The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success

Essential Tips to Power Your Practice
Subscribe

Archive for the ‘Technology’

The Busy Lawyer’s Top Ten Tips for a Successful 2010

January 01, 2010 By: Reid and Dan Category: Client Service, Coping with E-mail, Ethics & Professionalism, Fraud prevention, Making (more) Money, Marketing and Client Development, Strategy & Planning, Technology, Wellness and balance

The start of a new year is always a time for reflection and renewal-out with the bad and in with the good. In our book, we highlight several resolutions every lawyer should make for a safe and profitable new year. We have updated those resolutions for 2010 to include several more tips specifically to shake off the blues of 2009 and make the coming year your most successful ever!

1. Lawyers are being targeted on bad check frauds in record numbers – be alert and don’t be duped: Fraudsters posing as clients on collection matters, business finance or mortgage loans are targeting lawyers. The ruse is simple: trick lawyers into running counterfeit certified checks or bank drafts through their trust accounts. The fraudster gets legitimate funds and the lawyer is left with a shortfall-often six figures! Take 20 minutes to learn more about these scams and what you need to know to prevent them from happening to you.

2. Spend time learning LinkedIn. Facebook and other social media tools. These social networks are fast emerging as sources of new business. Create a profile, search for connections/friends, and post regularly about your practice and your professional life. If you are familiar with these networks, spend time to learn their power in more detail, or expand to other networks, such a Martindale-Hubbell Connected (Beta) or LegalOnRamp. The December 2009 issue of LAWPRO Magazine is a good social media primer as it has articles on the different social networking tools, how to use them to market yourself, and the dangers you need to be aware of when using them.

3. Book a vacation now! Everyone needs some downtime. Grab your calendar and block off two weeks together or two one week blocks. (Health experts say a 2-week vacation is best.) Get your spouse, partner or significant other to block the same dates off in his or her calendar. Those dates are sacred – don’t book anything in them. If you don’t block them off now and keep them clear you will never get the holiday your mind and body needs.

4. Resolve to improve client service and don’t do any of the eleven things that annoy clients the most: How many can you name? Don’t read the next paragraph – close your eyes and see how many you can come up with.

OK, how did you do? Here’s our list:

* Not returning phone calls.
* Not replying to e-mails.
* Making clients wait in reception.
* Ignoring client/staff incivility.
* Dropping names to impress others.
* Not clarifying for the client.
* Not delivering on promises of performance.
* Not delivering on a promised outcome.
* Not communicating during long periods of inactivity.
* Failing to be prepared.
* Sending a very large bill without warning or explanation.

See an excerpt from our book for more on the 11 biggest client annoyances, and more importantly, what you can to do avoid them. Applying the tips featured in this excerpt will help you have happier clients, and even better, reduce the likelihood you will face discipline complaints and malpractice claims.

5. Recognize the growing need for bi-lingual legal services. Consider language classes at a community college or consider popular software just to start. The world is changing, those that greet the changes will be the most successful.

6. Connect with your peers: Join the ABA Law Practice Management Section or the ABA GPSolo Division to get the best information on developing or fine-tuning your law practice. Also, join your state bar Solo and Small Firm Section to increase your networking opportunities. If your state bar does not have one, start one!

7. Don’t just say you will start a marketing plan this year–do it! For yourself and for you firm. While marketing efforts are always welcome, shotgun efforts really are inefficient. We recommend the practical and realistic plan outlined in our book as a great place to start. To keep your marketing momentum, make appointments for yourself each week throughout the year–written on your calendar now–to implement all parts of your plan.

8. Evaluate your fee structure and retainer requirements. Are you asking clients to pay for value or results? Is your message “We’ll do your last will and testament, trust, power of attorney, and medical directive for X dollars, rather than “We can protect you, your family and estate from government intervention, taxes, and most family squabbles for X dollars? Turning the discussion from “price for paper” into a discussion of “price for value” is more effective in convincing clients to hire you. Analyze, revise, and practice incorporating this new approach into your discussions with clients.

9. What is the one thing you would like to change about yourself? We all have our personal shortcomings and foibles. Some of them are small, some of them are big. Pick one things that you would like to change or improve in your personal or professional life. Write it down on a piece of paper – and then write out the steps you need to take to make the changes you want to make. This is your path to make one significant change to improve yourself over the next twelve months.

10. Buy our book – The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice. If you like the short tips format and content of the above tips, you will love our book. It contains more of the same – almost 75 collections of ten or so tips on client service, marketing, strategic planning, business process improvement, technology-all targeted to help busy lawyers be even more successful. We guarantee it will contain at least one tip that earns back your purchase price.

We wish you a happy and successful 2010!

Dan and Reid

The Digital Edge Podcast Features The Lawyer’s Guide to Success

May 20, 2009 By: Reid Category: Announcements, Technology

Dan and I are pleased to be guests of Jim Calloway and Sharon Nelson on the May edition of their monthly podcast, The Digital Edge. Jim and Sharon are prolific bloggers and authors, so where they find the time to produce a first-rate monthly podcast I do not know. Dan and I have known Sharon and Jim for years, and have collaborated on numerous tips presentations throughout the US and Canada, so we had fun recording the podcast.

We invite you to listen to the interview here or, better yet, subscribe to the monthly podcast and listen to past editions of the podcast too.

The Digital Edge is featured in each issue of the free webzine, Law Practice Today. If you are not a subscriber, you should take a minute to subscribe today. Each month it features valuable articles and information of interest to lawyers in all types of practice settings–from true solos to large firm partners.

Don’t Miss An Important Message Or Bulletin: Please Whitelist Your Bar Association, Insurer (And Anyone Else Important!)

May 12, 2009 By: Dan Category: Coping with E-mail, Ethics & Professionalism, Technology

Last night I posted on the SLAW.CA blog about a fraud warning my employer (malpractice carrier LAWPRO) sent to the 20,000 lawyers in private practice in Ontario. There is an important lesson to be learned from our e-blast.

We have received more than a dozen calls and e-mails from lawyers further to the fraud warning blast we sent out Monday afternoon this week. Thankfully, that e-mail blast prevented most of these lawyers from being victims of a bad cheque fraud.

However, two of the lawyers who called didn’t get our message because their Spam filter caught our e-blast. One happened to call us for advice on how to handle a suspicious transaction further to articles he had read in past issues of LAWPRO Magazine. The other just happened come across our message when he checked his Spam filter this afternoon.

The lesson: Spam filters aren’t perfect. They sometimes catch legitimate messages – these are called false positives. Please whitelist your Law Society, malpractice carrier and anyone else that you really need or want to get messages from. And on a regular basis please check your Spam filter for messages that should not have been caught by it. It could save you from a malpractice claim.

I did mention this point at the end of my SLAW post last night, but felt that it warranted a post of its own here to make sure people get this important message. No doubt, LAWPRO will get calls next week from lawyers that were victims of this fraud because they didn’t get our e-blast warning messages.

Twitter: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (AKA To Tweet, or not to Tweet)

April 11, 2009 By: Dan Category: Technology

Twitter was a certainly a hot topic at ABA TECHSHOW last week. Loads of active Twitterers were tweeting away there, and many more attendees where trying to learn more about it. Are you still trying to figure out what Twitter is, and more importantly, what it might do for you? My good friend Jim Calloway, the Practice Management Advisor at the Oklahoma Bar Association, has a special knack for explaining technology in a practical and very understandable way. To learn more about Twitter read this great article he posted on the OBA site earlier this week: Twitter: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Tags:

My Favorite Tips from ABA TECHSHOW 2009

April 08, 2009 By: Reid Category: Firm Management & Operations, Technology

The 2009 edition of the ABA TECHSHOW wrapped on Saturday, leaving attendees full of great information to bring back to their firms to organize, synthesize, and implement.  It’s that last step that is often so difficult. That’s why Dan and I like the tips format so much—the brevity of a tip can help streamline the implementation of new ideas within a law firm.

In fact, Dan and I were invited to present the TECHSHOW session, 60 Tips in 60 Minutes–a perennial favorite. Joined by Nancy Duhon and Ben Schorr, we launched 60 practical tips at our audience of 350+ lawyers in just over an hour. Many of the tips focused on new productivity tricks or helpful websites.  Here are a few of my favorites:

On-line Legal Dictionaries: As we do more and more of our work digitally, online and almost joined at the fingertips to our keyboards, having a digital searchable legal dictionary can be mighty handy. Come on, really, when was the last time you arm curled that six pound Black’s Law Dictionary to look up a word, or obscure Latin abbreviation? Two of the best online resources specifically for lawyers are: Legal-dictionary.org and its sister site Legal-abbreviations.org They both also have links to medical dictionaries and abbreviations for those who need those as well. (Nancy)

Be the Evening News: YouTube and video technology will have the same effect on television news as the Internet has had on newspapers. No longer will visual content be in the hands of a few producers and purveyors. Law firms can create positive messages to influence debate, inform clients of important regulatory and legal developments, and extend firm marketing activities beyond the written word and static page. Current amateur efforts on YouTube will soon be replaced by inexpensive, but quality productions. Add these new efforts to your firm marketing and client development plans. (Reid)

