Suggestions for Operating and Marketing A Small Firm Efficiently and on a Budget
Except for a four year stint in a firm called the U.S. Air Force JAG Corp, I have been in firms of no more than 3 lawyers for 39 years.
As a sole practitioner, I have 3-5 assistants . When a valued employee decided to become a stay at home wife and mother, I was pleased that we were able to stay just as efficient with four as we had with five.
Now that my family law paralegal extraordinaire became Upshur County Assistant Administrator, it isn’t easy for us to be down to three, but I am hoping our technology will allow us to do that.
My goal today is to give you some really practical ideas, not all of which are law office technology, but not to overwhelm you as I feel I did to the Kanawha County Bar Association two years ago.
Feel free to write me for a link to my Dropbox shared folder with that PowerPoint presentation.
A word of explanation about that blog. Five years ago, I began to put into writing the things I had learned in 37 years of legal practice. I decided to share what they call “green” or rich content with potential clients, colleagues, judges, and even law school and college professors. I decided that I could contribute, and that it was the way I wanted to shape my “brand” and professional image.
I have also written on low tech office management techniques: http://hunterlawfirm.net/low-tech-fundamentals-of-running-a-law-office/
I want to stress something: I could stop now and simply go over with you the contents of this article. If you are 30 years old, I urge you to read it. It is how I do things, day after day, year after year. And it is NOT “rocket science”.
You know what you are interested in or want to improve. I will provide resources for office management, office technology, time management, case preparation, document assembly, client relations, and branding or marketing, and the use of social media.
Let me remind you of some essentials that have been ably covered nationally known speakers over the last five years;
- You must have a computer newer than Windows XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft.
- You need a horizontal screen and a portrait screen.
- You must be saving data off site. And, assuming you still use paper, don’t save paper closed files. Save electronically, and return to client or shred.
- You need a Fujitsu Scansnap sheet-feed scanner; (send to Scansnap, Evernote, e-mail, etc.)
- You need to have good mobile equipment, iPhone and iPad preferably, and the ability to dictate and send memos and orders back to the office.
- You must be able to save, search, and manipulate data, text, photos, videos, audio.
- See my “Caveats” article. You must know what “The Cloud” is, and you must have a strategy. If your office burns down tomorrow, can you open two days later in a new location? Are you saving paper client files? Shame! 🙁
WV Legal Sites
I insert here three sites from the WV Legal Community, two of which I had formerly overlooked:
Young Lawyers: http://www.wvyounglawyers.com/
Legal Aid of WV: http://www.lawv.net/
WV State Bar and related Links: http://www.wvbar.org/
If you like my website, I have included in my materials my very bright and very responsive programmer, Dan Caryll’s, website URL and screenshot in my materials for tomorrow’s session.
My Firm Website: Committed, Competent, Compassionate: www.hunterlawfirm.net
My blog, now a combination of what used to be two blogs, is searchable –
“Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer”, and “WV Lawyer – Tips and Techniques”
For example, you will get 73 “hits” by entering the search term “mediation”, and yes I voice strong opinions and the bases for my opinions on civil and family mediation. http://hunterlawfirm.net/?s=Mediation
My e-book is a downloadable PDF file. It has a table of contents, 270 articles, and 800 pages. It has posts on office management, law office technology, personal injury, mediation, insurance law, family law, civil litigation, my ideas of new products we can sell, and my larger views of the world. http://hunterlawfirm.net/book.pdf
I am going to tell you exactly what my sources say you need to create a formidable web presence with a combination of a website, paid services, print media, and social media.
We recently added a button to my website linked to “Our Reviews” and are working hard to demote “Jaynajane’s” assessment of me: “Incompetent at Best – This guy is an overpriced arrogant jerk.” I will discussing how to establish your brand and promote and protect your reputation online.
My articles reflect my personality and my interests.
I try to provide value laced with humor.
“Buy a Million Dollar Umbrella”: provides insights into avoiding financial ruin and filling a critical gap in your insurances. This one I got from my friend and expert Vince King, whose memorandum and research helped me find $ 1.2 millon in UIM coverage. http://hunterlawfirm.net/buy-a-1000000-umbrella/
Regarding gaps in coverages. Do not learn too late that your liability claim from your devastating car wreck is not covered under your underinsured, UIM, coverage! It is stunning to think there are lawyers in WV driving around with personal umbrellas that do not provide UIM coverage. Check with your carrier!
Pathagoras Segment – Roy Lazris
Today I will share 15 minutes of my time with Roy Lazris, a Va. lawyer, and also former USAF JAG, who invented this remarkable document assembly application, Pathagoras. www.pathagoras.com
I have been using Pathagoras for several years in order to accelerate the production of accurate documents. Pathagoras scans the variable fields from a document template, name, date, address, etc., and creates a questionnaire for the interviewer to fill out during the interview process.
