How to Be a Resource

Too often, the hourly billing model puts lawyers and staff in their own little world.  Bill hours. Focus on hours.  More hours.  

Even flat and alternative fee billing models can create tunnel vision for law firms which focuses on time, rather than collaboration, efficiency and teamwork.  Strong teams work together.  Building culture and environment where people are grabbing opportunities, rather than running from them, is always a challenge.  Lawyers and staff need an environment where they can be a resource rather than a task slave.

Building an ‘I want to be a resource” as part of the culture for your law firm is simple.  Instead of asking people whether they are too busy to help, make incentives for people to help regardless of how busy they are.  Creative incentives and an upside for people to jump in and 'be a resource' for other staff. We will be discussing the ‘how to’ of creating a culture where people want to be a resource in upcoming posts.  

Stay tuned and post your own ideas and comments below. 

 


Newsletter Unsubscribe Friday

Most people don't really understand the CAN-SPAM Act or spam laws.  As long as the header and other information is not misleading in the email, and you provide for an opt-out, you are likely not in violation of most spam laws.  That's how we all get our emails added to newsletter lists, even though we didn't "opt-in."  

I don't know where all fo the newsletters come from.  But today, I searched through my inbox and unsubscrived to every newsletter that I thought was legitimate, although unwanted. 

Another change we made is to stop copying so many internal attorneys in on the email that goes around for clients.  Now, we only copy the attorneys who are involved in a particular project on particular emails.  This has reduced the amount of total emails to the inbox by approximately 85% in our firm.  While it's great to know everything that's going on in all cases, we easily can access the case management system in order to research a particular file. 

 

 


One Lawyer’s Perspective: Getting organized in the morning

There are so many ways to get organized.  Software technology creates all sorts of lists, tasks, categories, tabs, flags, reminders…and on and on and on.  But sometimes it is easy for a lawyer to get lost in all the various tools which allow for organization.  Picking one tool, adding a process and sticking to it is the key.  I’ve tried lots of different organizational techniques.  With 300+ emails hitting my inbox every day, I am one attorney who sometimes wants to wave my arms in the air and say “give up.”   We use Basecamp as our extranet tool.  For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to recommit to Basecamp and simply load up my global to-do list on all projects, open each project that needs attention today as a new tab, and work through the list.    To the extent I see things in my email or other documents which create task categories or tasks, I am simply going to dictate those into the extranet for handling.  Using Basecamp to store, organize and work the relevant tasks of THE day will be my life for the next week.  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

How do you get organized given a major data overload we all experience? 


Blogging in One Hour for Lawyers by Ernie Svenson

For someone that has been blogging actively since 2004 and driven more web content than probably any lawyer or law firm in the world, I love the following series of posts by Ernie the Attorney where some of the top bloggers on the internet answer 5 questions as to why they blog.

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Stand Up and Be Heard: One Lawyer’s Thoughts on Stand Up Desks

Two years ago, I went from a kneeling chair to stand up desk.  It has literally changed my life.  There is no question that a stand up desk is great for your health, your back, your stamina, your engagement and your overall awareness.  Sure it takes about two weeks to gain the strength to be able to stand comfortably.  Put restaurant mat under your feet and some tennis shoes to provide support is all you need to get to the point where the stand up desk feels great.

We now have three members of our office who are using a stand up desk.  Check out the Anderlyn Desk here for more information. 


New Blog Launched - UnIntellectualProperty.com

My law partner, Brian A. Hall, has launched a new blog: UnIntellectualProperty.com.  This blog highlights instances where an owner attempted to claim exclusive intellectual property rights in a trademark, copyright, or trade secret (and to a lesser extent patents) only to have a court of law or other authority declare no intellectual property right exists.  

This blog not only is informative to Internet and IP lawyers, but it also contains Brian's humor and insights in a way that makes sense to non-lawyers.  Check out one of the unintellectual property posts, and you will see how he is trying to provide a resource for those interested in identifying instances of overzealous IP owners.


Know Your Business and Mind Your Business

It is important to know what kind of law firm you are.  If you are a firm that drives business off your reputation and referrals, then those are the people you need to make sure you are attending to.  If you get your business off the internet, you need to pay attention to your internet web presence and make sure your search engine rankings do not decrease.  If your business model is dependent on getting your initial customers to sign up for a second and third project, then you better make sure you are showing those projects as part of your process. 

Every law firm is different.  You need to fully understand what kind of law firm you are and make sure you are attending to those things that really count. 


Larry Bodine Named Editor-in-Chief of Lawyers.com and Martindale.com

Larry Bodine is now the editor-in-chief of two of the largest and most prestigious services and websites in the world, www.lawyer.com and www.martindale.com.  I’ve known Larry for many years, as we have both been active bloggers for some time.  Lawyers.com has grown tremendously over the years in terms of content and attorney bio databases.  If you’re looking to find a lawyer, lawyers.com is a great place to start. 

Congratulations to Larry, lawyers.com and martindale.com on their efforts moving forward.

Read the full article.


Ernie the Attorney Provides Great Solo and Small Law Firm Tips. Have You Heard of Ruby Receptionist?

Welcome to GAL Radio, brought to you by the Greatest American Lawyer Blog.  Changing the way law is practiced through technology, innovation and creativity.  Turning the business of law on its head and shaking things up to the betterment of clients, lawyers, law firms and society.

Enrico Schaefer:   Welcome to GAL Radio.   Today we are here with Ernie the Attorney.   Ernie is a long-time attorney who practices in a variety of different areas of law.   Recently he has made the full-time commitment to run a CLE company at a website called digitalworkflowcle.com, and he does technology training tips and seminars for lawyers.   Welcome to the show, Ernie.

Ernie Svenson:   It's good to be here, Enrico.  Thanks for having me on.