GreenPrint and Fine Print: These small applications act as an intermediary between your print job and your printer driver. Once you click the print button and choose one of these drivers, you will get a preview of your print job and can determine whether you really need all those pages and graphics. You can also change your mind and produce a PDF instead. Wonderful way to set yourself and your staff thinking twice about continuing to produce paper, or at least producing less of it. (Nancy)

Banish the New E-mail Pop-up: Most people computer’s present that little “new message” pop-up window come up every single time an e-mail message arrives in their Inbox. Stop the insanity – it’s just a huge interruption. You know, the beep goes off, and you get bounced out of whatever you were working in, and your train of thought gets interrupted. Turn off that notification window!! Go with just the beep if you have to. And, if you don’t need to know the instant when something arrives in your inbox (and most of the time you don’t), consider turning off the beep too. You’re going to check your Inbox reasonably regularly anyway. (Dan)

It’s All “About Me”: Do you have a website or a blog with an “About Me” or biography page? How effective is your profile on that page? If it is just a few boring lines and a picture, why not take time to make it really work for you? Make it pop! Add links to your digital life and digital “ink”. Let viewers of your page connect to you via links to your social networking pages, as well as links to articles, case decisions, interviews, awards, pro bono work, and other information about you on-line. (Reid)

Excel: Fill Handle: Ever need to take a series of numbers, dates, months or letters and extend them down a column or across a row in Excel? Need to fill in the names of the months across a report for instance but get bored with typing them before you even get to May? Have a handy formula in a cell that you
want to copy down the next 250 rows but don’t want to have to copy/paste that many times? The Fill Handle is for you! When you select one or more cells in Excel you’ll see that the bottom right corner of the selection looks like a black box. Hover your mouse over that and your cursor turns to a black plus-sign. That’s the Fill Handle. Give Excel enough cells to establish the pattern and the Fill Handle can do the work for you. Just type “Jan” in a cell, then drag the Fill Handle across to the right and Excel magically populates the succeeding cells with the rest of the months. Type “1”, “2”, “3” in sequential rows, highlight all three of those cells, then drag the Fill Handle down and it will continue the series as far as you drag. (Ben)

Blackberry Typing Tricks: You want to make the most out of that microscopic keyboard, right? It works reasonably well once you get used to it, but here are some cool typing tricks you might not know about that will save you some time and effort in formatting and the like:
* To type a capital letter, press and hold the appropriate letter key.
* To type an accented letter, hold the letter key down, roll the trackball to view the available accented letters, and release to insert the one you want.
* To turn on Number Lock, hold the Alt key and press the left Shift key.
* To turn on Caps Lock, hold the Alt key and press the right Shift key.
* Pressing either Shift key will turn Number or Caps Lock off.
* To insert a period, press the Space key twice, and you’ll find that the next letter will automatically be capitalized, too.
* To insert a period or at sign (@) into an e-mail address, just press Space.
* To type a symbol, press the Symbol key and type the letter that appears below the symbol on your screen (read this one twice so you don’t miss the point—i.e., you don’t have to scroll and click on the symbols you want, you just use the letters instead). (Dan)

AutoHotKey: AutoHotKey is a free portable scripting language. That sounds intimidating but it’s not. With just a little effort you can create simple scripts that you can use on any Windows PC to automate launching programs, executing repetitive tasks, inserting specific bits of text. Create a signature block or disclaimer in AutoHotKey and you can immediately insert it into any program or website with just a couple of key presses or even a mouse gesture.
Best of all, it’s free at http://www.autohotkey.com along with free sample scripts and tools that you can look at. (Ben)

Set Wider Scroll Bars: We all use scroll bars for moving around documents and Web pages, and making the bars just a bit wider will make them much easier to click on. Under the Item drop-down list, select Scrollbar. Next, use the up or down arrows next to Size to find the width you want. The default is 16. I have mine set to 21. Again, watch your changes in the Preview pane, and when you like what you see, click on Okay to keep the change. Note that making your scroll bars wider will also make the up and down arrows on your scroll bars larger, which will make them easier to click on as well. Changing the size of the caption buttons and scroll bars will give you the most bang for your buck. But look through the other things listed in the Item drop-down list. Alternatively, you can click on the various elements in the Preview box, and then make configurations changes to them. (Dan)

And then there’s the famous 60 Websites in 60 Minutes session at TECHSHOW too. We’ve cover our favorites there in another post later this week!