In fairness, Baron Henley, who is certified in the Nexis/Lexis Application HotDocs, can make that application perform wonders, but I have found Roy to be generous with his time, and perhaps be too generous with his support and tutorial materials. I did not find that to be the case with HotDocs, who, last time I checked, charged $800 for an all-day seminar in Ohio. This just happens to be the program I use. I think it is ideal, not perfect, for small firms, especially family law, particularly for cost and for the 90 day use of a full featured version. Purchasers get a one hour online training session with Roy. My ulterior motive, if I have one, is to get a core of WV users, particularly in family law, so we can share templates, and modify and improve them, to the benefit of everyone including our clients.
Here is a sample questionnaire:
These are some of my most useful articles I have written:
This recent post is a two page letter to my clients. They are required to read it and sign. It describes my way of doing things, my ethical standards, and stupid things they must avoid.
This is a proposal I wrote, following the last WV State Bar Meeting, for someone, I proposed the Young Lawyers’ Section, to do the appropriate homework and locate vendors for a turnkey technology system for small firms
The more I can empower my clients to gather and organize facts on their own, the more time I can save and them. I will try to talk more about it later, but I strongly urge you to read “Digging down…”. It is a three legged stool: First – “puzzle pieces, the people, documents, and other things that form the puzzle picture; Second – Worries, goals, questions, gripes; (top ten lists), and Third – The chronology, often put into a timeline exhibit.
That’s the secret for small firm lawyer to prepare for that dispute or civil trial or mediation.
This is a rather robust summary of my efforts to market and express myself, and screenshots of various websites, reviews, and information resources published in Dec. 2014, and my first article on my efforts to obtain good reviews, published in August 2014. Again, I could just click to this site and use it as a course outline.
The next article is an abrupt swerve. It is a summary of my experiences during the passage of WV Code 51-2A-2a. “Family court jurisdiction to restrict contact between parties”, just as our Supreme Court was emasculating Family Courts from restraining all bad behavior except domestic violence. It has attracted very little attention, but I think it gives Courts an essential tool to moderate behavior that hurts parties, families, and children. It passed on the very day that the Supreme Court was taking to task small firm lawyer Jerry Blair of Clarksburg. I agreed with Mr. Blair. The Court did not.
The Court in Miller v. Riffle emasculated our Family Courts, and #51-2A-2a, un-emasculated them.
I have been polishing a product to help the low income client, and people who need some essential legal services but do not know how to go about finding them, or perhaps do not know they need them. A small flat fee covers a variety of services:
Managing tasks and information are a constant challenge. I think the key for the future is ease of use, over multiple platforms. That means your tasks, calendar, contacts, and e-mail. I talk here about Wunderlist, Evernote, and the on-line training services www.Lynda.com and www.Udemy.com. David Duffield of Duffield, Lovejoy and Stemple in Huntington presented an application similar to Wunderlist named “Todoist”. Pick the one that suits you and “go for it”!
These are practical tips and solutions to several daily challenges for lawyers, making sure you can prove mail was received, dealing with non-communicative lawyers and parties, helping process servers find the defendant, figuring out when your client is lying, figuring how to prioritize your tasks, and several more. My pick of 11 important sites include lawyers with great “links” and government sites.
- These are some family law posts, on lawyers who are not candid, four articles on alimony, WV’s law of equitable distribution, “divorce 101”, “the nuts and bolts of family court”, and keeping in mind the sometimes hidden interests impacting settlement discussions and mediation.
These are some of my favorite posts, on my view of the world and our place in it:
My personal injury posts are generally designed to dispel misconceptions and educate the potential client
Mediation: a search that produced 73 results for “mediation”. I passionately believe in mediation, and lots of thoughts on the subject. Some of my opinions are against the mainstream:
With a practice that includes family law, personal injury, civil, and mediation, I have had plenty of opportunity to see huge differences in mediation depending on the parties, issues, and forum. A good lawyer will master the differences.
As new lawyers appear in Buckhannon, I have tried to mentor them with my views on “hanging out your shingle”. Truly not for the faint of heart!
Social Media Marketing
Google Search yourself:
Does your site invite visitors to read your review?
Raise your score from 6.5 to 10.0 Avvo.com
Here is my Google+ Home Page:
Note the Map to Office, and my 8 reviews’ rating:
Justia Lawyers “Compare 53 Lawyers Serving Buckhannon, WV”
Check your profile page on Justia. Is it professional?
Even one bad review can drag you down: “Incompetent at Best – This guy is an overpriced arrogant jerk.” by jaynajane
YEXT: My son John advises:
“More in depth local directory monitoring tool. Be more cautious with this one as they request a phone number and are more aggressive with marketing the ‘enhanced services’.”
This is the one I have just subscribed to for two years. It starts with a 45 minutes training session. You fill out YEXT’s master form and it checks the sites you have already claimed and conforms your information, and then it synchs your master form to the remaining of 60 sites.
I include the listings below so you can see the 60 sites that YEXT will synch you to:
NPR is promoting this site, which covers “The New News”, Ozymandias, “Ozy” for short
Trends, discoveries, technology, modernity. http://www.ozy.com/
This post was written by Burton Hunter