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Ernie the Attorney Launches New Company Dedicated to Lawyer CLE

Welcome to GAL Radio, brought to you by the Greatest American Lawyer Blog.  Changing the way law is practiced through technology, innovation and creativity.  Turning the business of law on its head and shaking things up to the betterment of clients, lawyers, law firms and society.

Enrico Schaefer:  Welcome to GAL Radio.  My name is Attorney Enrico Schaefer and today we're going to be talking a little bit about CLE.  We're going to be speaking with Ernest Svenson, also known as Ernie the Attorney.  How are you doing today, Ernie?

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Growing Your Law Firm in 2012

Welcome to GAL Radio, brought to you by the Greatest American Lawyer Blog.  Changing the way law is practiced through technology, innovation and creativity.  Turning the business of law on its head and shaking things up to the betterment of clients, lawyers, law firms and society

Welcome to GAL Radio.  My name is Attorney Enrico Schaefer.  I’m an internet and technology lawyer, founding partner of the law firm Traverse Legal.  We have developed a number of innovative ways to provide client service, to bill clients, to provide flat fee defined deliverable projects with a price guarantee, and a variety of other methodologies all designed to improve the business model of law.  We did actually turn the business of law on its head, we shook it up, and we started from scratch doing only those things that made sense from a business point of view.  And let’s face it, law firms and lawyers typically are very poor business people.  Why?  Well, in an hourly business environment, it doesn’t take much creativity or any intelligence to be able to develop a system which spits out hours and bills them back to the client, and, if you’re lucky, that bill gets paid at the end of the month.  That does not require any innovation, creativity or foresight.

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Why Are So Few Managing Partners Great Leaders

I was lucky.  My first law firm was Bowman and Brooke, a niche firm providing automotive product liability defense to the automobile industry.  The founder and managing partner of the firm was Richard Bowman.  By in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, he was one of the most out-of-the-box and innovative managing partners of any hourly billing firm in the world.  Dick Bowman never did anything because it was the way other law firms were doing it.  Bowman and Brooke became an innovator and stood out from the crowd in many ways. 

I have often wondered why so few law firm managing partners are like Dick Bowman.  They seem to inspire nothing except hourly minimums.  They innovate little beyond new billing techniques and policies. 

In the video below, Simon Sinek talks about how great leaders inspire action at a September 2009 TEDX Talk.   He points out that great companies always start with the question "Why?" as they pursue greatness. Think about whether or not you know any managing partners who come to mind as you watch the video…

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How to Meet, Sign Up and Obtain Payment from New Clients in Less Than 60 Minutes

Welcome to GAL Radio.  My name is Attorney Enrico Schaefer, and today we’re going to talk about something that’s really important to lawyers and law firms alike.  How do you sign up your clients? 

Keep in mind that the industrial age model for signing up clients was to get them on the phone or in a conference room, have a lawyer or lawyers sitting there.  Those lawyers would then impress the client that they knew more than the client about some legal issue.  Of course, before the internet, the client’s chance of knowing anything about their legal issue was fairly limited.

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What We Can Learn about Online Reputation Protection from Herman Cain and Joe Paterno

Welcome to GAL Radio.  Today, we’re talking about reputation management in the internet space.  There’s a lot of stuff that goes on on the internet.  There are review sites such as Yelp and Google Places.  Your Google Places’ page has a place for people to post a review of your services.  For lawyers, there is AVVO and a host of other rating services.  One thing that has caught my attention the last couple of days is the reputation issues that are being faced by Herman Cain, who, as we all know, is facing any number of accusers on sexual harassment, and Joe Paterno over at Penn State, as a result of his alleged failure to do more when he became aware of an assistant coach’s alleged abuse of a child in the locker room.  All of this got me thinking about something that we do at our law firm every single day, which is online defamation/ internet defamation claims and defense on behalf of people who are looking at a Google search result that they don’t like, on the plaintiff’s side, or they have been accused of internet defamation in a defamation threat letter from an attorney.

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In the Internet and Technology Age, Isn’t it Time for Lawyers to Stand Up?

Desk_5_200Don’t get me wrong.  I love technology.  And I adore the internet.  As a lawyer specializing in internet law and technology issues, it is hard for me to complain about anything related to technology.  Our law firm thrives on the growth and innovation that is occurring online. 

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When Selecting an Attorney, Does Geography Count Anymore?

I was recently interviewed by The Northern Express Magazine who did an article titled “Internet Law.”  One of the interesting quotes that found its way into the article is as follows:

“It used to be that clients felt secure having an attorney who lived down the block,” Schaefer says. “Now, they feel secure having an attorney who’s written an article about their problem, no matter where he or she is from... The reality is that clients want answers, not lawyer-speak or disclaimers. They want business solutions and to real advice about how to proceed.”

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Growing a Law Firm in Tough Economic Times

Lawyers and law firms are not exempt from the economic downturn.  When the economy is chugging along, companies regularly look to enhance their business model.  Clients have no problem hiring attorneys to do things which are important, but not critical.  While a trademark registration with the USPTO is important, the cost of a lawyer opinion letter on availability, legal fees for trademark registration and a filing fee to the USPTO can run about $1,600.  It is a discretionary spend.  Unless you get sued as a defendant in litigation, you typically have a choice as to whether or not to spend money on legal services. 

In order to overcome the economic disincentives to spending money on important legal items, which are not otherwise critical or mandatory, lawyers need to continue to differentiate their legal service offerings.   There are lots of ways to do this.  Innovative billing techniques, payment schedules, improved customer or client service, transparency or perhaps the most important item, is to make sure that you do not charge the client to learn about their problems.   Lawyers who charge for miscellaneous phone calls to or from their client are creating a huge disincentive for that client to contact the attorney.