Entitled “New Year’s Resolution for Better Business Practices ,” the teleconference included a panel discussion with Haley Bohlmann (ARAG), Matt Hahne (Virginia Beach bankruptcy attorney) and Raphael Vernassal (Rocket Lawyer), moderated by Tom Martin (LawDroid) and hosted by GLSA.
Play Audio Below:
Just a few of the topics covered during the 45 minutes panel discussion include:
• How to improve your social media presence and stay active
• Tactics and strategies for improving customer service
• Organize your practice for efficiency and greater profits
• Follow through on commitment to leading a healthier lifestyle
Group Legal Services Association (GLSA), an affiliate of the American Bar Association, is a professional membership organization representing the legal services plan industry. GLSA is committed to providing individuals, plans, unions, employers, and provider attorneys with access to information involving all phases of the legal plan industry.
THE FUTURE IS NOW UPON US
We have all heard about the future of legal services. Change may have already impacted our law firms to varying decrees. To deny the changes would be to deny reality. Lawyers had a monopoly on legal delivery when legal expertise was the sole element. We have heard about Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT_ and Navigators. These are not theoretical but already exist in some states. About 80% of Americans who need a lawyer can’t afford one. This is despite the country having a surplus of attorneys on tap. Something is wrong with the design and continuation of this system for both lawyers and clients.
We have heard about artificial intelligence. Law firms should consider the power of AI (Ross) in order to serve justice. But how can we do this alone? Insurance Adjustors are already being replaced by AI. There is already Robo advice when buying insurance. There are already Chat Bots to guide individuals in decision making. There are free legal documents online at state sponsored sites. The travel and taxi cab industries have been dramatically redesigned by automation and tech changes. Are lawyers next?
WHY WE BECAME ATTORNEYS
Did we want to make a lot of money? Did we want the respect? Do we love justice? Do we continue to lose sleep at night worrying about clients and fair treatment? Then we must hate limited access to justice and injustice. We may not be able to solve everything but we can have a substantial impact on the legal system.
There are great partners out there that have been around for a while. They are Legal Plans.
Legal plans provide a tremendous way to provide access to justice and involve attorneys. As attorneys we need to match up with new clients. Without clients what good can we do? There can be a tremendous flow of clients from legal plans if attorneys are responsive, efficient, creative, caring and love justice.
Some attorneys procure their clients by being active on boards, advertising, and word of mouth. Legal plans are another way to procure a stream of paying clients.
I suggest that if you have not done so, you consider being a legal plan provider. It will force you to be efficient in developing good systems, including case management software, document automation, and objectively measuring your Key Performance Indicators. Clients will come to you. These are clients that you would not have been allowed to serve without the legal plan and also may be clients that would not have had access to justice but for the legal plans.
I suggest that the collaboration among other legal plan providers, legal plan administrators, and others including tech professionals can help attorneys with their own bottom line. You will be able to join the movement in delivering access to justice along with state of the art, best practices legal representation.
You will get paid timely for your services. You will have referrals both from satisfied legal plan members and legal plans. Some of these referrals will be for public clients- those with no legal plan affiliations. Your systems and efficiency’s will equally apply to public clients. You will get paid for your services. To help solve the access of justice concern, the traditional response by lawyers is that we spend some time on pro bono work each year. Legal Plans are another way, and I suggest more effective.
To encourage efficiencies and responsiveness for each lawyer and to be client centric is good for the profession. To collaborate and share ideas and systems with like-minded lawyers and non-lawyers including tech professionals is invaluable.
We as attorneys are in the best position to see what wording in documents is most effective in our respective and fragmented Court Systems. We must take the time to insure our documents and forms are drafted adeptly. The time spent in developing these systems promotes justice.
Access to justice is much talked about but, this really works. This is a great expanding movement to be a part of and one where we can boost our profession toward the noblest of aspirations.
