Take stock of your law practice. Where should you be devoting your time? What common tasks drag you down? And most importantly, what can you do to make your law practice more efficient and profitable? From advertising and intake, to billing and feedback there are lots of tools to help you automate and simplify your legal practice.
We were proud to host this event for the Colorado & Denver Bar Associations. MCLE was available for Colorado attorneys only using event ID DBA028.
Build your life, not just your law firm. An attorney and founder of an immigration law firm in Washington, Greg McLawsen has found a way to combine his love of travel with his professional life. Join Greg as he offers his top tips on how to work virtually from anywhere in the world, even with an infant in tow.
Slides for the talk.
Slides for the event are linked below. This talk was originally given in Chicago for Clio's Cloud Con 2016. Slides may be slightly modified prior to the event.
- The Ethics of Outsourcing (downloadable pdf).
- "Tools for Streamlining and Automating your Law Practice."
Video of the live webinar.
Thanks to the Washington State Bar Association's Solo & Small Practice Section - I appreciate having the opportunity to speak today at the annual CLE with legal-tech futurist, and workers comp attorney Jordan Couch. This post houses materials for today's talk. If you have questions for either Jordan or I, feel free to jump into the comments below and we'll get back to you ASAP.
Take stock of your law practice. Where should you be devoting your time? What common tasks drag you down? And most importantly, what can you do to make your law practice more efficient and profitable? Greg will teach you how can understand the systems that run your law firm, and help you identify the issues holding you back. Once you have found your hold-ups, Jordan will give you some tools to solve them. From advertising and intake, to billing and feedback there are lots of tools to help you automate and simplify your legal practice.
- Blog post by Greg: How lawyers can use Agile project management and kanban.
- Website for John Grant, Agile lawyer guru.
- John Grant's Lawyerist podcast.
- The Agile Attorney Slack Group signup page.
- Book by Eric Ries, The Lean Startup.
- Book by Eliyahu Goldratt, The Goal.
- Article by Jordan Couch (downloadable .pdf), Tools for Streamlining and Automating Your Law Practice.
The law is notoriously verbocentric and dense. And from the client’s perspective, legal services are rarely delivered in a user-friendly way. Although design-driven businesses have been shown to outperform their competitors, the legal profession has been slow to adopt good design principles. In this webinar, we’ll explore not only how design can help lawyers differentiate their services, but also how design can make legal work product itself clearer and more effective. Learn what “design thinking” is all about. Hint: it’s not just about graphic design.
Our guest speaker – Alexandra Devendra.
Alexandra Devendra is the founder of Devendra Design, a legal design consultancy. She helps lawyers make their work product more effective using typography and other principles of visual communication design. Alix also consults for legal-tech startups, who value her experience in both law practice and design thinking. She travels internationally to speak and facilitate workshops on legal design.
Alix is also a co-founder of Shape the Law, which organizes unconferences and other innovative programming for attorneys across the country. Its goal is to facilitate authentic, honest conversations about the many challenges facing the legal profession.
- Tip Sheet - Choosing a Font, by Alexandra Devendra (for download).
- More recommendations on font selection.
- Typography for Lawyers.
- Are you solving the right problems?
In this presentation, I talk about the vision behind our law firm, Sound Immigration. We strive to provide world-class service to our clients while allowing our attorneys the freedom to pursue lives of deep personal meaning. For me, that means having the opportunity to explore this big, beautiful world of ours with my family. For other attorneys it might mean having the flexibility to play that extra soccer game with their daughter. A big thank you to my friends at Clio for having me out to Chicago last year to speak at the outstanding Cloud Nine conference. For those who aren't familiar with Clio, it's the leading cloud-based law practice management software. We use Clio here at Sound Immigration to work securely with clients all across the globe.
Today we were joined by Andy Backlund of Emerald City Attorney Network, PLLC. On our webinar, Andy spoke about how law firms can use contract lawyers to build a more profitable practice and one that delivers quicker and better work product to client.
- Mult-state survey on the ethics of outsourcing.
- Articles by Lisa Solomon on the ethics of using contract lawyers: here, here and here.
- An article by Greg McLawsen about the ethics of legal process outsourcing.
