The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success

Essential Tips to Power Your Practice
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5 basic steps for building a solid social media brand

January 14, 2012 By: Dan Category: Marketing and Client Development, Technology

There is a great post on the Social Media Examiner blog today. It asks the question: “What message does your brand convey to socially engaged customers?”

I think too many people (and their SEO consultants) try to take the tact that you need to be all things to all people in all channels.  Unless you are a celebrity or politician, that is just not the way to go. By trying to be everything everywhere for everyone you and your message will get lost in the crowd. You want to create a brand and post content that connects with the audience that you want to reach – potential and existing clients.

The post outline 5 basic steps for building a social media brand that will give you a consistent and compelling brand voice. The 5 steps are:

1. Determine your brand personality

2. Identify your true audience

3. Develop a consistent tone

4. Timing is everything

5. Practice makes perfect

Read the SME post for more on what you can do to build a better social media brand in 2012.

Ten Tips to Supercharge Your Online Presence . . .

February 28, 2011 By: Reid Category: Uncategorized

is the title of my article I co-authored with Jim Calloway and Nerino Petro in the February issue of Law Practice Today that was just published last week. Jim, Nerino, and I selected these tips from our presentation 60+ Best Marketing Practices for Lawyers in 60 Minutes.

The tips focus on web-based marketing, including social networking and refurbishing law firm websites. Most of the tips can be implemented quickly and at low-cost.

I believe a quick read of the article will be a worthwhile use of your valuable time.

Boosting Your Productivity in 2011

December 27, 2010 By: Reid Category: Client Service, Firm Management & Operations, Making (more) Money, Marketing and Client Development, Strategy & Planning

With the New Year just around the corner, soon many of us will resolve to improve our law practices in 2011. To help with those resolutions, the ABA Inside Practice newsletter has published Tips for Boosting Productivity at the Office from our book. The list has a dozen practical ways to improve productivity within a law firm.

Best of all, the ABA has specially-priced our book to give this holiday season or to buy for yourself and your staff to start 2011 with a bang!

Order The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success by January 31, 2011 and save 30% by using discount code PEP0EBLG during checkout in the ABA Web Store. Order before December 31 to receive free shipping too!

Great Holiday Offer from the American Bar Association

December 09, 2010 By: Reid Category: Announcements

The ABA is offering a wide selection of our favorite books at 20% off during this holiday season. Plus, all orders receive free shipping through the end of the year.

In our book, we highlight some of the best books for busy lawyers to read to get in-depth knowledge on a topic. Here are some of those favorites now at great deals:

Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour, 3rd Edition

The Lawyer’s Guide to Increasing Revenue

The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Outlook

The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools & Technologies

Through the Client’s Eyes

The Lawyer’s Guide to Strategic Planning

At 20% off these are excellent values; however, Dan and I insisted upon an additional 10% discount off our book this holiday season for our readers, so here you go: Order The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success through the ABA Bookstore and enter promo code PEPØEBLG when checking out. You’ll get 30% off the price of our book plus free shipping too! Mix and match, buy two, three or more. It’s a great deal for you or great gifts for the lawyers in your life.

Making Your Website Stand Out?

December 08, 2010 By: Reid Category: Marketing and Client Development, TechTip

When a local shopping mall decides to renovate, they do the whole mall so that every storefront is refreshed and looks new. However, when that gigantic shopping mall called the Internet starts to look shabby, it is up to the individual business owners to renovate their own store. If not, that store sticks out like a sore thumb.

How is your website looking these days when compared to other providers of legal services? How about to other business on the Internet? If yours is looking shabby, time for a renovation!

That doesn’t necessarily mean throw out the whole website. Refreshing all text, updating your photo, and improving your biographical information to include hyperlinks to on-line articles and reported cases is a good start. However, technology and design have improved so you may want to consider starting from scratch so you can take full advantage of these improvements.