Make a living so that we support ourselves and our family is important. Legal services delivery requires legal, technological and process expertise. Tech and process savvy providers, with client centric models will continue to expand. This involves much more than and individual lawyer can offer without assistance and collaboration. Do not become an alternative provider, but one that is sought out first.
GROUP LEGAL SERVICES ASSOCIATION
I urge you to check out the Group Legal Services Associations, not only for your bottom line and profitability, but for the promotion of justice and our profession.
One of GLSA’s New Year’s resolutions was to expand its member benefits toward the end of better serving its membership – which includes attorneys, trustees, legal plan administrators, legal technology entrepreneurs, and other individuals invested in law practice. Now that we’re weeks into 2017, we’re following up on that resolution by fully apprising you of GLSA’s current membership benefits.
Via teleconference last Wednesday, we had a chance to learn more about the valuable benefits you receive as a GLSA member directly from GLSA’s own president Keri Norris, president elect Jean Clauson and newer GLSA member Haley Bohlmann!
Play Audio Below:
Here’s a quick recap of what we covered:
What does GLSA do?
The stated mission is “advancing access to quality legal services thru legal services plans and industry collaboration.” But, what GLSA is focused on is a way to provide meaningful, affordable access to justice for all Americans. This is why the legal plan industry was created. For lawyers, GLSA is a fantastic business development opportunity for driving revenue to your business.
Who does GLSA serve?
GLSA membership is made of attorneys, legal plan administrators, union trustees and sponsors who collaborate together to provide access to legal services. One of the biggest benefits to membership is that you get to develop working relationships with others who share the same interests, but may not have the same occupation, and learn from each other.
What will lawyers need to succeed in 2017 and how does GLSA fill those needs?
To succeed in 2017, lawyers will need to understand consumers, use latest tools and practices to build efficiencies, understanding industry changes and take advantage of expanding revenue opportunities.
Thru teleconferences, webinars, its annual conference, CLEs, blog articles and white papers, GLSA helps lawyers to understand the climate of the consumer market, incorporate tips, tricks and practices to increase customer service and office efficiencies, and to stay abreast of changes in the legal industry. GLSA is also an active participant in future of legal services initiatives and helps member lawyers keep in touch with what is happening in the industry and shaping its future.
GLSA is a powerful way of helping lawyers to win more business. Through its universal application, GLSA gives lawyers access to multiple legal plans and thereby greatly expands the number of potential clients available with which to build one’s law practice.
What will plan administrators need to succeed in 2017 and how does GLSA fill those needs?
To succeed in 2017, plan administrators need more lawyers who are able to serve more customers so the plans are able to fulfill their mission. In particular, plan administrators want bright, talented lawyers who are legal scholars and experts, have empathy and compassion and understand customer needs and how to provide a quality experience.
GLSA provides plan administrators with the opportunity to develop relationships with lawyers in a meaningful way so they can confidently refer customers to the lawyers knowing the client’s needs will be taken care of by the lawyer. GLSA also allows plan administrators to be at the forefront of industry developments.
How to get engaged in GLSA?
There are many ways to get involved in GLSA:
- GLSA Dine Arounds are small dinner groups of GLSA and non-GLSA members who get together to talk about GLSA and to network and engage with legal professionals in your community. Feel free to follow up with Ramon Robinson about having a GLSA dine around in your city.
- GLSA Annual Conference in May in Scottsdale, Arizona is held in partnership with GPSolo and the ABA. There’s plenty of great speakers, CLEs, and other GLSA members to network with to increase one’s business and to have fun. Please register for the conference early so you can get the early bird discount.
- GLSA Committees are also a great way to get involved in GLSA. There’s different areas to choose from: membership, sponsorship, education, conference, marketing and others, enough to find one that inspires you. You’re welcome to participate in a committee if you‘ve been with GLSA for a week or many years.
- GLSA Podcasts and Webinars are great opportunities to share your knowledge and know how with the world. If you have something you are passionate and knowledgeable about that you’d like to share, please follow up with Tom Martin.