Slides from program.
Video of the program.
Do potential clients seem to know of you and your firm before you even have that initial consultation? How often does it happen that the same potential clients have already thoroughly scoured your website before you get to meet with them or talk on the phone? As law firm names slowly drift away from being a series of obscure last names to words that have meaning or have distinctiveness to consumers, it has become more and more important to protect the name of a law firm as any other business would. Just think, what if that same potential client ended up on some other law firm’s website because the name of the other firm was confusingly similar to yours. Perhaps the potential client didn’t show up to the initial consultation because they were put off by the website or found bad reviews for them online, thinking it was you.
Law firms, much like any other business have more “secret sauce” than they let themselves believe. Even if it is just 2 or 3 attorneys or staff working together, if there is a written process or system you’ve honed in on over a year or so – you’ve got trade secret information! Customer/Client lists, marketing plans, engagement letters, templates, etc. these are things that make your business run smooth, would be immediately valuable to your competition and as long as they are protected within your firm, remain valuable trade secrets. Interestingly enough, if you have developed a business plan and process that is novel, you may even seek patent protection over that business method.
This webinar will focus on:
- Primer on IP: Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Trade Secrets.
- IP Spotting: Identifying and Prioritizing IP Opportunities in Your Firm.
- Taking your own Advice: Seek Counsel for Transactional IP Matters.
About out speaker.
J.D. Houvener is the founder of Bold IP. He is a Registered USPTO Patent Attorney who has a strong interest in helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. J.D. leverages his technical background in engineering and experience in the aerospace industry to provide businesses a unique perspective to their patent needs. J.D. works with clients that are serious about investing in their intellectual assets and provides counsel on how to capitalize their patent in the market.
His background in business and experience as an engineer and patent attorney empowers him to clearly communicate to a broad range of clients about their immediate and long-term needs for patenting in order to protect assets, leverage opportunities, and limit liabilities.
J.D.’s passion for business and technology started well before he began his legal career. J.D. worked as a design and systems engineer at Boeing for nearly 10 years. J.D. brings this experience earned at the cutting edge of technology to his clients by recognizing the complexities and subtleties of the problems being solved today.
J.D. is a member of the King County Bar Association and the Washington State Bar Association, where he is an active member in the Intellectual Property Law sections. Outside the office, J.D. offers pro-bono legal services to the Washington CASH organization in South Seattle, who helps those with little to no means with their business startup ideas.
From the small mill-town of Camas, Washington, J.D. hasn’t always lived in the big city. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends, traveling, running, and playing his favorite sports football and basketball.
Video of the webinar.
Thanks to everyone who came out yesterday to hear Jenny Anderson and I speak at Seattle University School of Law. In her portion of the talk on building a law firm, Jenny spoke about the importance of articulating a law firm's internal values. I agree with her 100% on that point. Why worry about articulating a law firm's "values?" Isn't that just a bunch of corporate double-talk garbage? I don't think so.
There are only so many hours in a day. So how do you choose to use those hours? There are only so many resources - capital, attention, energy - at your firm. How are you going to deploy them? Whether articulated or not, decisions at law firms are going to be based on a prioritization of what is important. Forcing yourself to articulate a values statement makes this process intentional. That's a good thing. We want to make deliberate choices about out life's work - right?
Jack Newton, the CEO of the Themis Solutions - which makes law practice management platform Clio - spoke about the importance of value statements at the Cloud Nine conference in Chicago this year. His company, Themis Solutions, went through a multi-month process to distill an articulation of the company's values.
Jack smartly described value statements this way: as a way to resolve decisional disputes within an organization. Let's say you and your partner have a disupute about whether to engage a client. Or you're a solo and deciding whether to volunteer for a bar association project. A values statement can be a tie-breaker to resolve which path you take.
After hearing Jack speak, I was inspired to do the same for Sound Immigration. Unlike Themis Solutions, Sound Immigration isn't a multi-million dollar company. But like Themis, we're very serious about being being a particular type of law firm. Here is our current values statement (or download it here).
Sound Immigration's values.
Client success comes first
- We deliver the single best client experience of any immigration firm in the country.