As websites become more of a marketing necessity, we can no longer just “set it and forget it” (to borrow a phrase). Consider making your website renovation a priority in the New Year.

Holiday Gifts for Lawyers

December 06, 2010 By: Reid Category: Announcements

For the past six years, I’ve had the pleasure of publishing a holiday gift guide for lawyers over at ReidMyBlog. The 2010 edition contains some practical gifts as well as some funny ones, but leading the list this year is the Apple iPad. The iPad has gone from being a novelty to being a much sought after tool by busy lawyers. Take a look at this year’s guide, and feel free to share it with your colleagues, family, and friends.

If you don’t find anything that strikes your fancy there, you can always check out my guides from prior years, or check out the gift ideas in the Tech Toys for Lawyers podcast or the technology shopping guides published by the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center–both excellent too!

Success now costs 30% less!

December 02, 2010 By: Reid Category: Announcements

Dan and I are pleased to announce a special promotion with our publisher—the ABA! The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success is now 30% off during the month of December. Coupled with free shipping being offered by the ABA, our book is a better deal than ever! Makes a great gift for your, the lawyer in your life or the lawyers in your office! Just enter promo code PEPØEBLG at checkout to get this great deal!

The top 10 things you can do to avoid a legal malpractice claim

November 30, 2010 By: Dan Category: Client Service, Ethics & Professionalism

In most areas of law practice, lawyer/client communication problems are the number one cause of claims, followed closely by deadline and time management issues. Together they typically account for more than half the malpractice claims LAWPRO sees. Failures to know or apply substantive law typically account for about 10% of claims. See The Biggest Claims Risks article for more detail about the most common malpractice errors.

So, while knowing substantive law is important, from a claims prevention point of view you get more for your risk management efforts by focusing on improving client communications and focusing on getting things done on time. With this in mind, here are my top tips for avoiding a malpractice claim:

  1. Start out on the right foot with a written retainer: The retainer letter or agreement is your terms of engagement. It should clearly identify who the client is and what you are retained to do.
  2. Get the money up front: At the time you are retained, get a retainer that is sufficient to cover all initial work that needs to be done on the matter. Replenish retainer funds before they are exhausted (set up your accounting system to monitor and remind you when the amount in trust is getting low). Stop working on the file if the retainer is not replenished – working on credit greatly increases the likelihood you will not get paid for your work. Of course, you can and should do pro bono work, but only when you choose to do it.
  3. Control client expectations at all times: Clearly and accurately communicate to your clients the available courses of action and possible outcomes; all the implications of any decisions; how long thingswill take; and the expected fees and disbursements.
  4. Document everything (almost): It is just not practical to document everything on everymatter, but you should document asmuch as you can in some contemporaneousmanner. Letters are fine, but e-mails, detailed time entries, andmarginal notes on documents can be equally effective. In particular, you want to record advice or instructions that involve significant issues or outcomes, and major client instructions or decisions. Documenting things is especially important when you are dealing with difficult or emotional clients.Memorialized communications help confirm what was said or done for the client in the event you ever need or want to look back to explain why or what work was done, to justify an account, or to defend yourself on a malpractice claim.
  5. Meet or beat deadlines: Set realistic deadlines when it comes to completing tasks and/or delivering things to clients. Underpromising and over-delivering (i.e. earlier than promised) on work for clients will make them very happy. Don’t leave things to the very last minute as unexpected events beyond your control (blackouts, snowstorms, taxi got lost on way to file documents) will prevent things from happening as required. Giving yourself an extra day or two by setting your deadline before the real deadline can be a lifesaver.
  6. Don’t do any of the things that most annoy clients: These are all the things that would equally annoy you. They include not returning calls or e-mails, long periods of inactivity, surprising a client with bad news or a large account.
  7. Don’t handle a matter with which you are uncomfortable: If you are unsure or hesitant about handling thematter for any reason (e.g. unfamiliar with the area of law, a potential conflict exists, matter for a relative or friend, demanding or difficult client), get appropriate help or refer it to another lawyer.
  8. Don’t wait until after the file is closed to ask how you did: Ask clients for feedback as thematter progresses, atmilestones or when interim accounts are rendered. Talk to major clients at least once a year, and do this off the clock!
  9. What goes around comes around: Your reputationwill precede you. Be civil all of the time, to your client, the counsel and client on the other side, judges and court staff.
  10. Send interim and final reporting letters: They should confirm what work was done, and the successes obtained for the client. For example: For example: Retainer terminated, futures steps, and so on.
  11. Don’t sue for fees: This almost guarantees a counter-claim alleging negligence.
  12. Document everything (almost): Read #4 again – it is the best way to avoid a claim.

