For an attorney like you, every minute counts when it comes to productivity. You don’t have time to spare right now, and what you really need is a way to add a few extra hours to the day. However, until the space-time continuum rearranges itself for you, the next best option is minimizing inefficiencies in your current schedule.
The tools below are all used by actual law firms who are members and followers of Great Legal Marketing, so I know they work. Pick the one that solves the biggest problem facing you and make it standard procedure in your practice.
1: Google Docs, Office 365, or Other Cloud-Based Storage and File Creation
There are a lot of documents you need to manage in your practice, from complex client files to simple forms and letters. You may have an office procedures manual (and if you don’t, it ought to be on your to-do list for the next 90 days). There are notes taken during client intake, in-office appointments, and all sorts of other situations.
Easy access to all that information is important. You should be able to open a document anywhere, update it, and have the new version ready to go on your office computer. Ideally, team members can update or collaborate on documents with each other, whether than is a legal brief worked on by an attorney and a paralegal or shared notes from a new client meeting. Older software can’t keep up with the demands of the modern office, leaving behind a trail of lost productivity.
Fortunately, even the American Bar Association understands the importance of productive technology. In December 2011, Law Practice Today, a monthly webzine from the ABA, discussed the use of Google’s suite of productivity applications in a modern law practice.
It takes little to no time to set up a Google or Office 365 account. Each one gives you access to cloud-based document creation and storage at minimal cost.
Pros and Cons for Google Docs: This system quickly set the standard for easy online document collaboration. I use it regularly to work with team members when planning projects. Multiple team members can work on the same document at the same time, so you could have two or three people in a meeting all taking notes together in the same place, so you have a master document for future reference. It’s also integrated with Gmail, the largest email program in the world. Sharing documents with team members and/or clients is easy to do from Google Drive. And Google takes security seriously, so there is little risk to using their platform. (Just make sure you create strong passwords.) The bad part about Google Docs is its prioritization of Google products. I’ve run into a couple of instances when the integrations with other programs I use didn’t work as needed. I figured out workarounds, but I’m deeply mired in tech. You may not have the time or interest in trying to jury-rig software platforms to do your bidding.
Pros and Cons for Office 365: You are already familiar with the programs, so you don’t need to learn any new interfaces. It does a lot of what Google Docs does, including online storage through OneDrive and simultaneous document collaboration. Frankly, the biggest drawback here is that Microsoft was slower to the game, and it is still catching up in some places. It also doesn’t place nice with many other software platforms, meaning you can’t attach the service to other services you may be using. But Microsoft Word remains the standard-bearer for documents, so there are limited complications in creating and sending documents, which is a huge plus for many law firms.
2: Marketing Database and Email Platform
As an entrepreneurial attorney, you know that one of your most important tasks is making sure you’re getting clients in the door. (The number one reason attorneys join Great Legal Marketing is to get help with their marketing, including using our proven templates to get more referrals from other attorneys, building online client attraction tools, and improving online visibility for the firm.)
Many of your potential clients are accustomed to email communications from the businesses with which they interact. You can and should take advantage of this behavior by doing your own email marketing! However, you don’t want to spend your days sending out individual emails on your own following up with every potential client. Instead, you need a marketing database and email platform that handles the process automatically.
Services like MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Infusionsoft are great databases capable of all your email marketing needs. Our law firm, BenGlassLaw, uses Infusionsoft to power its marketing. Whenever a potential client makes contact with us, they are put in what is called a “follow-up sequence” that sends them emails about their legal issue. It also triggers notifications for team members telling them when to mail information and/or make a phone call to the potential client.
The best part of using a database to track your leads (aka potential clients) is that you learn what the lifecycle is of a lead. We’ve found it takes 6-12 months for over half of our personal injury cases to go from first contact to signed client. By following up with leads over a long period of time, we build a steady pipeline of new cases that most other law firms miss out on.
3: Uninterrupted Stretches of Focus and Work
This isn’t a fancy tool or software program, but it’s more valuable than any Silicon Valley productivity solution.
Here is a sampling of productivity statistics you should know, drawn from an Internet Marketing Association article by Petra Neiger:
- People spend an average of 11 minutes on a project before they’re interrupted. It takes them on average 25 minutes to get back to the point they were at before a distraction, according to a UC Irvine study.
- Even after a 2.8-second interruption, subjects in a study doubled their error rates. And their error rates tripled after a 4 and a half-second distraction, says the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
- Workers who are frequently interrupted reported 9% higher exhaustion rates, almost as high as the 12% increase in exhaustion due to work overload, states the International Journal of Stress Management.
- The same publication attributed a 4% increase in physical health problems, such as migraines or back pain, caused by interruptions.
And those statistics focus on employees. You own the practice, meaning there are greater repercussions for lost productivity - your time is simply much more valuable than any other employee’s time!
It is up to you to lay down the law (yes, pun intended) and set restrictions on your time. Block off time on a calendar that your employees can see. Tell them that if you have something specific scheduled, you are not to be interrupted unless the building is burning down. There isn’t any problem your employees will face during the hour or two you are focusing on client files that can’t wait until you are done. (And if your employees can’t solve basic issues, it might be time to find new employees!)
Militant guarding of your time is the best tool in your productivity arsenal. It’s not easy to do at first. You probably believe you are the best person to solve any problem. It’s time to start trusting your team and delegating some decision-making so you can focus on the most valuable tasks - the ones that require your personal effort.
4: Online Document Signing
Many members of Great Legal Marketing report tremendous success using online document signing services such as DocuSign. Some law firms will call up potential clients and email them documents to sign while on the phone with them. It lowers the barrier for people to get signed documents returned to your firm, meaning you get clients who sign with you faster. They don’t need to hand-sign the papers and fax them or mail them to you.
In today’s email-oriented culture, it’s a courtesy to offer online signing. Many landlords use it for rental agreements, and it’s growing in popularity in all sorts of industries and professions.
Reducing the number of files you’re waiting to return with signatures is a major plus for your practice. Basic authorization papers no longer take more than a week to get back. It can be done in 10 minutes or less. Your staff won’t spend as much time reminding people about faxing or mailing documents - and that means fewer excuses they give to about why a client just won’t get something done. Your timeline on cases and files shortens, and that means better cash flow for your practice.
Basically, online document signing is a win-win for your law firm and your clients!
Scaling Up to Increase Productivity…
Okay, this is a “bonus” item for you. The absolute best way to be a more productive law practice is by having the right team members in the right places. And, ideally, an appropriate number of team members. Unfortunately, you may find yourself between a rock and a hard place here. You want to hire someone new to help out, but you also want to maintain the current amount of money you bring home without stretching the practice’s cash too thin.
What’s the real solution?
It’s actually pretty simple: more clients at a higher value.
This is the basic premise Great Legal Marketing helps you achieve. And it doesn’t matter what practice area you are in right now. Even fixed fee practice areas like social security disability can benefit by having more valuable clients - in their case, it usually means clients who are far more likely to qualify for disability, making your job easier and the success rate higher.
If you want more clients who are higher value to your practice, it’s time to see exactly how to achieve that goal. Go ahead and request your free information kit from Great Legal Marketing. We’ll mail it to you right away, so you can see how to break through whatever obstacles are holding you back from building a practice that gives you freedom, instead of you giving your freedom to the practice.