- Our clients are amazed by their experience with us.
- We are uncompromising experts in our area or law.
- We earn the love and trust of our clients and never take them for granted.
- We reinvent what it means to practice law.
- We never ever accept “the way things are done.”
- We look everywhere – to any field – for ideas on how to improve.
- We constantly learn about our community’s needs and how to better serve them.
We live full lives
- We run a flexible law practice so our team can have maximum freedom for their own pursuits.
- We find value in our legal work and safeguard our freedom to do the other things that make life awesome.
- We promote our team’s physical and personal health.
Producing videos for your law firm might seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. Great videos can vastly increase your website’s search engine ranking and provide an important way to reach new clients. Best of all, relatively few attorneys are doing video (or doing it well) making this a promising way to market your firm. In this webinar we talk to attorney Shreya Ley about how she self-produces high-quality videos with little more than an iPhone and free software. Learn about each step that goes into a great DIY video including:
- Choosing your video capture device.
- Intro to 3-point lighting and good-enough substitutions.
- Getting audio-capture right.
- What is post-production?
- How to clean up your audio.
- Free editing tools.
- Publishing your video online.
- Maximizing your SEO bump.
About our speaker
Shreya Ley is a business owner and self-described "Lawyer-Human." She started her working life as a Chemical Engineer in the Oil & Gas Industry and knows way too much about oil & gas and its impact on the global economy & politics. After law school at Tulane, she has focused on working with inventors, entrepreneurs, “idea people,” and family businesses. As a former punk rock kid, she has always had a desire to not work for “the man,” so after a short stint at Microsoft, she opened LayRoots. She and LayRoots help their clients live an awesome life.
Video of the webinar
We took the extra step of filming how Shreya actually sets up one of her interviews. Big thank-you to fellow creative attorney, Forrest Carlson, for stepping in at the last minute to serve as videographer. Setting up camera and mics from Greg McLawsen on Vimeo.
Equipment Shreya uses
Here's a list of the equipment Shreya uses to film her interview series. Check them out here: Business Owners Drinking with Lawyer-Humans.
For audio, Shreya uses this inexpensive lavalier (a/k/a lapel) microphone.
The traditional way to light portrait-style interviews is with three-point lighting. Shreya has found that going all-out with this set up really isn't necessary. Instead, she uses just one artificial lighting source. Sometimes she finds that even that isn't needed. Here is the inexpensive, portable light that she uses:
She shoots her video on her smartphone. To hold the phone/camera she uses a tripod like this one, with a remote "trigger."
Equipment I use for webinars
I need basically only two pieces if equipment to produce webinars like this one. For a mic, I use the following condenser mic. The mic sits in front of the other speaker and I during filming (i.e., doesn't have to be set up on a fancy boom-mic apparatus). I've been very happy with this guy.
And for our webinar platform, I have really enjoyed AnyMeeting. At $150/month for the plan we use, it's not cheap. But that's also a lot of bang for the buck if you're consistently putting on a couple well-attended webinars a month.
Thanks to the Snohomish County Bar Association for inviting me to speak at today's CLE. Trying something new, I live broadcast a video of the talk on Periscope. You can view that video below, along with the slide deck from today's talk.
Periscope video of today's event
— Greg McLawsen (@mclawsen) September 30, 2016
Slides from today's talk
Thanks to the folks at the Kittitas County Bar Association for having me out to speak today. We'll be covering a potpourri of topics relating to the use of technology in law firms. Below it a list of nine unrelated tech things that I've found helpful for lawyer life. Theses are simple, 101-level items.
1 - Google Shopping (www.google.com/shopping)
Any lawyer who makes technology purchases for her firm should definitely check out Google Shopping. Here's the beauty of Google Shopping when it comes to office technology.
First, find the product you want on Amazon.com or wherever you normally go. Next, you want to find the "Model Item Number."
This step is really critical. When it comes to technology items, there's a big difference between the name you might be familiar with, and the Model Item Number. For the ever-popular ScanSnap, there are many different versions, bundled in different ways. The Model Item Number ensures you're comparing apples to apples for what we'll do next.
Now, go to Google Shopping and just paste the Model Item Number in the search.
