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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.

Well, what if in 2012, you were a lawyer that wanted to grow your business and break things up a little bit and push the edges of the envelope.  Here are some things I want to tell you about how we have become so successful by turning the business model of law on its head. 

The first thing I want to talk about is web marketing.  Web marketing is a huge potential draw for you if you are an attorney who specializes in some particular area of law.  If you share your expertise by blogging it or using social media to brand yourself as that area of legal specialization, you are going to attract customers because guess what, like all other consumers who are shopping for skis, hats, boots or whatever, legal consumers – consumers of legal services – also use Google in order to research their problem, so they ask Google: “what do I do if I have been the victim of defamation on the internet?”  “what do I do if I have been pulled over for a drunk driving in Michigan or California?”  They post their question to Google and guess what?  Organic search results are returned of people who have drafted blog posts or articles about those issues.  If you have posted an article about one of these issues, you put yourself in the running to come back on a Google search and allow that client to find you by your specialization.

The second thing I want to talk to is customer relations.  Lawyers are used to bullying their clients. They’re used to providing services that are no different, no better, and no worse than the attorney down the block.  Well, what if you wanted to be special?  What if you wanted to provide the best customer service of any other lawyer in your town or any other lawyer globally practicing within your area of specialization?  There are lots of ways which technology allows us to do better customer service.  Obviously, email allows us to return emails and communications faster.  We have digital dictation which allows us to, in real time, dictate things and have them turned around within minutes, if not hours.  Therefore, technology allows you to do better customer service. 

Why don’t you make your case management system available to your clients online so they can see everything that you are doing?  Basecamphq.com offers such extranet systems.  They are beautiful, simple, cost-effective, and you can allow your clients to see what’s happening in their case day-to-day.  That sense of connection and communication with the clients will create a customer service experience beyond anything they have ever felt before with any lawyer or attorney they have worked with previously, guaranteed.  As part of your customer intake process, what kind of turnaround are you able to achieve?  Can you improve your process of client intake so that their very first experience with you and your law firm is one that impresses them as being responsive and attentive to their needs. 

I want to talk about another area.  Billing.  Clients hate the hourly bill at the end of the month.  Have you considered flat fee billing or value billing as part of your business model?  Many of the things that you do within your area of specialization as a lawyer are things that you do every day.  You know how much time it’s going to take.  You know what it’s going to cost to get through a particular stage of a threat letter or some other commoditizable service that you provide.  Give them a flat fee bid.  Tell them exactly where the project is going to start and where it’s going to end, and allow them to pay up front.  You don’t even have to send a bill at the end of the case. They’ve already paid.  These are types of things that you can do as a lawyer to set yourself apart, to deliver a better customer experience and to grow your legal practice in 2012. 

That’s all for GAL Radio.  We’ll see you next time.


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