Renew Your GLSA 2017 Membership Today!
If you haven’t already, remember to renew your GLSA membership today. Don’t lose your valuable membership benefits!
If you don’t renew, your online profile will deactivate by Feb. 1 and you will miss out on the $100 member discount on the Scottsdale conference which is going to have some really great speakers and CLEs available. Renew today!
Recently, I was trying to figure out how to capture leads who may be visiting my law firm website, but may not be calling my office phone number to schedule a consultation. I realize nowadays most people prefer to research businesses online first and call second (if necessary) so it only seemed natural to try to bridge that gap by using a scheduling system on my website.
After researching what seemed like hundreds of options, I decided upon a service called Acuity Scheduling and I’ll tell you why I did.
Price is Right
Acuity has a forever free plan that works for a solo on a shoestring budget or if you’re just trying it out to see if it works for you before making a commitment.
The features available on the free plan are more limited of course, but for only $10 per month you can get some additional features, like adding your logo and sending email reminders so your prospective clients don’t miss their appointment with you. For $19 per month you can add on text reminders and calendars for up to 6 staff members or locations. If you run a larger law firm, you can add calendars for up to 36 staff members or locations for $34 per month. And, if you’re skittish about the paid plans, there’s a 14 day free trial available for each plan and you can always cancel at any time.
Usually when I sign up for a new online tool, I’m dropped into a stark application with no instruction and no clue what to do. I’m happy to report you don’t have to worry about that here. Like a good host, Acuity guides you by the hand in setting up your account.
- Enter your business name and your own name. Check.
- Set the hours and days you’re available for appointments. Check.
- Create appointment type (i.e., attorney consultation). Check.
- Customize the look of your scheduling page. Check.
- Sync with your calendar. Check.
Now, all you have to do is put the link to your scheduling page (or embed it) on your website and you’re in business! (If you need some help on this step, Acuity will even connect you with its developers who will help you integrate the scheduler into your website.)
Great Customer Experience
Acuity really has a lock on effective scheduling: the features are laser focused on getting prospects to make and keep appointments. Picture this:
A prospective client visits your website, researches your credentials and wants to see if you’re available for a consultation.
(If you didn’t have an online scheduler like Acuity, you would likely lose this prospect because they may not want to phone your office for availability or it may be after hours.)
The prospect clicks on the link and is taken to your scheduling page. On this page, they can learn if your consultations are free or paid and when you’re available.
(If you offer paid consultations, you can set up to take credit card payments using your favorite credit card processor, such as Stripe, Square, Paypal or Authorize.net.)
The prospect then enters their contact information and is taken to a confirmation page.
(You can even have the prospect fill out an intake questionnaire so you can review the answers before your appointment and impress the prospect with your familiarity with their situation.)
The confirmation page allows the prospect to add the appointment to their calendar with the touch of a button. Then, the day before the appointment, the prospect will receive an email and text reminder to keep them on track.
You can’t beat the value of Acuity Scheduling, especially when you consider two things:
1) How many prospects do you lose by not having a scheduling tool like Acuity on your website? Just one lost client could equal hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And, all the online marketing in the world won’t grow your business if you’re not capturing the leads it produces.
2) How much time are you saving by not having to schedule the appointments yourself or hire a full time receptionist to do the same thing? Even if you have a staff member currently scheduling for you, just think of all the time he or she could be spending on other more pressing matters.
I’ve recommended Acuity Scheduling to a few friends and they’ve found the experience of getting started pretty painless. But, don’t take my word for it, give it a shot yourself. You literally have nothing to lose.
You have heard GLSA talk about change in the legal industry, the future of lawyers and legal services and access to justice for over 2 years now – but what really has happened? Has change occurred? The lawyer answer is yes . . . and no. Change has occurred but not really on a national level as some might have suggested. But don’t take this as change won’t happen and won’t impact you or your business – because it will on both accounts. So let’s start with what has happened over the last 2 years.
The ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services did get the ball rolling on talking and thinking about change as it is imperative that we decrease the access to justice gaps Americans are experiencing. They also worked with states, attorneys and legal influencers to get them to consider innovative ideas and technologies to make the practice of law more affordable, relevant and helpful to consumers. Several somewhat controversial ideas including use of non-lawyers and “outside” companies were raised but in the end, no definitive measures were taken on these and the end decisions were left up to the states.
The Commission finalized its two year run with a report that summarized all of its work and it is worth a read if you haven’t already done so: http://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2016/08/futures_commissioni.html. So although no big regulatory or ethical changes were made on a national level, there is definitely a growing movement in states to look for ways to lessen the access gap to legal services. This was required by all State Supreme Court Justices who adopted Resolution 5 https://www.ncsc.org/~/media/Microsites/Files/access/5%20Meaningful%20Access%20to%20Justice%20for%20All_final.ashx.
The Commission also recommended the ABA create an Innovation Center, which has since been developed and the committee members appointed. The purpose of the Center will be as a resource center for innovation in the legal industry as well as to “foster creative, innovative and ground-breaking approaches to bridging the access to justice gap as well as to improve the delivery of legal services.” http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/aba_announces_plan_to_create_center_for_innovation The ABA will also be working on an ABA Legal Checkup which will provide guidance to consumers on what legal needs they may be experiencing as well as where to receive help for those legal needs. Our current president, Keri Coleman-Norris is assisting with the development of the checkup.
GLSA continues to be at the forefront of this movement advocating for attorneys and legal plans as the way to ensure all citizens have affordable access to legal services. Stay tuned for more on the changes in our industry.
Take marketing seriously
It’s an irony of life that we think the work others do is simple while our own work requires careful thought and judgment. Lawyers deal with this all the time when clients try to commoditize what they do (e.g., it’s just a form). Yet, lawyers tend to do exactly the same thing to marketers.
Not every marketing campaign is the same. It takes time, money, testing and measurement to learn what works for you. Even if you are marketing in the same practice area and in the same city as other lawyers, it’s never a good idea to just blindly copy another’s campaign. It’s not “simple.”
To stand out, you need to try something different. Remember, if you look and sound like everyone else, you get lost in the crowd.
What makes you unique from a client’s point of view? How can you uniquely address their concerns or solve their problem in a way other lawyers can’t?
Spend more on marketing
Law firms only spend between 2.4% to 2.8% of their budget on marketing when most companies spend between 9 to 10%. This likely does not mean law firms spend less on marketing because they are getting extraordinary results with the money they do spend.
To put that in real terms, if you have a small law firm that brings in $250,000 per year, you’re probably spending between $6000 to $7000 on your marketing budget whereas a similarly-sized private company would be spending approximately $25,000. That sounds like a lot, right?
By comparison, Google spends 12% of its revenue on sales and marketing, while Microsoft spends 18% and Apple 7%.
Lawyers may spend less for a variety of reasons. Being generally risk averse, lawyers may perceive marketing costs as inherently risky and therefore tend to avoid the expense. But, just increasing your budget is not enough. Investing the time to identify credible and proven marketing consultants is definitely worth the effort.
Measure what you spend
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” according to acclaimed business management thinker Peter Drucker. Yet, how many lawyers among us measure how we spend our marketing dollars and whether we’re getting anything valuable for our money?
It may come as no surprise that many lawyers chose to go to law school precisely because they didn’t like number crunching. And, there is a strong temptation to delegate this duty to measure to your marketing consultant or intern: Don’t!
There’s something to be said for the process of figuring it out yourself. Akin to balancing your checkbook and signing your own checks, it helps you to have a gut feel for where your money is going and whether or not it’s being spent on anything worthwhile.
Key marketing metrics
Cost per lead = Divide campaign budget by amount of leads generated by campaign. This will tell you how many dollars it cost to generate each lead.
