and promoters and pushing the net score towards 0.
The beauty of NPS is in its simplicity. How likely are you to recommend the business to a friend? Ingeniously, this business metric is what we use as a rule of thumb in real life. When you’re looking for a real estate agent or a hair stylist or a wedding planner or a [fill-in-the-blank], who do you ask? Your friends and family usually for recommendations of who they’ve used.
Lawyers are no different. In fact, if you ask most lawyers how they get clients, they’ll probably tell you it’s by word of mouth. According to Mary Juetten, author of Small Law Firm KPIs How to Measure Your Way to Greater Profits, “Net Promoter Score is a hugely valuable tool for lawyers, especially because they continue to be dependent on referrals and their reputations.” How better to promote your law firm than to harness this word of mouth by surveying it and putting it in quantitative terms you can use to improve your law practice?
A simple tool for incorporating NPS into your daily routine is Delighted. You can manually send surveys by uploading a list of emails or sending them one at a time. Or, you can use Delighted’s API and integrate it automatically with your workflow, for example, when you send out closing letters. Fred Reichheld himself is an advisor to Delighted and has said: “When I first saw the tool, I knew instantly that it could change the way companies measure and manage customer happiness.” Other options for measuring NPS are Promoter.io and Wootric, but whatever option you choose, just do it.
According to management guru Peter Drucker, “What gets measured, gets improved.”
How happy are your clients?
Listen to the teleconference below:
Listen to the teleconference here:
Listen to the teleconference below: