While the law changes very slowly, practicing law changes quite rapidly. Lawyers used to be able to hang a shingle and the clients would flood in. In 2017, there is a surplus of lawyers, and everyone is trying to make what they consider to be the “proper lawyer’s salary”. The market is hyper-competitive, especially for small firms. Good lawyers and good law firms are quickly separated from the mediocre ones.
Most practicing attorneys have an idea of how to be a good lawyer. It means having a great understanding of the law, ardently defending your client’s position, and winning the most for your client. This is how many lawyers understand what good lawyering is, but if you’re managing your own practice, there’s a lot more that goes into it.
Optimized client Intake, consistent communication, and efficient time use are also signs of being a good attorney, and today’s technology provides excellent resources to improve how your firm operates, and ultimately, how you deliver your services to the client.
In the internet age, consumers are used to getting what they want immediately. The longer they have to wait, the more likely they are going to look somewhere else. Instant gratification is key.
This applies to lawyers as much as any industry. If you miss that initial phone call, it’s more than likely that your potential client will call the next firm on their list. They expect you to be available 24/7, and you’d better believe that other lawyers have 24/7 client intake. Especially if you’re in personal injury (car accidents don’t just happen during business hours), you can’t afford to have client intake only 8-9 hours per day. At the very least, you should optimize your website for quick client intake, but the best firm would have someone on call 24/7. Fortunately, there are a ton of businesses that provide intake call centers for lawyers, and they are surprisingly inexpensive. We’ll cover which companies are our favorites in a future post.
Consistent communication is what separates one-time clients from lifetime ones. This is so important, it’s on Small Firm Legal Marketing’s menu bar. A good lawyer takes care of his clients by keeping them updated throughout the process. Even the smallest personal injury firm can manage hundreds of client cases at once, and it’s an inefficient use of your time to call each client after you work on something minor in their case.
This is why we recommend having excellent legal management software. The best of them allows you to automatically send an email to the client when you’ve done something significant with his case, or it allows the client to check on the progress of his case (including the little details) online at any time. The more your client feels connected and informed with what’s happening in his case, the better it is for you, both because the client is happy and because he won’t be bothering you as much for updates.
For you, one client’s case might be insignificant compared to all of the other work you have to do. But for the client, his case is incredibly important, and he wants his lawyer to have the same level of interest as he does. Keeping him informed of every detail (without any extra effort on your part) will strengthen your relationship and make him more likely to come back the next time he needs a lawyer.
Efficient Time Use
From a client’s perspective, a good lawyer is one who does the most amount of work for the lowest cost. The lawyer, however, is incentivized to maximize his billable hours to get paid more. So why would a lawyer want to reduce the amount of hours he bills on a case?
In short, you don’t have to work less, you just need to work smart.
The number of hours many lawyers bill for answering emails, photocopying, and creating draft documents that they’ve written for other cases is astounding. Many of these processes can be streamlined with a good legal management software, or more importantly, good productivity habits. We’ll talk about some of these habits and how they apply to lawyers in a future post.
It’s always a good idea to learn about all the bells and whistles that your legal management software can do, as well as what new products are on the market to make a lawyer’s life more efficient. We are living in a time where many of your daily tasks can be automated, leaving you to do what matters most: writing, researching, and proofreading.
If you find yourself doing the same tasks repeatedly throughout the day, ask yourself “can these be automated somehow?” In addition to new technologies, there are many existing tips and tricks that exist within Windows and Mac to make you more efficient at your computer. We will go through some of my favorites in the future.
No lawyer has time to stay on top of everything happening in legal technology, but it would be wise to find blogs that you like and trust (like this one) to keep you abreast of new ways you can keep your firm the most efficient. That way you can keep costs low for your client and make your firm more competitive in the market.
Do you have any technological tips or products to recommend for lawyers to improve their practice? Have any of these tips worked for you? Please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments.