Ben Stevens, a family law practitioner in South Carolina who I haveknown for years has authored an interesting post, How Using Latest Technology Can Lower Stress During Your Child Custody Lawsuit, He discusses Our Family Wizard, PowerSchool Parent Portals, and MyChart medical portals, as well as others. Ben has long been an advocate of using the latest technology to better serve clients. Many of these tools allow the client to make contemporaneous time-stamped records of important events.
When we use software, we accept a lot of default settings. So many lawyers are just using whatever default font for email that came with Outlook or was selected by their IT department. Considering how much lawyers use email for important communications today, you should examine your options.
For example, if you are using a 10-point font for email, you are just being difficult to people with vision challenges or small monitors. If your practice focuses on elder law or estate planning, then a 12-point (or greater) font should be the standard for both email and client documents.
Standardizing on a new font for everyone in the law firm to use is actually a simple and quick process after you decide on your new font. Some legal professionals spend a lot of time examining fonts. There is even a book for sale titled Typography for Lawyers. If you aren’t willing to commit to that level of research, here’s a great blog post 10 Best Fonts for Email Design in 2021. This brief post informs you about font types and showcases the pros and cons of 10 fonts, making it simple to make a quick decision on font selection.
It is easy to change the default fonts in Outlook. Microsoft provides the instructions.
- Go to File > Options > Mail > Stationery and Fonts…
- Select the font you want to change
- New mail messages – Sets the default font for original messages you compose.
- Replying or forwarding messages – You can have a different font on messages you’re forwarding or replying to. This setting is mostly for the two check boxes that let you mark your comments with your name (or other text) or with a different color of text.
- Composing and reading plain text messages – Plain text messages will be received by the other person with a standard font, but if you want to use a nicer font when you’re writing the message you can. Just understand that font won’t be sent with the message.
- Select the options that you want to apply to the default font, such as font style and font size.
- Select OK all the way back out to save your changes.
My personal opinion is to use the same font for both new emails and reply/forwards. But I suggest a totally different font for reading and replying to plain text messages. Since this email will be converted to plain text when you hit Send, you are the only one who will see this font. So, make it dramatically different as a reminder that the message will be converted so that fancy fonts and emoticons will not look the same when the recipient opens it.
It’s the time of year for New Year’s resolutions. Well, since this comes out in mid-January, it is the time when many New Year’s resolutions have already been made and broken. But with the new year ahead, it is an appropriate time to reflect on your law firm and the goals you have for the year. So instead of calling your plans for the year resolutions, let’s frame this discussion as goal setting. If you really want to be effective at setting goals, enlist others in your project, and set a review date a few months down the road to see how you’re doing on your plans partway through the year.
Rather than drafting goals for you, we will cover some broad areas so you can create your own law firm’s goals for the new year.
MARKETING AND CLIENT DEVELOPMENT
Marketing and client development, for most law firms, is an ongoing process. It seems like you have to market all the time because the return on lawyer marketing efforts is often more long term than immediate.
We will assume for the purposes of this article that you have the basics down. You have a law firm website that directs others to your physical office, provides the law firm phone number and lists some areas of law of your normal practice. We assume you have claimed the Google My Business profile for your current address, and we assume you have invested time in training your staff how to positively deal with potential new clients who call.
This year, consider adding to your client outreach efforts by selecting a few targets for individual, one-on-one focus. Who is your ideal potential client? Design your marketing efforts to appeal to that client profile. For firms representing primarily individual clients and fewer long-term clients, target your best sources of referrals. Given the last couple of years, you may not have had as much personal contact with some of your good referral sources as you previously would have enjoyed. Invite them to lunch as a thank you, but also ask how you can help them with the clients they send now. Maybe a brochure or something similar would be helpful – perhaps they just need some of your business cards. You never know unless you ask.
Determine your goals for client development for the year. Maybe you’ll have lunch with a referral source every month, or maybe something else entirely works better for your practice. Other items to consider include freshening up your law firm website and posting new content, working on an improved social media strategy, reviewing the thank you letter you send to those who refer cases to the firm or other actions.
Nobody likes to make a mistake. Lawyers, by our nature, are often critical of even the smallest mistake. But sometimes, it is OK to dwell on the past and look at previous shortcomings. With the legal profession, if a mistake is made, we tend to focus on fixing it. When that is done, however, there is more work waiting for you. Look at your lowest moments in the past year and see if some changes should be made to prevent the problem from cropping up in the future. Hopefully, there were few low points.
It takes a bit of courage but asking a sample of your clients (after the representation is concluded) what they thought of your services and where you could have improved will provide you with information that is literally unattainable anywhere else. If you don’t have a mechanism now for obtaining client feedback, you should strongly consider adding that to your list of goals for the year, even if it’s just simply having your staff call 10% of clients a month after their file closes to see if they will agree to a short interview about their experiences as a client. Simply ask a former client what the best and worst things were about the firm’s representation in their matter. Most will appreciate that you asked.
COPING WITH CHANGING TIMES
A profession that is guided by legal precedent from the past has sometimes proven to be challenged by dealing with rapidly changing circumstances in the world today. Some very large law firms have even hired directors of innovation to push their firm forward with needed changes. There is significant agreement that there are generational differences in how individuals respond to certain marketing outreaches.
Precedent and inertia are powerful influences to keep things at the status quo; however, every type of business today, including law firms, is dealing with rapid change. Reflecting on where you want your practice to be at the end of the year and after five years is a good way to prioritize what changes you want to approach first. Many individuals now expect more and different things in client services from every professional service provider. As I’ve mentioned earlier in this space, you may really hate videoconferencing after the last two years, but you may have some clients who would greatly appreciate not having to drive to your office for short meetings or who still have concerns about in-person meetings.
A PRE-YEAR-END CHECKLIST FOR SOLOS AND SMALL FIRMS
Attorney Megan Zavieh shares some ideas in “A Pre-Year-End Checklist for Solos and Small Firms,” posted on the website Attorney at Work. Although the author focuses on limiting ethical risks, her sample list of key business areas and suggestions for reviewing are useful for any type of solo and small law firm business reassessment, from financial planning to improving client services. If you have never done a review of your business operations, Ms. Zavieh’s short outline is an excellent starting place.
ABOUT LAW OFFICE TECHNOLOGY
Proper use of technology can yield great benefits. Your staff has likely communicated to you what hardware should be replaced, but technology is not always a solution to every problem. Many law firms invest in the proper technology but then fail by not providing appropriate training for the staff and lawyers on how to get the most benefit out of the technology.
If everyone in the office is working on old computers with delays, crashes and other problems, the firm clearly needs to consider investing more in its technological tools. Inexpensive computers have about a three-year lifespan before their performance starts diminishing. More expensive computers can go a bit longer. Contact the OBA Management Assistance Program staff for assistance with law office technology information.
IMPROVING THE CLIENT EXPERIENCE
Lawyers focus on the legal issues about their clients’ matters, justifiably so. But as many have observed, what causes clients to return for more legal services or to refer your law firm to their friends and acquaintances is often not so much the result but how the clients feel they were treated during the representation.
Invest some time in examining the client experience you provide and improving it. Do you provide appropriate handouts? Many individuals prefer to watch videos instead of reading text. While I haven’t seen it happen extensively yet, I still believe it will be common in the near future for law firms to have a library of videos recorded by lawyers in the firm. These videos will explain simple, legal concepts about representation and will be hidden behind a firewall and reserved only for the law firm’s clients. A few years ago, that would have cost many thousands of dollars to produce. Now, almost every lawyer carries a mobile phone capable of recording high-quality videos. This does not mean that everyone can record professional-quality videos with their phone. Proper attention to good audio and appropriate lighting is critical. Just remember, there’s no such thing as a great video with the sound so weak you can’t understand it without effort.
We all appreciate what we like when we are receiving professional services from another. Being on time for client appointments, avoiding interruptions during a conference with a client and giving clients plenty of time to ask all their questions are great starting points for good client relations.
Some law firms are providing extras that clients do not expect and therefore greatly appreciate. I once saw a lawyer discuss how he sends boxes of chocolates personalized with his law firm’s branding to new clients. Family lawyers have long provided blank calendars to their clients in high-conflict divorce cases so the client can easily document each problem on the day it occurs. This cuts down on “billable” calls to the law firm about relatively minor items.
You and your clients are the experts on how well your law firm provides legal services. You already have many goals and deadlines related to your current client files, but it’s important to represent yourself and your law firm as well by taking the time to consider what changes and improvements you can make each year.
Now that you have finished reading this column, it is up to you to pick the first items you want to review and improve. For most of us, we have more things that we would like to accomplish than time to accomplish them. But consistently making positive changes on a regular basis will yield great benefits in the future. It’s like the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Mr. Calloway is OBA Management Assistance Program director.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — January, 2022
This story, Steady guidance in changing times: Practice management advisors help lawyers move forward, appeared in the ABA publication Bar Leader. Our community of Practice Management advisors (PMAs) includes so many smart and talented individuals. Marilyn Cavicchia is a great writer and she interviewed several of us for this feature..
I’m biased of course, but the bar associations who provide practice management services to their members are providing important information and critical services to their members. Our office frequently schedules consultations with lawyers who don’t use practice management software and don’t know where to start. I sit through several software demonstrations each month. These are useful, But hearing from a trusted advisor in your state who is not financially tied to any software or service is quite useful, especially for the novice shopper.
The PMA group meets regularly (virtually) to exchange ideas and share information. This is a big assist for new PMA starting their careers. I have met several times with stage bar officials in other states where there is no PMA as they consider how to deliver these services. Sometiems
The Sound of Music is often associated with the holiday season, even though the movie doesn’t contain content we would normally think of as relevant to the holidays. One reason is that in the days before streaming, family-friendly content was often broadcast by networks during this season. Many people have memories of watching the movie during the holidays with family. Julie Andrews played Maria, and her character’s song “My Favorite Things” just seems to fit into the season. For my last Law Practice Tips column of the year, I decided to cover a few of my favorite legal technologies that readers should consider applying to their law practices or their lives.
Maybe you will have some downtime during the remainder of the year to investigate some of these to see if they should become your favorite things as well.
BUILD YOUR BRAND BY UPLOADING A SINGLE PICTURE
One of my favorite things is seeing pictures of OBA members in the OBA directory, which is accessible to OBA members only. It is such a great benefit for Oklahoma lawyers who have similar names, so lawyers looking up a phone number or email can tell by the picture that they have the right person. In addition, if you are going to be meeting up with another lawyer in court for the first time, seeing a picture may be helpful. Law firms spend a lot of money on branding and marketing. You probably already have a professional picture on your computer right now. Log in to MyOKBar and upload your picture to your profile. It is free and should only take a moment. If you are the managing partner of your firm, maybe you should send out something encouraging all the lawyers in your firm to do the same.
QUICK PARTS IN MS WORD AND OUTLOOK
Lawyers should automate routine processes when they can. Quick Parts is the easiest and fastest way to automate placing “prerecorded” blocks of text into Outlook emails and Word documents. For example, if you often close emails with the same paragraph, you can add that to any email with a couple of clicks. Find a sent email that has the paragraph(s) you want to reuse, open a reply to it, highlight the text you want to save and then click Insert, Quick Parts, Save to Selection to Quick Part Gallery, give it a name and click OK.
To insert the new Quick Part into an email, click Insert, Quick Parts, Auto Text and select it from the list of saved Quick Parts. It works the same way as in Word. See my 2009 video Fun with Quick Parts.. Word has been updated a few times since then, but this functions the same, and the video could be inspiration for your staff to start creating Quick Parts.
SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE BY CUSTOMIZING WORD’S QUICK ACCESS TOOLBAR
I recently changed to a new computer. In the hours before I imported my prior Quick Access Toolbar settings, I was reminded just how much time my QAT entries save me every day. They are quick and easy to set up. My most used function is Mail. When I complete a document in Word, clicking on that icon opens a blank email with the document attached. I also recommend installing Save As on the QAT.
“Time-Saving Microsoft Word Customizations and Tools” is a Law Practice Tips column I wrote in 2018 that was named the BlawgWorld Pick of the Week by Technolawyer. It contains detailed instructions, with screen shots, on customizing the QAT and the status bar. Invest a small amount of time doing this customization for Microsoft Word to save yourself time every week afterward.
Droid users can skip this section, but as a longtime iPhone user, one of my very favorite things to use while driving is Apple CarPlay. Various iPhone apps are displayed on the vehicle screen. Text messaging is safer while driving when CarPlay reads the contents of the text messages, asks if you want to reply and lets you dictate your reply – all hands free. The maps display on your vehicle’s dash is bigger and in a better position than using the iPhone navigation without CarPlay. Driving directions can be heard over the car’s speakers.
Like me, many iPhone users only discover Apple CarPlay when they purchase a car that has it preinstalled in the entertainment system. But after using it for a while now, if I bought a car that didn’t have it installed, I’d prioritize switching out the radio or entertainment system for one that included CarPlay.
FUJITSU SCANSNAP SCANNERS
For a very long time now, the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners have been the office standard for the legal profession, in my opinion. These scanners are easy to use and come with great preinstalled software. The ScanSnap line is also great for home use as they do a good job of scanning receipts and other odd-sized pieces of paper. Since these scanners are so durable, I bet many office scanners were retired to someone’s home when a new office scanner was purchased. The model I use, the ScanSnap IX 1500, is no longer available. Most purchasers will choose between the IX 1400 and IX 1600.
“Fujitsu’s ScanSnap iX1400 ($395) sheetfed document scanner is a pared-down sibling to the Editors’ Choice-winning ScanSnap iX1600 ($495),” according to a PC Magazine review.
To save $100, you’ll give up wireless connectivity and an onboard control panel. The iX1400 has no Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or mobile device support; the USB 3.2 interface can only connect to a single desktop or laptop computer. But that’s fine for many applications, such as scanning IDs at your facility’s front desk or documents for your one-person business. If you need to configure and run scans from more than one station, from handheld devices, or from the scanner itself, you should investigate the iX1600. Otherwise, the iX1400 is a fine, user-friendly for small office and home office (SOHO) purposes.
Most lawyers should likely opt to spend the extra $100 for the iX1600 to have the control panel feature.
ONLINE SCHEDULING FOR CLIENT APPOINTMENTS
For lawyers in private practice, serving mostly individual clients with their personal legal matters, it’s time to allow potential clients to schedule an appointment online. Doctors do that. Dentists do that. It’s time for more in the legal profession to provide that service. If you are concerned about screening for subject matter, conflicts or which lawyer in the firm should have the appointment, then at least after they have been vetted give potential clients the option with, “Do you want me to schedule you an appointment with attorney Whiteacre, or would you like me to text you a link so you can schedule it yourself?” Many readers will assume few would take the link option, but some clients will so they can check their schedule or rearrange something on their end. I’d suggest keeping track of those folks and contacting the ones who haven’t scheduled within a few days by phone to see if they need assistance.
I mentioned Fastcase in my September Law Practice Tips column. Since then, some have contacted me and shared that taking the free online training at Fastcase.com really improved their use. I would encourage going to Fastcase.com, registering for the webinar Introduction to Legal Research and downloading a copy of the Fastcase 7 Quick Reference Guide. This legal research tool, provided to OBA members at no expense, has coverage of state and federal courts and statutes. It is better to get the training on the unique ways Fastcase functions. Remember, you log in to use Fastcase on the OBA website; however, to get the training, go to Fastcase.com and select the Support tab. You can always call Fastcase with legal research questions at 1-866-773-2782, but the webinar will answer many of those questions.
OBA SOLO & SMALL FIRM CONFERENCE
Finally, after a long, pandemic-fueled hiatus, the OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference will return next summer, June 23-25, at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant. Save the dates now so you won’t miss out. Conference and hotel reservations will open in the spring.
TECH TOYS AND LAWYER GIFTS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Every year about this time, our Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology podcast features tech toys for the holidays, which includes gift-giving ideas from Sharon Nelson and me. Some of these suggested gifts are quite practical, while others are a bit fanciful. Listen to the podcast for gift ideas. This year, I did double duty on the holiday gift suggestions. Senior Director of the Association of Immigration Lawyers of America’s Practice & Professionalism Center Reid Trautz and I co-authored “Holiday Gifts for Lawyers” for the November/December issue of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice magazine.
That is it for a few of my favorite things. I hope the holiday season brings you some of your favorite things, along with great times with family and friends.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — December, 2021
I had no idea how many law firms answered their phones with “Hello L’office” until I went to work for the OBA. But it’s not limited to Oklahoma. I have received the same greeting calling lawyers’ offices in many states. Obviously, the intended greeting is “Hello Law Office,” but when you are busy and do a task hundreds of times, the unintended contraction of the phrase is understandable, if not acceptable. This month we will discuss the importance of law firm receptionist duties.
The receptionist is a very important position for the firm. Often, these duties are relegated to the least experienced and lowest-paid staff member. In some smaller law firms, the secretaries rotate who answers the phone during the day. Answering the phone is likely not their favorite time of the day, as their other work is slowed. But if we were to properly title this position based on importance to law office operations, we might use titles like “vice president of potential clients’ first impressions” or “first responder for client emergencies.”
Every law firm should have written instructions on how the phones should be answered. Every time the phone rings, it could be a potential new client, and what will their first impression be? Many smaller firms have experimented with automated answering trees, “Press 1 for …,” but others believe that is far too impersonal, and many small firm practice areas, like family law, are quite personal. Everyone answering the law firm phone lines should use a warm and friendly tone when answering the phone. It is very important to smile. Even though the smile cannot be seen over voice-only communication, it impacts one’s vocal tone. Incoming calls should be answered within three rings or less. This involves both training and teamwork to avoid placing someone on hold to answer another line.
Yes, what members of your team say when they answer the phone should be scripted. “Smith and Jones law firm. This is Mary speaking. How may we help you?” is one good example. Many prefer to use “law office” because several lawyers may be sharing office space, phone lines and a receptionist without being in a partnership. I would concur with your professional liability insurance carrier that answering the telephone Smith, Jones and Moore, when there is no law firm but three solo practitioners sharing overhead, could be used as evidence of a partnership, giving rise to joint and several liability for a client with professional negligence claims.
While I concur, I also think “law office” is an uninspiring way to answer the phone; however, the primary problem is weak branding. A client may call the law firm often during the representation. Hearing the firm name repeated increases the chance the client will more easily remember the lawyer if a new legal matter arises years after the representation. So, if some lawyers operating independently have a long-term office sharing agreement, maybe they can try something creative like naming their office building and answering the phone “Main Street Law Center” (I should note, signage referring to the different entities at a location and having every client sign an attorney-client agreement indicating the client is contracting with the named attorney who is not a member of a law partnership are probably stronger evidence items to contest a “partnership by estoppel” claim). If you need to continue answering the phone “law office,” at least make sure everyone answering the phone reads this column’s headline. Focus can help assure the pause between the words.
The real point about “Hello L’office” is to recognize law offices are busy places, and everyone is working quickly to get their work done. You want no one, including the lawyers, to sound rushed when talking with clients or potential clients on the phone. Speak clearly and slowly. The caller cannot see your facial expressions and may draw negative conclusions from a “normal,” fast-paced law office tone. Let me repeat. Smile! It does make a difference.
I believe lawyers should record their own personal voicemail messages. The phone has been answered by reception and transferred to you. It is better for the caller to hear your voice, so it is clear they have reached you. If their cellphone connection is unstable, it is even more important. I appreciate some people hate hearing recordings of their voice, but hopefully, you won’t be listening to it very often.
Assist the receptionist by making certain they know the names of many of your clients and are also alerted when certain new clients have some urgency that may have them calling you frequently. Train the staff to use the client’s name while talking to them on the phone. It personalizes the encounter. This is especially important when disengaging: “Mr. Green, is there anything else I can do for you today?” Some clients will tell your staff to call them by their first name, which I see as another building block in the new relationship.
A PROFESSIONAL ANSWERING SERVICE MAY BE A GREAT INVESTMENT
Many small law firms and solo practitioners now use professional answering services. These can be a great investment if the service frees up your staff for other duties. Most of these services can be scaled to use as much as you need them. Want to close the office every day for lunch? Forward the phones to the service for that time period. Maybe you have a practice that often receives calls in the early evening. The service can help with that.
You may also realize a return on that investment if you provide the service with several dates and times they can schedule a new client appointment for you and what types of matters are appropriate for them to schedule. I recall from private practice being in court all morning and returning calls from potential new clients in the afternoon, only to learn many had already hired a lawyer or at least said they had. “The lawyer is out of the office right now, but I can schedule an appointment for you this week,” is something you want to offer.
Even if you don’t hire an answering service, your staff should have the same instructions. If you are in court Monday morning and someone calls seeking to talk to a lawyer “right now,” your staff should schedule an appointment for that afternoon. Of course, the lawyer will want to review any appointment scheduled this way to screen out obvious conflicts and cancel the appointment if need be.
Ruby (formerly Ruby Receptionists) is an OBA member benefit. You can call 866-611-7829 or visit www.ruby.com/ for more information. OBA members receive a lifetime 6% discount, backed by a 21-day money-back guarantee. Smith AI was a sponsor at our 2019 Solo and Small Firm Conference.
WHAT IS YOUR MARKETING GOAL? PHONE CALLS OR CLIENTS?
Many adults, particularly younger adults, hate talking on the phone when they believe it is avoidable. It is more than a casual belief. It is not that they don’t want to talk to people in your office. But when all they want is to schedule an appointment, why have a conversational dialog of possible times and dates when there are more convenient ways to do that, particularly outside of business hours. Yet, the focus of most lawyer marketing, the “call to action,” is to telephone the law firm to talk to someone, as I have noted in this space before. Website instructions on how to text the firm and online appointment scheduling are not services to consider for the future – they are tools you need today!
ARE YOUR CONVERSATIONS PRIVATE?
Lawyers spend a lot of time talking on the phone – in the office, the car and everywhere else. I cannot think of a busy law practice that doesn’t involve a lot of telephone conversations. But when something is so routine and familiar, it is easy to make mistakes and fail to examine how to improve the process. It is easy to get involved in an important legal discussion on your mobile phone in public and forget others can hear you. If you must take a client phone call in public, move away from others to protect confidentiality.
Some law offices have their waiting area positioned where people can hear some of the staff’s phone conversations. It makes sense as someone is needed to greet those who come in the door and inform the lawyers their appointment has arrived. But sooner or later, without careful training, someone in the waiting room will overhear something they shouldn’t. If your practice is in a smaller community, it will be sooner.
Maybe some Plexiglas sheets can be installed to deaden the sound, or other measures can be taken. It is certainly something to think about when designing a new office floorplan. Perhaps your waiting area needs some background music, or consider removing lobby chairs within earshot of the reception area.
It can be easy to hire someone to answer the phones and not fully train them because you are facing many deadlines. But a poorly trained receptionist can create problems for the law firm in many ways. A well-trained receptionist, however, may engage your client with a positive attitude and perhaps bring in some new clients with offers to assist callers, including scheduling appointments.
Consider using this article and your experience with how your law firm operates to build a simple and short set of instructions for the receptionist position. That way, when any future problem is identified or someone wants to improve the process, you have a written set of instructions to modify. In addition, these instructions will prove invaluable if, due to unexpected absences, you find yourself staffing the receptionist position with a temporary worker. Your vice president of potential clients’ first impressions deserves nothing less.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — November, 2021 — Vol. 92, No. 9
Sharon Nelson and I usually are acquainted with most of our podcast guests. But Dru Armstrong has been the CEO of LawPay.for just over 90 days and it was a pleasure to meet her while we interviewed her for our podcast: A Conversation with LawPay’s CEO – and Introducing ClientCredit. She was fun, engaging and it clearly wasn’t her first rodeo as far being interviewed.
As most lawyers reading this are probably aware, LawPay has been providing payment processing services to the legal profession for a long time and they have many offerings related to lawyers getting paid. Even non-subscribers can get some great forms from LawPay’s Resources Center.
Dru Armstrong covered a lot of subjects, but she was most excited about introducing ClientCredit. Clients who are unable to pay a retainer or a larger bill, will have a quick option to finance the payment, allowing the client to stretch out their payments over time while the lawyers receive their fees now. Certainly after the last year and a half, most lawyers are convinced of the benefits allowing clients to make electronic payments. Listen to Dru discussing this new “buy now, pay later” options and many other aspects of managing digital financial transactions.
With Halloween just ahead, Attorney at Work shared a post today on Lawyer Tech Tips: Things That Go Bump in Legal Tech. Contributors included Jim Calloway, Anne Haag, Tom Lambotte, Catherine Sanders Reach, Sharon Nelson and John Simek, and Ben Schorr.
You will find some good advice wrapped around a few spooky stories. But there are lots of great tips for the legal profession, particularly the attorney working from home, either full time or part-time
How lawyers handle their billing has long been a topic of discussion in our field. Traditionally, it was a simple process. Record your time. Prepare invoices by listing all these billing entries multiplied by the lawyers’ hourly billing rates and adding expenses clients should pay. Send out the billing on the same day every month. Get paid. But it was often not simple and smooth – and it still isn’t today. Recording a lawyer’s time by the six-minute increments is not the way legal billing has always been done.
Most readers know of the challenges found between recording time and final billing. A new associate demonstrates their expertise by doing too much research and writing a lengthy, detailed memo, generating billing that needs to be written down. The partner did a lot of work on a project, but generated few billing records because things were so busy. One partner is out of state and failed to turn in a week’s worth of billing before leaving. And the pre-bills can get stuck in the review process because both emergencies and procrastination can happen.
BILLING HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN RATE TIMES THE HOURS
Read the rest of my October 2021 Law Practices Tips column in the Oklahoma Bar Journal.
Discussing technology competence among lawyers is always an interesting conversation. When we were discussing adopting the technology competence amendment to the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct, one lawyer indicated that he didn’t want to learn how to use Twitter and shouldn’t be forced to by a rule or comment. My unspoken reaction was “You don’t have to learn about Twitter, unless Twitter is involved in one of the matters you are handling and then you may be ethically required to learn about it.” (Which is why almost every family law practitioner now knows how to save Facebook and other social media posts to be used at trial.)
Of course there are some technology skills you are required to have to practice law today, such as making certain client confidences are not placed at risk by improper use of technology tools.
My contribution to the discussion this month is Technology Competence for Every Lawyer. It is not comprehensive, as that would take many more pages and would likely differ based on a lawyer’s type of practice. But I’d like to think it is a good starting place for “every lawyer” who might want to learn more about technology competence. According to Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog, 39 states have now adopted some version of the ethics rule requiring technology competence.