Doing all these things will help you avoid the most common malpractice errors and ensure you have happy clients. And remember, happy clients don’t tend to sue their lawyers.

Cross posted on Slaw.ca and Lawyer Success Tips

ABA TECHSHOW Announces 2011 Line-Up

November 08, 2010 By: Reid and Dan Category: Announcements, Events, Technology

The ABA Law Practice Management Section has announced the keynote speaker and educational sessions for ABA TECHSHOW, to be held in Chicago on April 11-13, 2011. Harvard Professor and Creative Commons co-founder, Larry Lessig will be the keynote speaker for the 25th edition of the legal profession’s premier technology conference. The educational sessions will cover a wide range of tech topics including social media, using Macs in a law office, e-discovery, going paperless, safely using “cloud” computing services, remodeling a law firm website, getting the most out of Windows 7, and many more.

There is something for every lawyer, legal administrator, and firm IT staff at this conference. How do we know? Because Dan is a former chair of TECHSHOW, and I am on the planning board for 2011. If you have any questions about the content or value of the show, we’d be happy to share our insight as to how it may be able to help you and your firm.

Being up front and blunt about setting and controlling client expectations

October 08, 2010 By: Dan Category: Client Service

My good friend Jim Calloway, practice management advisor for the Oklahoma State Bar Association, just added a fantastic post on his Law Practice Tips Blog.

Jim’s post, One Firm’s View of Client Expectations is about a South Carolina law firm that has decided to use its web site to make certain their potential clients have clear and realistic expectations about the firm before they even schedule an appointment. Check out the Client Expectations (Realistic or Unrealistic) section of their web page.

This page has statements I have never seen on a law firm’s website before: “We do not work on the weekends and do not provide emergency numbers for the weekends” and “Do not think we are perfect. We make mistakes.” Wow! Have you ever seen anything like this on a law firm website before? You should read the entire expectations page. There is a fair bit of general advice about family law and litigating domestic disputes. This page clearly sets out the rules of engagement for the client if they are to retain the firm to act for them.

In his post Jim says, and I wholeheartedly agree with him, that one of the most critical things lawyers need to do at the start of a matter is discussing client expectations and making sure that new clients have reasonable expectations. This is one of the best things you can do to lessen your exposure to a malpractice claim (there is probably nothing better for lessening your risk of a claim). A client with unrealistic expectations is probably not going to end up as a happy client, no matter how good the results. Lawyers want to achieve good results and also produce satisfied clients who will return for more legal work in the future and perhaps refer other potential clients to the lawyer.

It seems like this firm has made a strategic decision to say “If you are going to a high maintenance client, you’re probably not going to be happy with us and we’re probably not going to be happy with you.” Good on them. They will have happier clients, and they will be happier and less stressed lawyers.

Now, if you aren’t quite ready to put this kind of language on your website, at least put similar statements in your retainer or the initial letter to your client. For a precedent consider using some of the comments from these two documents, a retainer and billing information letter and a matter process and administrative information letter.

Thanks to Jim for bringing this firm’s client expectations page to our attention.

Cross posted on Slaw.ca and the AvoidAClaim blog