Monday, March 31, 2014

Fixed fees

With the rise of alternative billing models and increasing client concern on fee management and predictability, fixed fees are becoming more popular.

With this rise in popularity comes concerns, however.  We recently came across Five Questions about Fixed Fees You're Afraid to Ask and think it does a nice job breaking down some of the questions and concerns we've heard.

In our opinion, if you're thinking of delving into fixed fees, practice and time-keeping software like Online Legal Software is critical.  Setting fixed fees (and not taking a bath) requires data; data on how much time you can expect to spend on matters (or parts thereof) and time-keeping software puts this data in reach and allows you to make the best possible decisions to give both clients the certainly they want and you the financial logic you want.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Useful links

Came across an article from the Oklahoma Bar Association's Jim Calloway that is very useful in is simplicity: "What Tech Tool Should I Use To Do That?"

Some might scoff at what seems like some pretty basic questions, but the reality is that many attorneys aren't exactly tech gurus and for every person scoffing, there are likely five or ten others who might be learning something.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Firms don't have mobile websites?

We were rather surprised by a survey that showed less than half of AmLaw 200 firms have mobile websites.  Really?  With most modern consumers doing the bulk of their web surfing by mobile, this just seems like wasted opportunity (and further proof to those so inclined to believe that BigLaw is going the way of the dodo).

Perhaps larger institutional firms can afford this oversight, but smaller firms simply cannot if they expect to compete for clients in today's day and age.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Betty Crocker era

Came across a piece recently that made an analogy that we are currently in the "Betty Crocker era" for legal services.

At first, the analogy might seem silly, but upon deeper reflection, it actually is pretty apt.  We see now the introduction of technology and services that, much like ready-mixed cake mixes did in the 50s, had both democratized and cheapened the market - sure, everybody can now do-it, but it's just not going to be as good.

Is this a good or bad thing for legal services?  Honestly, it depends.  To continue the cake analogy - it's fine for the basics - when, say, you just want a slice of angel food on a work night, but for those complex situations or special occasions, maybe not so much.  After all, who would want a Betty Crocker wedding cake?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tips for new BigLaw Associates helpful for any new attorney

We recently came across a list of tips for new BigLaw associates.  It's a good list and equally good for new lawyers at every level (at least the vast majority are).

The one truism of law school is that it just doesn't teach you to be a lawyer (and yes, some schools are making more of an effort to teach practical skills, but by and large, this remains true.)

New attorneys need to recognize this and ensure they make the time to learn the business of law.  No matter where you end up - solo, smalllaw, or biglaw, you will need to understand this if you expect to have a lasting career.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Client feedback

Nice article from Tom Kane on the importance of getting feedback from your clients recently.

It's not uncommon for lawyers, especially those of a more traditional vein, to avoid seeking feedback from their clients - after all, they figure, my clients aren't going to leave me.

The fact is, however, that in today's economy, clients ARE leaving attorneys who can't provide the services they want at a cost they deem appropriate.

Surveying your clients can serve a couple of functions - obviously, the key thing it can do is identify both what you're doing that your clients like and what you need to do better; but just as important, it can serve as a mechanism to cross-sell other services your client may need by both educating them on what you do and learning what they need.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Tech isn't going to save you

We couldn't agree more with an excellent recent article from the Three Geeks and a Law blog discussing the "myth" of disruptive technology.

The lesson for lawyers is clear: that it's not "technology" by itself that can do you in, but how that technology ids adopted and used; firms that out of apathy and tradition try to continue doing things "the old way" can often find that the old ways become obsolete before they know it. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Technology impacts lawyers and their potential clients.

One of the biggest ways new companies and new technologies have changed the relationships lawyers used to have with their clients and potential clients is to eliminate the very need for lawyers.

A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discussed various ways entrepreneurs are avoiding using lawyers for simple business transactions and forms.

While many lawyers disdain apps and sites like LegalZoom as inadequate, the simple reality is that they are eating into a lawyer’s (especially a solo or small firm lawyer) potential client base. 

The problem, just touched on in the article, is a big one – there is a massive number of people who need legal services who lawyers won’t (or can’t) serve.  Part of this is cost – obviously, it costs a lot of money to go to law school, leaving most new lawyers buried in debt, but there’s also, in our opinion, a “snob” factor – that is, the unwillingness of lawyers to embrace the fact that they and their work have become mere commodities.


What do you think?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Write!

Writing articles and blog pieces is something most people struggle with (present company included) – a recent article by Lee Rosen had some good tips that can help you come up with ideas and tips to get you in the good habit of writing articles regularly.

For most people, writing doesn’t come naturally – but as Rosen discusses, with practice and training, you can teach yourself to write daily – or at least almost daily – to get your blog up and running and useful for readers and SEO purposes.

We’ve all seen blogs that have a few postings, and then get abandoned.  The point of blogging, for most people, is to gain exposure and demonstrate that they know what they are talking about.  Obviously, this doesn’t happen if the blog isn’t updated.


So take the tips to heart and get writing!

Monday, March 10, 2014

How do you organize your files?

Sometimes, the simplest changes can have the biggest impacts.  And one of the simplest is to have better organization of you files (both paper and electronic)

This is a real bugaboo for many attorneys – who often waste hours looking for specific documents; who make multiple copies of documents to avoid losing one, and who often drown in reams of paper.

The switch to electronic documents (and “paperless” systems) hasn’t always had the effect on better organization that proponents would have thought.  Now, instead of searching through paper, attorneys search through poorly named files to try to find the right document or form.

Obviously, the best way to solve both these problems is to implement (and, most importantly, follow) systems – a document intake procedure, a set of standard folders (both paper and electronic), and file-naming conventions (for electronic files)


Of course, though, the best system will fail if the attorney and their staff don’t follow it.  Training oneself to abide by systems requires discipline and isn’t always fun (especially for solos who might not enjoy “admin work”) but it’s absolutely necessary and will reward itself many times over.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bill smarter, not harder.

Hourly billing isn’t fun.

But it’s also not going away, at least not completely.  One of the easiest ways attorneys can make it (slightly) less not fun is to record time promptly.

This seems almost counter-intuitive, since the classic way most people avoid things they don’t want to do is to put them off.  But by training yourself to keep track of time little-by-little, you can avoid the soul-crushing pile of time to reconstruct at the end of a week or even month.

Having this pile often results in bills being delayed, which, of course, is bad practice (and often creates receivable problems in its own right).

Recording time in this fashion can be done with a variety of media – paper sheets, excel spreadsheets, word documents – but the easiest way is to use practice management software, like Online Legal Software.  This way, the entry just has to be done once and you can save time and energy re-typing, re-editing, you just have to push a few buttons and get a bill.


Train yourself to record time promptly and you’ll soon find that hourly billing isn’t the demon it once was.