Google Shopping now returns a list of all the vendors selling that specific product. This list is sortable by a number of fields. The most helpful field is "total price" which is the "base price" of the item plus fees and shipping charged by the vendor. This way you don't get sucked in by an artificially low product price that masks hidden fees. In my experience, Google does a good job of ferreting out those fees.
Also, note that Google returns a Seller Rating. Pretty much anyone can manage to become a vendor who's results will be listed here, so you need to be careful about who the vendor is. Most credible vendors will have hundreds or thousands of positive ratings. I would recommend scrolling down until you find the first low price asscociated with a credible vendor.
As they say, results vary. Sometimes Google Shopping won't save you much money, but the whole search takes mere seconds so it doesn't hurt to look.
2 - LastPass (www.lastpass.com)
The single biggest problem with password security is this: we tend to use only a couple of passwords across many website and applications. So if someone steals your password to Facebook, she may also have your banking password. Enter LastPass. This brilliant tool allows you to securely save a limitless number of site-specific passwords. LastPass lives on the "cloud," but talks to your web browser, and smartphone and tablet if you want. You tell LastPass the unique password for a particular site, then with two-factor authentication it calls up that password when you want to access the site. LastPass also helps you securely generate impossibly complex passwords - such as zLWflRgiNVzGWRiBu4gLx5C6zLcvRiNmZpRmUgWAAuClG - rather than BobTheDog'82. It something like $2/month this is a killer deal for the security it buys you.
3 - Jing (www.techsmith.com/jing)
This is my favorite (free) tool for screen captures. You may think you don't need to capture images of what's on your screen, but once you start using this you'll find it's often helpful. The yellow Jing bubble sits quietly on the side of your screen. If you need to capture an image you just hit Jing, select the area you want to capture, and save the image to your PC or copy/paste it in an application.
4 - Bitly (www.bitly.com)
Do you hate it when you're reading an article or court opinion, then you see a footnote to a web citation. The citation is 150 characters long, with lots of numbers, "%"s and other muck. You have to be pretty motivated to carefully copy that long string into your email browser. Hence, Bitly exists.
Bitly (and other freebies like TinyURL) shrink those long, unwieldy URLs. All you do is cut/paste your long URL, and bitly spits out a shorter version. That shorter version can be used by anyone, and works the same as the original URL.
I've used Bitly-shortened URLs in plenty of journals and never received any push-back from editors. Likewise, judges have not complained about Bitly URLs in citations in briefs.
5 - Doodle (www.doodle.com)
Nothing makes me cringe like the following email line: "why don't you suggest some times that would work for the conference call?" The scenario could be a panel discussion for a conference, a litigation-related meeting, or just a colleague or client who needs to talk to you. The problem is that it is a terrible, terrible, terrible use of time to email back and forth about scheduling issues. Why? Because the whole thing can be done automatically, without wasting time responding to endless emails. If I list three times I'm available, there's a good chance the other lawyer will come back with a reply that none of the times work, then we're just back at the start.
Basically all professionals should know about Doodle, but the truth is many do not. It allows users for free to circulate calendar polls for meetings. You list the times you are available, then other attendees indicate whether they are available for particular times. There's no need for back-and-forth. You just list your available times, then sit back until everyone responds.
6 - Schedule Once (www.scheduleonce.com)
Now if you want to take this to the next level, use a self-scheduling tool for all your appointments. At our law firm we use Schedule Once. Colleagues or prospective clients can access any attorney's calendar and select a time for a meeting or consultation. The booking screen looks like this:
The user simply selects the service s/he wants, then chooses a time that works best:
Starting with its latest update, Schedule Once now integrates payments via PayPal. That means prospective clients can be required to pay their consult fee at the time they schedule, to avoid the time cost of following up with them before their appointment.
I like to include a link to my Schedule Once page in my email signature line. That way if I'm having an email discussion, and someone wants to set a meeting, I just direct them to the link in my signature block:
Although not free, Schedule Once rates start at only $5/mo (running to $50/mo for full features).