Lead conversion rate = Divide amount of leads generated by total number of people exposed to your ad. This will tell you how effective your ad copy is. Try split testing different versions to improve your conversion rate.
Client acquisition cost = Divide campaign budget by amount of clients generated by campaign. This is how much it costs to get a client using this particular marketing campaign.
Client conversion rate = Divide amount of clients acquired by total number of leads. This will tell you how effective you are at converting leads into clients.
If you are converting leads into clients through initial phone consultations, how quickly are you following up? Did you know calling a new lead within a minute of their inquiry boosts conversion rates by 400%? Did you know it can take up to 6 call attempts to contact a lead?
Return on investment = Divide total revenue generated by campaign by amount spent on campaign. This should give you a number greater than 1; otherwise you’re losing more money than you’re spending on your marketing campaign.
The ROI on all marketing campaigns should equal or exceed 10 (assuming you spend 10% of your revenue on marketing) because your marketing creates all revenue.
In a professional climate marked by the proliferation of social media, lawyers can tap a variety of outlets to effectively market themselves and their respective positions on thought leadership within the legal field.
The first step in appropriately branding yourself is setting up an online profile. LawQA, Google+, and YouTube are just a few of the most interactive sites that attorneys can utilize when beginning to establish an online presence. Personalize your profile with a series of professional photos—your target audience, peers, colleagues, and clientele will naturally want to put a face to your name. How many friends do you have on LinkedIn without profile photos?
The written content on your profile should be defined by concision, quality, as a reflection of your professional capabilities, and devoid of grammatical errors. Readability is critical—you want to avoid turning off your viewers with marginalizing jargon. In the age of the smart phone, your content has to be readily accessible and digestible on mobile devices as to maximize your potential readership. You’ll want to ensure that any written content is organized, suitably titled, and conveniently navigable within the confines of your profile.
While a number of lawyers may be prone to outsourcing the production of their profile content to their web marketing firms, you’re the expert in your respective field—and thereby the most viable candidate for producing content that’s relevant, genuine and engaging. For example, understanding exactly what penalties certain charges carry in a particular city or state may impact the way a tourist makes decisions when away from home. Other attorneys in your field of practice can gain insight into your views on a new or revised statute that could affect future clients. Your experience with clients and precise knowledge of your field make your content valuable for anyone who comes across it.
In addition to blog articles, you can bolster your profile with high-quality videos to deliver material to your viewers. Ill-conceived or shoddily-produced clips can hurt your image, so don’t skimp when it comes to developing videos that will also directly reflect your professionalism. For your viewership, one to three minute videos can serve to showcase not only your knowledge on legal expertise, but also provide brief insight into your personality and business acumen.
Videos are just one of the number of visual vehicles that you can implement to communicate with your target audience. Graphs, illustrations, maps, and other graphics are all aesthetic mediums by which you can disseminate information relevant to your area of expertise. Well-constructed visuals have the capacity to both synthesize and complement denser pieces of writing, making your content all the more accessible.
In order to heighten your own visibility, however, you should take the liberty of joining groups in social media that are topical both in the capacity as peers and potential clients. LinkedIn outpaces other sites by providing hundreds of legal groups, open and closed and general to specific, that will give you access to exclusive peer knowledge and an untapped clientele. By maximizing your profile’s exposure among peer and professional circles, your profile will be more likely to get more hits and increase the likelihood of your ideas getting circulated.
Once you’ve developed a profile complete with your photo, well-written blog posts, visuals, and videos, you need to keep in mind one last pointer in order to stay relevant in the saturated social media echo chamber—consistency. Challenge yourself to keep to a regular timeline by employing a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly publishing schedule to keep your readers anticipating your next piece of writing. Avoid sacrificing content quality for the speed at which you publish—your posts should embody the ingenuity to which you hope to influence your readers, not exude the appearance of someone who is just trying to pick up new leads and clients. While the visual appeal and visibility of your profile are instrumental components of social media success, the quality of your content will determine whether you are simply a thought follower or pioneering thought leader.