7 - Boomerang (www.boomeranggmail.com)
Boomerang is a Gmail plugin that does two simple things. If you've never used it, these may sound like no big deal. But after trying it you'll wonder how you did without. Here's what it looks like at the bottom of a Gmail composition screen:
- "Boomerang" function. The key feature of Boomerang is that it allows you to return a conversation to your inbox after X period of time. Say you're talking to a prospective client, who says, "I'm too busy now, but follow up with me in November." Rather than opening your calendar, or bothering your assistant, Boomerang let's you send the email chain back to yourself. You just click a button at the bottom of your email and select when you want the email to return to your inbox. I use this function all the time for colleagues who say, "hey, we should plan to have coffee in December." I'll never remember that conversation three months later, but with Boomerang I can send a reminder to myself, and it takes only 2-3 seconds to do so.
- Send later. This feature fights one of the worst problems with email - the email "conversation." What I mean here is a rapid-fire set of back-and-forth emails. With attorneys, these can get to be 20 emails long easily. At the end of all of it, you might just as well have had a phone call. Now part of the problem here is speed. If you respond quickly to two emails in a row, the other person will expect a quick response to the third. With the "send later" feature you can set the expectation that you are not instantly available for email chat. Just click "send later" and select when you want the email to go out. This way you can respond to the email when it's convenient to be working on your inbox, but without encouraging others to expect that you are always available.
8 - LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com)
Almost everyone has heard of LinkedIn, but a surprising number of lawyers lack profiles. LinkedIn is basically the largest social networking site for professionals. But you don't have to care about "networking" online for it to be helpful. Many professionals use LinkedIn as their professional Rolodex. It's also a way to remind yourself about the background of someone you met at the bar meeting a year ago. Or if a new attorney makes contact with you, LinkedIn gives you a much better picture of the attorney than the bar directory.
Frankly, if an attorney doesn't have a LinkedIn profile it's one strike against their professional credibility. It's one thing if the attorney has been practicing for 35 years. But if it's any early or mid-career attorney, lacking a LinkedIn profile shows they aren't interested in being transparent about their professional identity.
9 - Stamps.com
Despite it's horribly ugly, 1990s-throwback user interface, this application is the modern version of the Pitney Bowes stamp machine. At something line $16/month, it allows you to print any form of US postage that you care to, right from your standard office (or personal) printer. You can access the utility through its website or via its ugly desktop application. Ugly or not, if for any reason you're using an old-school postage machine or actual stamps, this would be a huge improvement.
Big thanks to Troy White of Counterpoint Legal for today's talk on Graphic Design for Legal Advocacy. This post contains all of the material from the presentation, including:
- Video of the webinar;
- "Slides" from Troy's talk (you'll see - they're better than slides); and
- Additional material Troy thought the audience might be interested in.
Your law firm already has a website, but it doesn’t perform particularly well, and you would like it to be bringing in more new clients. On top of that, there are dozens of other law firms in your area all advertising the same services on their websites. Some of those websites look like the law firm spent thousands of dollars on web design. How can a small firm even start to compete? Sound familiar? This talk uses an existing website, Washington Wills, as an example to explore how implementing inbound marketing techniques can turn your law firm website into a major source of new clients who come in your door already trusting you.
Most of us are now familiar with “daily deal” websites such as Groupon and Living Social, which sell steeply discounted vouchers for goods and services. While daily deal sites typically hawk treats from cupcakes to spa treatments, professionals – including lawyers – have experimented with offering their services through such sites. Can they be used ethically?
Today's attorneys are exhorted to move beyond the billable hour and embrace flat fee billing. But two Washington attorneys have taken this evolution a big step further. Brett Sullivan and Spencer Stromberg created Lucent Law around the idea that legal services could be reimagined as legal products. In this webinar, Brett discussed the whys and hows that went into creating their online shop of legal products.
Busyness is the plague of Lawyerdom. Yet while lawyers claim busyness as a merit badge, our clients don't care if we're busy - only if we're productive. Fortunately there is an entire professional discipline devoted to the art and science of productivity, and that's the field of project management. This presentation offers suggestions about how lawyers can improve their effectiveness - and reduce the mental clutter of busyness - by borrowing Agile project management systems from the technology sector.